By Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood July 25, 2011 at 8:29AM
There's a reason Gale Anne Hurd turned from producing movies like The Terminator, Aliens and The Punisher to cable series like The Walking Dead. HBO, AMC, FX, Showtime, USA and other cable networks are where the smart writing, production values and character development are. And Comic-Con demonstrated without a doubt that the organizers have to rethink who gets to go into Hall H.
While I admire and respect Robert Rodriguez, Aardman Animation and Francis Coppola, there was a real argument for mounting those panels in a smaller venue and letting The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones panels, for example, move into the bigger hall. There were Hall H-level lines for those panels, and genuine excitement that was often missing from studio panels in Hall H this year, showing yet again that Hollywood should pay heed to all the smart adults--and filmmakers-- heading away from the multiplexes to cable.
Check out my exclusive flip cam interview with Hurd on these topics and and more, plus an UPDATED report on the "Girls Gone Genre" panel below.
Hurd joined my fellow Master of the Web panelist Jenna Busch on the second annual Girls Gone Genre panel, along with writer-producer Jane Espenson (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Battlestar Galactica, Caprica, Torchwood), screenwriter-producer Laeta Kalogridis (Shutter Island , Ghost in the Shell, Bionic Woman, Avatar, Fantastic Voyage), writer Marjorie Liu (X-23, Daken: Dark Wolverine, Black Widow, Dirk & Steele novel series) and screenwriter-producer Marti Noxon (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Mad Men, Fright Night), in a lively discussion on how women can deliver genre fare just as well as men. There just aren't that many of them.
"I like to write action," said Kalogridis. "Hero stories are interesting to me. I've never encountered being objectified. I've never been thought of as anything but a writer first, everything else second. Eight years with Jim [Cameron] will teach you not to care what anyone else thinks. I'm always being offered romantic comedies and several versions of The Piano, but not doing it until the right thing came along. My limits seem to be internal. I'd like my daughter to learn how to field strip a weapon, not pole dance." She was referring to Noxon's explanation for how many women internalize the culture's most fetishistic male fantasies about what's sexy, and try to please them by dressing like a "pole dancer," she said, when they should actually be relating to their own friends.
Hurd recalled that even after having produced The Terminator and Aliens, male executives would say to her, "How can a little girl like you produce a movie like this?" Hurd "held my tongue," she said. "It was the right step when I was starting out not to make enemies. I had plenty of time to do that later." (laughter) After she had learned to dress professionally and earned her stripes with a strong portfolio of films, Hurd could speak her mind. "Not everyone was enlightened and a lot of people were intimidated," she said--long-time mentor Roger Corman was not among them. "Eventually the real me did come out." She remains surprised by how many men "are intimidated by talented, strong powerful women to this day."
Liu found that in the world of urban fantasy, most of the writers were women, but in comics, all were men. She was treated very differently by the two groups. "As a storyteller the best thing for me to do is well the best stories I can and ask for what I want." There is still the perception that women can only write about women. "I don't want that stereotype. I also write men as well," she said, thanking her more enlightened male bosses for supporting her along the way. "I might have been helped by good women, but there weren't any."
Kalogridis cited Cameron for promoting the warrior goddess in his films, and loved the period in TV when women warriors prevailed on Star Trek, Femme Nikita and Xena: Warrior Princess. "There's nothing like it now. It feels like they're all interested in branding." She didn't go for the Olivia Wilde character in Tron because she was "a woman child, who knew nothing about computers, she was a bad-ass physically, but not smart."
Noxon feels that many women characters are too perfect: "they're too confident, super beautiful, not flawed and not interesting." She did a rewrite on Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and "I hope it gets made. The romantic heroine is struggling with the social mores of that time, killing zombies and kicking ass in a dress." Hurd praised Angelina Jolie for kicking ass in Salt which was originally written for a man. "That gives me hope."