By Melissa Silverstein | Women and Hollywood May 23, 2013 at 9:03AM
Holy crap. In a revealing interview with Forbes' Dorothy Pomerantz on the occasion of the publication of the most powerful women in the world list, Sony studio chief Amy Pascal, the only female head of a major studio, actually answered some questions about the status of women in Hollywood, especially related to women directors.
I have transcribed it because it is so valuable. Serious kudos to Dorothy for asking the tough questions and for Amy Pascal for honestly answering them. People who know how Hollywood operates but don't hear the people who run Hollywood actually copping to what goes on will be relieved as well as furious. I'm not going to say that Pascal is the only studio chief who cares about how bad things are for women, but she is the only one who has spoken about it and clearly is concerned about the business.
Discussing the pay gap between male and female stars:
Amy Pascal: The top stars like Angelina, Cameron (Diaz), Sandra Bullock and probably now Jennifer Lawrence probably gets paid the same as their male counterparts. The problem is the averages. Because there are not enough parts for women to star in and get paid. So when you look at the total amount women make as compared to men it's paltry.
Forbes: How can this change?
Amy Pascal: It sort of a wholesale change that needs to happen. We have become accustomed to the opening weekend mentality where multiplexes want to get the movies in and the movies out and get to the next movie. We make make movies for them to do that with. And young men make up 44% of the opening weekend box office.
Will someone please send me the data that says that young males (what age?) make up 44% of the opening weekend box office. The data that I have seen indicates that young men and young women go to the movies more often. She clearly has the data, but I have never seen anything that says the young male share is that large.
Forbes: How do you balance those movies that will attract males with movies with a longer tail that will attract women?
Amy Pascal: I think it is my responsibility. Because I love movies about women. I love women. I've always cared about making movies about women my entire career. We probably hire more female directors here - if there are any- we do it because we want to and we do it because we have to. We made lots of movies with Nora Ephron with Nancy Meyers with Catherine Hardwicke, with Kathryn Bigelow. That's an agenda for us.
Forbes: You said if there are any.
Amy Pascal: I just named 4. The problem is when you compare the movie business to the music business or the publishing business, you have huge colossal stars in the world of publishing that are women and everyone reads those books whether it is Danielle Steel or Jackie Collins or JK Rowling. And the same can be said for the music business. You've got Taylor Swift and Alicia Keyes and Lady Gaga. I was trying to figure out why and what happens in those other industries. It is that you can write a hit song or you can write a book that everybody is going to love and you just show up with it and there is no denying it because everyone in the business is looking to make money and when they see something that's going to make money, they want it.
For a woman to direct a movie in Hollywood, she has to go through so many layers of rejection by the powers that be -- I suppose including myself -- that it is harder to get to that point. So you can't just create something. And I think there is a whole unconscious mountain.
Forbes: You look at these directors like Marc Webb who was pulled form the indie world to do Spiderman. You see directors being pulled from the indie world to do these blockbuster movies. When are we going to see women being pulled from the indie world?
Amy Pascal: I have begged Kathryn Bigelow to make Spiderman, James Bond anything I can think of. So far I haven't hooked her. I think it is about women showing up and saying that's what they want and not taking no for an answer.
Forbes: That they want to do the big blockbusters?
Amy Pascal: I think that the whole system is geared for them to fail and we're going to have to change a lot of what we do in order for that to happen?
Forbes: How do you start unrigging that system?
Amy Pascal: The most important thing in the job that we do here is to make movies about women where they are characters that have consequences in the story. They can be villains, they can be protagonists, I don't care but their movements, their actions what they do in the plot has to actually matter. And that's the most important thing because young girls coming up are going to see that they matter that your not an appendage to someone else- that you're not married to the person, not their sister or friend or girlfriend, you actually are the plot.
Clearly, Amy Pascal does not have an answer on how to solve the problem of women directors. The fact that she knows the whole system is rigged against women and doesn't have any kind of solution is disheartening. How about just saying - we're going to hire more women to direct and I'm going to lead on this and challenge my fellow studio chiefs to follow my lead. But the fact that this has been aired so publicly is a really good thing.
As for her thoughts on female protagonists, looking at Sony's upcoming releases, she needs to take her own advice. The only movies with female leads still on the Sony docket for the rest of the year include The Mortal Instruments and Carrie.
Here's the interview (I couldn't figure out how not to get it to auto start)