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Sexism Watch: The Hollywood Reporter Directors Roundtable

by Melissa Silverstein
November 17, 2011 11:11 AM
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Hollywood Reporter Directors Roundtable

This is the picture that has inspired a post I am working on on the movies directed by women in 2011.  Again, I don't know how they could have put this together without including one female director.  While I don't know when the picture was taken, I know for a fact that Lynne Ramsay (We Need to Talk About Kevin) was in LA last week.

Here's some of the conversation about the lack of women in the room:

THR: You're all men, and only one of you, Steve, is a minority -- why is that?

McQueen: I must be in America.

Mills: Yeah, why isn't there a woman here? My wife could be sitting here.

THR: Name a female director who made a major film this year.

Mills: Miranda July [The Future].

Payne: Lynne Ramsay [We Need to Talk About Kevin], Andrea Arnold [Wuthering Heights].

THR: OK, but you're talking about small films that have been little seen in America.

McQueen: I mean, the question could be different. The question could be, "Why aren't there more black directors?" because there are obviously more women directors than black directors.

THR: So what's the answer?

McQueen: I have no idea. I mean, it's opportunity, isn't it? That's what it's about -- opportunity. And access, because some people just give up. I'm always astonished by American filmmakers, particularly living in certain areas, when they never cast one black person, or have never put them in a lead in the movie. I'm astonished. It's shameful. How do you live in New York and not cast a black actor or a Latino actor? It's shameful. It's unbelievable.

My head is about to explode.  Firstly, it is the obligation of the magazine to bring in a diverse group of people when they create these types of conversations. 

And the question the reporter asks (who is this reporter anyway) to the men asking them to name a woman who made a major film this year is so fucking condescending and disgusting that the steam is just pouring out of my head.  Who gets to decide who makes a major movie?  The Hollywood Reporter?  And what constitues a major movie?  The Whistleblower was a major movie that actually made the UN stand up and look at how peacekeepers are acting around the world.  Circumstance was a major movie that brought us into Iranian culture from the perspective of two teenage girls.  Pariah is a major film about an African American girls dealing with sexuality.  I could go on and on. 

People need to look at how these issues are defined very differently because words matter.  It matters that the Hollywood Reporter doesn't think a woman made a major movie this year.  And I humbly agree to disagree on that.

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  • Kathleen | December 18, 2011 9:56 PMReply

    "Why aren't there more female directors?" is the wrong question. "What can our culture do to support women directors?" is the correct question.

    "Why aren't there more female directors" is an invitation to justify the male-dominant status quo. "How can our culture support women directors?" puts the responsibility on all of us to work for change.

    Speaking of boycotting male-centric films, I have already told friends that I'm not going to see Mission Impossible with them because as far as I can tell, it has no good roles for women.

  • SAW see | December 10, 2011 10:37 PMReply

    "I knew Nick Rockefeller. One day he asked me '---WHY do you think
    there was Womens' Lib? --social justice? --WE created ---WE funded
    Women's Lib to get the women in the workforce to lower wages, double
    the tax base, and get rid of the family."
    Interview online

    ---------------------------------ESSENTIAL VIEWING---------------------------------

  • kim | December 8, 2011 5:03 PMReply

    At least Jason Reitman's film was written by a woman! (A woman who is going to be directing her first feature in 2012)

  • REES | November 22, 2011 10:11 AMReply

    ""Why aren't there more black directors?" because there are obviously more women directors than black directors."

    This may or may not be true but I can name a HANDFUL of prominent black male directors and not a single prominent, internationally-renowned female director that Joe Bloe off the street knows about.

  • Get Real | December 8, 2011 10:26 AM

    Richard, if you stop someone off the street in St. Louis, they will NOT know who the hell Kathryn Bigelow or Catherine Hardwicke are. However, they do know Spike Lee.

  • Richard | November 30, 2011 1:23 PM

    You can't name Kathryn Bigelow? Or Sophia Coppola? Or Catherine Hardwicke?

  • EdO | November 21, 2011 7:31 PMReply

    Why include a slew of talented directors who have no shot at a nomination (Payne and THE ARTIST director are the only real contenders here) and not add a woman? Ridiculous.

  • Adela Rogers | November 21, 2011 2:31 PMReply

    THR: OK, but you're talking about small films that have been little seen in America."

    Um, so Steve McQueen is there because his film "Shame" which hasn't even opened yet in America, is such a "big film"??? (seriously, shaking my head in frustration...)

    This "moderator" should be run out of town. What an a**hole.

  • Louise Ford | November 21, 2011 10:22 AMReply

    Don't we need to talk about why Steve McQueen changed the subject from sexism to racism?

    When THR guy dismissed The Future, Wuthering Heights and WNTTAK as "small films that have been little seen in America", McQueen, director of a small film that has been little seen in America, rather than point out this fact, redirects the conversation to racism (another no-less valid issue), and in doing so, demonstrates beautifully HOW sexism persists in the film industry (as well as life in general): there is only so much room at the top, and if women are going to claim more power, men will need to relinquish some of it.

    McQueen could have said, 'Well, Shame isn't a 'major' film, if you're talking box office.' Instead, he could not bring himself to downgrade his own status and instead, took the conversation in a different direction. Oh well.

  • Lou Ford | November 22, 2011 10:01 AM

    SKA-TRIUMPH, I just watched the video and you are incorrect - the interviewer specifically asked why there aren't more women directors, and it was Steve McQueen who answered it with another question "I mean, the question should/could [hard to tell which word he uses here] be different, the question should/could [hard to tell] be, 'why aren't there more black directors'. That is verbatim, from the video.

  • Lou Ford | November 22, 2011 9:43 AM

    I spent some time looking for a link on this page,gave up and decided to go with the transcript printed above:

    "THR: OK, but you're talking about small films that have been little seen in America.

    McQueen: I mean, the question could be different. The question could be, "Why aren't there more black directors?"

    Off to look for the film of it now.

  • ska-triumph | November 21, 2011 12:39 PM

    Louise, it seems like you didn't actually see the video that accompanies the THR link. The moderator/reporter who asked the question compiled/collapsed women and race - then directed the race angle to McQueen. What's also astounding is BOTH how the other directors didn't check this moderator on what makes a Hollywood film these days (certainly not theirs?), and the silence that followed McQueen's answers/diatribe. Go see that 2nd video.

  • Colin Biggs | November 20, 2011 10:42 PMReply

    It was obvious that Galloway was not only clueless, but irritated the directors as well. Any time an entire panels jumps to disagree with you, you're a fool. I'm glad only he decides what makes a film major or not.

  • film | November 20, 2011 9:50 AMReply

    I watch a lot of interviews. This guy is without a doubt the worst moderator I have seen in quite some time. He asks vague questions that the panel is loath to discuss ("What makes a great director?") and directs them to no one in particular. Excluding "We Need to Talk About Kevin" from being a "major film" is pure stupidity and calls into serious question if this man knows anything about movies at all. Then, the guy goes on to slam Ryan O'neal's performance in Barry Lyndon. Not that you can't hold your own opinion, but it's noteworthy that the ENTIRE panel either vehemently or passively (it seems) disagrees with him. Where did THR get this "moderator" from?

  • rosengje | November 19, 2011 5:34 PMReply

    I was beyond offended by this interview. The clip is even more shocking than the transcription, with Steve McQueen retorting to the moderator's question with a pointed, "Well you did the inviting." I'm shocked they didn't completely edit the moment out of the footage as it made the entire Hollywood Reporter enterprise look deservedly foolish.

    I think it's very telling that the entire video isn't available as it has been in year's past. I think the moderator bumbled his way through this roundtable even more than in year's past.

  • Caitlin McCarthy | November 19, 2011 1:16 PMReply

    So shameful, but not surprising. There ARE directors who are female. The Action on Film International Film Festival (AOF) celebrates them, as I highlighted in my post for this blog:

    The AOF has three awards specifically for women directors, on top of six other directing categories for both men and women. Del Weston, the AOF's founder, says, “Women represent so much of the industry that it is a shame when you don't see them getting the same opportunities to direct as their counterparts. Our goals are to not only recognize and encourage female directors, writers, producers, and stars, but to assist them along the way with as much support as we offer any other group associated with the AOF Festival and the AOF Channel.”

  • The Female Eye Film Festival | November 19, 2011 10:44 AMReply

    We continue to showcase and advocate for women directors, and are proud to be celebrating the 10th anniversary edition of the The Female Eye Film Festival, March 28th - April 1st, 2012. We must suspend the notion that women make films for women i.e. 'chick flicks'. It's appalling that the film biz is still the bastion of the old boys club.

  • an | November 18, 2011 1:33 PMReply

    Agree, and you forgot to mention Angelina Jolie. Her film is going to have a ton of buzz and is reported as being very good from test screenings.

  • LyNn Hershman leeson | November 18, 2011 1:16 PMReply

    And documentaries???ynn

  • Allison | November 17, 2011 11:23 PMReply

    THR reporter is a condescending sexist. He bascially implies women don't direct movies of any importance and shouldn't be included in the conversation.

  • jacetoon | November 17, 2011 7:25 PMReply

    Ingrid Randoja, I'm curious why did you pick SM film to compare to the missing female director?

  • Loren Chadima | November 17, 2011 5:55 PMReply

    Education. They don't get that women don't have the same access, and aren't given the same opportunities, at conscious and subconsious levels. Make them watch MissRepresentation.

  • WordyDoodles | November 30, 2011 1:49 PM

    YES- "Miss Representation" by Jennifer Siebel Newsom is one not to miss. I saw a screening of it that included some folks featured in the film. Everyone in the audience, men and women, was in tears; the truth of it really resonated. *Education* about women in media is essential. You've got to put this on your must-watch list.

    And the whole divide-and-conquer thing, pitting people of color against women (and let's not mention women of color)-- it's working out really well for those who are already on top.

  • Debra Levine | November 17, 2011 5:49 PMReply

    This photo makes me physically ill. I'm a dance critic and women have been methodically and institutionally marginalized from the contemporary dance world over the past decade-plus. Dance! The art form of Isadora Duncan and Martha Graham. And in the ballet world, George Balanchine, yes, a man who loved women, proclaimed, "Ballet is Woman." There is a very tight and diabolical boy's club that formed in the 1990s around Nederlands Dans Theater and will not let go. All these guys are running dance companies in Europe and the U.S. and giving choreography commissions to their buddies. It's horrible. There is a minor push-back but cannot make a dent in how women have been excluded from a form we ourselves pioneered. We were never the primary filmmakers.

  • zbudapest | November 17, 2011 5:34 PMReply

    Men just love each other and each others works. Men adore each other gay or not. Men simply don't like women and what women represent. I think this "male think"is enforced by all the friends who are males, and the women who share their lives. Many women never oppose them openly, lest they are called man haters. I call these uber lucky dudes women haters. Invisibility is equal to annihilation.
    Women fear not being liked by men. Those who don't care, get ignored. A healthy big boycott on all these guys films may wake them up. Ruin their big box office weekend.

  • Ingrid Randoja | November 17, 2011 12:37 PMReply

    Sorry, meant Well said Melissa! [Anne Thompson brought me to you]

  • Ingrid Randoja | November 17, 2011 12:29 PMReply

    Well said Anne! The HR blew it big time. Steve McQueen is amazing, but Shame isn't "more major" than "We Need To Talk About Kevin." To quote the HR: "OK, but you're talking about small films that have been little seen in America." I don't think Shame will be playing in Peoria. Like Shame, Lynne Ramsay's film has garnered an incredible amount of critical ink, more than enough to justify her sitting alongside him.

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