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A View from the Trenches: Is Estrogen My Last Hurdle to Success?

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by Carrie Certa
January 19, 2012 10:40 AM
5 Comments
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Carrie Certa

I blame my Midwestern roots for my optimistic views and somewhat naivé outlook on my career in Hollywood. Hard work reaps rewards so any hurdle I saw was positive because it made me a better producer, a better writer and a better director.  I can overcome hurdles or at the very least, learn from them. After all, hurdles are what fueled the twinkle in my eye, until a few years back when I  presented my business plan to a high powered executive producer about his potential investment in my film.  I was giddy and nervous.  My script had won seven awards from various film festivals so I was confident in my pitch. My business plan came with a detailed budget, marketing strategy and named actors attached.

I knew the executive producer for two years while working on a highly rated television show supervising my own department. (Excuse the lack of details here but a rather large NDA prohibits me from saying… well, anything.)  He started with the script, “Brilliant. Visually, stunning. If you shoot the script exactly as it is written, this could go all the way to Oscar.”  My heart leapt but I kept my composure. He continued with the business plan.  He was impressed with its presentation and thoroughness making some tweaks here and there, which I took as positive criticism. The cast, the DP, the producer, all approved except the director -- me. This would be my directorial debut so this was my worst case scenario come to life, I had to fight for the job.

Before I could utter my rebuttal, he stopped me and asked me if I wanted the cold hard truth.  Nothing would prepare me for his next statement, “If you were a man, I would write the check right now. You’ll never make it to Oscar with this story as a female director.” My jaw hit the floor and argument after argument rapidly spun through my head, none making their way out of my mouth. I finally uttered, “It’s a woman’s story…”  Apparently, the dark nature of my story made it more suitable for a man to direct.

Remembering that moment still makes me confused, angry and exhausted. I am sure this is a fight many have faced and, by the number of working female directors working in Hollywood today, it’s clear that few have won.

Two years later and with three additional shorts under my belt as the director, five independent feature films as producer, and numerous tv and short film credits to my growing resume, all of this should be a testament to my abilities and the ‘woman excuse’ should cease to exist, right?

A script I wrote and am trying to produce is now on the market in heavy fundraising mode.  I have named actors, an established producer with a thirty-year career championing me, distribution in place and a script in a money making genre: action/comedy. I’m not directing so I’m not expecting any issues due to the fact that my estrogen level is higher than my counterparts. 

The short film based on the feature script has had one screening and it’s been featured in numerous articles included a full three page spread in a UK magazine. The Facebook page has over 800 fans.  Yet, I’ve been turned away by several deep-pocketed suits, friends and acquaintances.  I was offering a ten percent return on their investment as soon as the big money hit the bank to which my producer was saying would happen in three short months. We tried to make this a “win win” situation but maybe it was simply “too good” to be believed.

I tried to contemplate where we went wrong when it was suggested that I find a third producer, a male producer, to be the spokesman for this action/comedy when speaking to these angel investors.

Mind you, I don’t need to find the ‘big money’, my producer had deep pocketed connections on standby for when I could secure the seed money to get the wheels turning. This is all of $25,000 which my producing friends huff and puff stating, “easy money” but none offer their help or advise on how to get that “easy money”, besides getting a the male figurehead for this woman centric film.

I refuse to hate being a woman for this rather large and annoying hurdle in the road.  Call me stubborn, I’m an Italian from Chicago, but I refuse to give in to the thought that the reason I am unable to convince investors to believe in me and my film is because I am a woman.  I thought we were past this.

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Carrie Certa has produced five independent films and has also worked as a Post Production Supervisor on top-rated reality shows. With more than a decade of production and post experience under her belt, Carrie is ready to move on to her own feature films.

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5 Comments

  • John | January 27, 2012 8:35 PMReply

    As a man, I'm deeply sorry you had to go through that. It's ridiculous. I really hope that if I witnessed something like that, I'd have the guts to speak out.

    Go Carrie go!

  • monica | January 19, 2012 3:47 PMReply

    Thanks. Don't stop. Be strong.

  • Caitlin | January 19, 2012 2:19 PMReply

    Keep charging the hill, Carrie! You'll make it!!

  • Linn | January 19, 2012 12:02 PMReply

    Carrie, thank you for sharing. Thank you for being in the trenches with me. :) As my father says, "don't let the bastards get you down." I personally think you're going to win this war. My cynical point of view is the worst of this will pass when some of these old white men with money die off. Even their male off-spring are less sexist. I plan to outlive them, since women live longer. Usually.

  • Carrie | January 19, 2012 1:12 PM

    LOL, thanks! I'm hoping too outlive them too!

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