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Kimberly Peirce: "How Many More Movies Could I Have Made?"

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by Melissa Silverstein
September 30, 2013 10:00 AM
3 Comments
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Photo by Jeff Minto for Out

Yesterday, the NY Times Magazine featured a profile of director Kimberly Peirce as she readies the release of the remake of Carrie starring Chloe Grace Moretz and Julianne Moore.  This is a highly anticipated film for a variety of reasons  It was produced by MGM and will be released by Sony's Screen Gems.  And while I'm taking a guess here -- because the numbers have not yet been released -- but based on the genre and the fact that this is a remake of a popular film, and that it is being released by Screen Gems, I'm thinking that it will most likely open on at least 2,000 screens.  

Sadly, the number of screens will put Peirce is very limited company.  A female director with a film opening wide.  You wouldn't think that would be such a big deal.  Didn't it feel that we recently saw a lot of movies directed by women?  August was full of movies directed by women.  But they didn't open wide.  In A World... Directed by Lake Bell has grossed over $2 million and that film only topped off at 144 screens (boxofficemojo.com)

It is hard for women to get the big movies, the ones that open on enough screens to make a dent in the box office.  Box office gross is clearly linked to the amount of theatres that a film opens on. According to boxofficemojo.com, so far there is not a single woman directed film in the top 100 grossing films of the year.  Last year, the statistics showed that women directors made 9% of the top 250 grossing films.  The statistics for 2013 for the top 100 grossing films so far is a big fat zero percent.   

Peirce has an interesting, yet small, body of work.  Carrie is her third movie.  Her first is the heartbreaking Boys Don't Cry and her second is the vastly under-appreciated Stop-Loss.  There was nine years between her first two films and five years between her second and third.  Sadly, that's not too far out of the norm for women directors.  It's a shame that she's only gotten three movies done in 14 years. 

Kimberly Peirce's trajectory shows us how much harder it is for a woman, especially a woman who wants to push the boundaries of gender and convention.  There are a variety of reasons as to why she has not been able to get more films done and clearly gender is one of those issues.  It's something she talked about in the NY Times piece.  She talked about how the male members of the crew thought of her as "a mother who is telling them to pick up their socks," even though she is not actually a mother, and how she wasn't invited to join some members at a social event because she was a "girl."  

Here's her response:

And I was like, Wow. He thought it was a joke to say that to me, which would be like telling a person of color that they weren’t invited because they aren’t white, and no one would say that now.

Amy Pascal who seems to be the only studio head to talk about this issue at all, weighs in on how hard it is for women directors (her studio is the co-producer and distributor of Carrie)

She says it’s hard for female directors because the movie industry is “institutionalized not to support women, even if a lot of us are trying to change it.” She continued, “If female directors are driven and single-minded and want to protect their actors as Kim does, they’re problematic. If it’s a man, he’s passionate.”

The whole piece reads the a primer of sexism in Hollywood.  "Woman equals problematic.  Man equals passionate."  The heartbreaking thing is that even while you are trying to fight the sexism because it is so pervasive you also buy into it.  You buy into it because it is institutionalized.  It is institutionalized because they have gotten away with it for so long that people don't notice how easy it is to fall into sexist patterns.  

And that's what Kimberly Peirce is saying here.  She's saying I am fighting this.  I am fighting this by hiring a woman for a job because she was the best person for the job and because she was a woman.  Why must hiring women be constantly justified in the way hiring men is not?  You never have to justify hiring a man for a job because that is what is expected.

There were so many reasons to go and see Carrie before this amazing stand that Peirce took for all women directors.  (And hey, if you don't think she took a stand read the ending again.)  She takes a big stand and now the ball is in the court of the public. 

Carrie opens October 18.

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3 Comments

  • Jan Lisa Huttner | October 6, 2013 10:19 AMReply

    "KP takes a big stand and now the ball is in the court of the public." Exactly, Melissa! Week after week, there have been many wonderful films by women directors & screenwriters released this year (as your lists consistently prove), but they only open in a few theaters (sometimes only in NYC) & they get mediocre reviews (from my mostly male colleagues) & they're gone... A woman filmmaker spends years getting something to the screen and... Poof! Gone! As if it had never existed :-( Be a "SWAN"--SUPPORT WOMEN ARTISTS NOW!!!

  • Carrie | October 1, 2013 7:42 PMReply

    I've been a feminist for a long time and I still find myself noticing deeply entrenched sexism that I hadn't noticed before. I hate that so many women just shrug their shoulders at it. I've been making myself point it out to my male relatives lately. I think for too long that stuff was embarrassing so I tried to ignore it. But it makes me too angry to ignore these days.

    I was curious if anyone thought that films might benefit from the great woman-centric tv shows. Or is the television world too separate? I've been binging on The Big C, Enlightened and Girls lately. Was excited to see Jane Alexander and Isabella Rosselini on Blacklist last night!! Do the movie producers clock the success of shows like Veep and Homeland and see ways to reach that audience in theaters? Or do they write off tv as women's domain?

  • Loren E. Chadima | September 30, 2013 11:49 PMReply

    The only problem with your blog, Melissa, is that I read it everyday and because of you I am so aware now of all the films that are directed by women, that I in my mind I think of lots of women directing films, but then I get to the theatre and want to go see a movie and I'm reminded. Thank you for being an advocate for women and women directors!

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