Not too often you come across a movie that has everything a movie should have. A movie that draws you into its world, makes you accept everything you see and makes you laugh, cry and think.
“Their Finest” is such a movie.
London, 1940. The blitz has become part of life. The lack of food is part of life. Not having young men around has become part of life. The destruction doesn’t stop the city from functioning in some ways. How do people live under those conditions?
Here’s a story of a couple in their late 20’s. He’s an artist, a painter, wounded in the Spanish war, therefore not drafted to the army. Times are scarce, people don’t go the exhibitions and don’t buy art, especially one that depicts the horrors around. He’s depressed artistically and personally so she goes to look for a job. After all, women are called to the job market, temporarily, to replace the missing men.
She is sent to an office in the Ministry of Information to what she believes is a secretarial job but finds herself becoming a scriptwriter for short ‘moral boosting’ films.
When one of her ideas ‘pushes’ all the right buttons in that arena, it is decided to turn it into a feature film.
She is thrust into the world of cinema with its producer, actors, and writers on a location shoot in Devon. The re-writes the 3 scriptwriting team members have to do are constant. First, the Ministry want a few changes to address issues they deem important, then the Minister himself gets involved in the casting because suddenly the USA is interested and wants an American actor in the cast. He also knows which American Actor it will be. A war hero with a strong face and very little acting experience. She has to deal with a fading actor who tries to maintain the aura of fame and doesn’t like his lines. And of course, a constant change of the ending.
During all that, we are part of the character’s lives and are invested in them, even though we know little about them. I found myself laughing out loud (must admit I love everything Bill Nighy does), and feeling sad a moment later. Enjoyed the stabs to Hollywood and the industry, and left the theater thinking about life and how precious it is.
Only later I found out the movie was directed by a woman. Lone Scherfig, director of “An Education” among other works.
A good director is a good director. Gender should not be an issue.
For the first time in a long, long time I walked out of the movie theater thinking: “Thank God this movie was not directed by a woman.”
Those who know me, or read what I’ve been writing, know I am all for women directors. Trying to rekindle my own career after years of stagnation proved to be harder than anything I’ve done in my life. I gave it all: all my time, all my attention, all my money, and ended up at the footsteps of the ACLU. So, saying I’m glad it wasn’t directed by a woman but a 78-year-old Dutch male is way out of my reality.
Here’s why: —
It is a movie about her (Elle). It’s a movie about a woman, but actually about many women. It’s a movie about not being a victim, it’s a movie about being strong and getting what you want.
Michele didn’t have a happy childhood, she didn’t have a happy marriage, she didn’t have a supportive mother, and yet, she runs a successful video game company.
She faces things that many woman face in the workplace, like talking down to even though she is the owner, or getting sexually aggressive animation with her face on it, that was sent to all her employees. She deals with it in a quiet, muted way without resorting to screaming or name calling.
And she has enough money to support others. She is calm, composed, and does what the fuck she wants.
The other women in the movie; her mother, her best friend/partner at work, and even the son’s fiancé and all strong women. The mother in her 70-80’s has a very young and handsome boyfriend that caters to her every will. Her son’s fiancé has him wrapped around her finger and she continues with her plans even though she gave birth to a baby that is clearly not his.
They are not necessarily what we would call good women, but they are strong, determined and achieve their goals.
The movie takes place over a few months around Christmas when seemingly everything Michele has built is falling apart. Her father is up for parole and it makes the news. Even after 40 years, she is still recognised as his daughter. Her mother wants to marry her boyfriend, who is clearly after her money. Her son needs money for rent, choosing a big apartment now that he has a baby on the way. As the movie progresses her mother dies (before getting married), her father dies (hangs himself) and she is violently raped by a masked man.
Enough to derail any woman, but not Elle.
And the men?
The father did something horrible, we find little by little, and he is serving life in prison.
Her ex-husband is a penniless novelist, dating a 20 some year-old woman who hasn’t read his books.
Her partner’s husband is there for a pleasure ride. He doesn’t do much but lunches and dines, drinks a lot of wine and chases other women, Michele included.
Her son is being taken advantage off and he refuses to see it. He is completely inept, makes stupid decisions and runs to her for more money.
And her neighbour? With a devout Catholic wife, he is a rapist and a stalker.
People were saying this is a post-feminist movie. I see it as a feminist movie that shows a slice of life where women are not victims, not afraid to do and say what they want (When her mother asks her what will you do if I told you I want to marry him? She answers “I’ll have to kill you”…) and can run things just as good or even better than men.
Had it been directed by a woman, I have the feeling it would not have seen the light of a projection booth. But because it was directed by a well-known male director, it got to be mentioned at the Oscars. If it was directed by a woman it would be called disgusting… exploitive, sexually promiscuous, and manipulative.
Thank you, Paul Verhoeven. Thank you for showing women as they sometimes are.
Here are the Emmy nominations as published on the DGA site:
Full list of DGA Members nominated for 68th Annual Emmy Awards for Directing:
OUTSTANDING DIRECTING FOR A DRAMA SERIES
- Jack Bender • Game of Thrones • The Door • HBO
- Michael Engler • Downton Abbey • Episode 9 • PBS
- Lesli Linka Glatter • Homeland • The Tradition of Hospitality • Showtime
- David Hollander • Ray Donovan • Exsuscito • Showtime
- Miguel Sapochnik • Game of Thrones • Battle of the Bastards • HBO
- Steven Soderbergh • The Knick • This Is All We Are • Cinemax
OUTSTANDING DIRECTING FOR A COMEDY SERIES
- Chris Addison • Veep • Morning After • HBO
- Aziz Ansari • Master of None • Parents • Netflix
- Alec Berg • Silicon Valley • Daily Active Users • HBO
- Mike Judge • Silicon Valley • Founder Friendly • HBO
- David Mandel • Veep • Kissing Your Sister • HBO
- Jill Soloway • Transparent • Man On The Land • Amazon
- Dale Stern • Veep • Mother • HBO
OUTSTANDING DIRECTING FOR A LIMITED SERIES, MOVIE OR A DRAMATIC SPECIAL
- Susanne Bier • The Night Manager • AMC
- Noah Hawley • Fargo • Before The Law • FX
- Anthony Hemingway • The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story • Manna From Heaven • FX
- Ryan Murphy • The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story • From the Ashes Of Tragedy • FX
- Jay Roach • All The Way • HBO
- John Singleton • The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story • The Race Card • FX
OUTSTANDING DIRECTING FOR A VARIETY SERIES
- David Diomedi • The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon • 325 • NBC
- Don Roy King • Saturday Night Live • Hosts: Tina Fey & Amy Poehler • NBC
- Tim Mancinelli • The Late Late Show With James Corden • Post Super Bowl • CBS
- Ryan McFaul • Inside Amy Schumer • Madonna/Whore • Comedy Central
- Paul Pennolino • Last Week Tonight With John Oliver • 303 • HBO
OUTSTANDING DIRECTING FOR A VARIETY SPECIAL
- Louis J. Horvitz • 58th Grammy Awards • CBS
- Thomas Kail (Directed By) and Alex Rudzinski (Live Television Direction By) • Grease: Live • Fox
- Beth McCarthy-Miller • Adele Live in New York City • NBC
- Chris Rock • Amy Schumer: Live at the Apollo • HBO
- Glenn Weiss • The Kennedy Center Honors • CBS
OUTSTANDING DIRECTING FOR NONFICTION PROGRAMMING
- Liz Garbus • What Happened, Miss Simone? • Netflix
- David Gelb • Chef’s Table • Netflix
- Davis Guggenheim • He Named Me Malala • National Geographic Channel
The DGA congratulates all of our members who are this year’s Emmy Award Nominees.
32 nominations – 5 women – 15%
And, the same names appear year after year _ Leslie Linka Glatter and Jill Soloway. Thank God Susan Beir was included this year.
August 17, 2016
Hiring of Minority First-Time TV Directors Remains Flat; Hiring of Women Gaining Slightly
TV Director Development Cultivates Diversity
Los Angeles – Building on its efforts to analyze and bring awareness to the critical role that a “first break” plays in increasing diversity, the Directors Guild of America (DGA) today issued the results of an annual study of the gender and ethnic diversity of directors who received their first assignments in episodic television. The report this year precedes the DGA’s annual TV director diversity report, covering the 2015-16 season, which will publish later this summer.
In the 2015-16 season, 153 directors who had never worked in episodic television were hired by employers (studios, networks and executive producers) – 15% were ethnic minorities, and 23% were women. A comparison of season-by-season data shows that hiring of minority first-time TV directors has remained flat over the past seven seasons. At the same time, there was a slight upward trend in the season-by-season hiring of women first-time directors – though it has fluctuated within the same range since 2012. For example, in the last three years alone, hiring of women first-time TV directors fell from 23% to 16%, then rose back up to 23%.
When examining the data by season, it is important to note the small group size, which is more sensitive to fluctuation. With just 99 total first-time directors in 2009-10, and 153 in 2015-16, a handful of individual hires can impact the percentage in either direction. In aggregate, the study revealed that 81% (619) of all first-time episodic directors during the seven-year span were male and only 19% (144) were female; 86% (656) were Caucasian while just 14% (107) were minority directors.
“To change the hiring pool, you have to change the pipeline. Year after year when we put out our TV director diversity report, the media and public are stunned that the numbers remain virtually the same,” said Bethany Rooney, co-chair of the DGA Diversity Task Force. “But how can it change when employers hand out so many first-time director assignments as perks? If they were serious about inclusion, they would commit to do two simple things: First, look around and see that there’s already a sizable group of experienced women and minority directors ready to work and poised for success – and they would hire them. And second, they would more carefully consider these first-time directing jobs, and – with an eye toward director career development. In the end it’s all about who is a good director.
The study also followed the career trajectories of first-time directors initially hired in the 2009/10 – 2013/14 seasons, tracking whether they were subsequently hired for directing jobs (outside of the series for which they were originally hired) through the 2015-16 season. The purpose of this closer look was to determine which new entrants to the pipeline were moving on to develop TV directing careers. In this group, 26% (124) of the first-time directors were “experienced directors,” meaning that they were already directors in other categories (e.g. feature films, commercials, online). The majority – 66% (318) – were “affiliated” hires, meaning they were individuals already affiliated with the series for which they were hired (as actors, crew, editors, producers, writers, etc.)
The data showed that not only were the experienced directors more likely to develop TV-directing careers, they were more diverse. Additionally, women and ethnic minorities in this category exhibited a far greater degree of success than their affiliated counterparts – with 96% of women (24 out of 25) and 56% of ethnic minorities going on to direct on other series, compared with just 44% of women and 34% of ethnic minorities in the affiliated group.
“Employers should be thinking about their role in shaping and developing the talent pool,” added DGA Diversity Task Force co-chair Todd Holland. “After all, it’s the Platinum Age of television. The profile of the television director is rising as series rely more on stylistic and visual choices in storytelling, and audiences demand greater inclusion – on both sides of the camera.”
It all begins with respect.
Treat female directors with the respect that comes from their sheer numbers – 51% of the population. We are not diversity, we are not minority. We are half of the people who have been treated with condensation and called “little woman”, women who were told to takes care of the house, the kids and themselves, so they could wait for the hard working husband and mix a martini for him.
It’s a process because we need to change people’s minds.
Change is hard, people like consistency, they like “we’ve always done it this way”. Especially when the sentiment is industry-wide.
They don’t trust us, women, with big budget movies. Why? They just can’t believe they can put a woman at the helm of something so expensive. As if she’ll squander the money, take it and buy… I don’t know, shoes.
So it’s going to be a process, but, I believe we have already taken the first few steps.
What can we do moving forward?
- Continue talking about it in the press, highlight women’s work. Talk about it. Don’t let it die down.
- The federal authorities are already checking into it, thanks to our activity. No industry like the federals snooping around their business. That puts pressure on the big guys.
- We need more producers talking about it, the likes of J.J. Abrams and Paul Feig. In television Greg Berlanti who, according to Lexi Alexander, asked all his show runners to look for more women directors. John Wells did it years ago – the best fellowship program ever existed – but no one else followed suit.
- We need something like the Rooney Rule in football. Find a way to implement it with women. Make the producers meet women before the beginning of the season. Let them be exposed to the numbers and the different kinds of women that exist in our world. They just might find someone they like.
- We all know that quotas are not allowed. But for years, until very recently, there was some kind of self-imposed quota – 2 women per season, out of 23-24 episodes in most network shows. How come, I asked myself, that different shows have the same number – 2. Not 3 or 1, but 2. Year after year, show after show. I believe that this was a self-imposed quota, not to appear gender bias. Increase that number to 6 a season and then we’ll see what happens.
- We have 2 generations of women who missed the boat; I believe we need a fund of some sort, at the DGA, to enable women with prior experience in directing to update their resume by doing short films financed by the fund.
- Create a fund for first feature for women. Most countries around the world have some kind of government fund that helps finance movies. Canada just announced that 50% of the funds will go to women. We have to create a similar program to increase the number of women coming into the field.
- Agents don’t like to represent women because it’s a lot of work and very little in return. When women will start to work more, and earn, more agent will want to jump aboard.
- The DGA needs to do a bit more for their women. I know they are dealing with mostly male membership, but women were underemployed for so long that it’s time to throw some money at the problem.
Warner Bros. program for directors is open for submission.
It’s a short window 6/20/16 – 6/30/16.
You should have a short script you want to work on because for the first time this program is different!
Not only lectures but the 5 lucky ones will get to work on their script, budget it, cast it, shoot it, and post it – all financed by Warner Bros.
Go here to get more information.
Although statistics are published by the DGA in September, the guild found it necessary to issue a press release in May that tells us the numbers.
In the 2015-2-16 season, women directed 17.1% of episodes – up from 15.8% the previous year.
There was a marked difference in hiring patterns between the major networks which were the clear leader in diversity hiring.
In this article, you can find why there are so few women directing features.
Well, it looks like the ACLU letter about female director’s employment was exactly what was needed.
We wanted to rattle the industry.
We wanted to open it wide and drain the abscess.
We opened it wide, but the drainage is yet to come.
My dear friend, Maria Geise, showed us the way and did most of the work. we, a handful, helped as much as we could.
We didn’t do it alone.
In a coincident that no-one could foresee, the Sony Hack happened. It showed the world how the big studios think about women in front and behind the camera. Not only there were only a few female directors mentioned in those emails, it became clear that female stars are routinely getting paid less than their male co-stars.
Once the trumpet sounded, many other film organizations that were doing their work quietly, became vocal.
Women in Film got together with The Sundance institute to do a research about post-festival career path for women directors. Not surprisingly they found that a win in Sundance does not guarantee employment. Whereas men go to bigger and better-paid projects, women are expected to do more by themselves. The Geena Davis Institute for gender balance is doing a lot of work researching the number of women and girls in front of the camera, which usually shows that women have fewer lines and less character in most films, even in television programs for kids.
Many websites were built to show them all that the number of women director’s working is but a small fraction of what’s out there. The more sites were built and attention to the subject given, the excuse “I don’t know any women directors” seem to vanish. Google the term “women TV directors”, and you’ll find pictures at the top of the search result page.
But there is much more to be done.
A dear friend wrote this post about her experience in trying to mount a feature production.
Read it and weep.