Female directors are just one part of the diversity in Hollywood conversation. While many are taking steps to help guide the industry in a different direction, some of the biggest studios seem to be lagging behind. While Disney has been proactive in some areas, they need to step up in a big way when it comes to female directors.
Variety spoke with Lucasfilm chief Kathleen Kennedy about the upcoming Star Wars film slate. While she told them she’s committed to make the face of the films diverse (which is weird considering they’ve cast three white women with brown hair in a row to lead them), she also mentioned wanting there to be diversity behind the camera.
“We want to make sure that when we bring a female director in to do Star Wars, they’re set up for success,” she told them. “They’re gigantic films, and you can’t come into them with essentially no experience.” Ahh yes, the old, “we need someone with experience.” That’s always the fall back, isn’t it? But depending on who you talk to and where you look, it’s clear that’s not always the case.
Rachel Talalay has a ton of experience. She directed Tank Girl, Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare, and a ridiculous amount of TV including Doctor Who, Sherlock, Arrow, The Flash and more. Earlier this year she recounted an experience when receiving the 2016 Woman of the Year Award from Women In Film + Television Vancouver:
Recently I was talking to my agents about my ambitions after finishing directing Sherlock. And they said ‘Yes, you have done Sherlock. Yeah, the other Sherlock directors have all been offered pilots and features off the back of it. But remember, you are a woman”. It kind of took my breath away, to hear it stated so plainly. It wasn’t aggressive. It was so painfully casual, they probably wouldn’t even remember saying it. That’s what shocked me.
Talalay puts it pretty plainly, even with experience, women are looked over for work. Whether it’s outright sexism or merely so ingrained over time that no one notices the bias, it’s a problem. But let’s look at Disney specifically, where male directors have absolutely been given opportunities to take on big-budget, high-profile projects with the same, if not less, experience than many female directors working today.
David Lowery, director of this year’s Pete’s Dragon, worked on shorts and indies before nabbing that live-action remake. Just a few years earlier Robert Stromberg got his first ever directing job on the live-action Maleficent starring Angelina Jolie. His previous credits were in visual effects. Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg, who are directing the next Pirates of the Caribbean film Dead Men Tell No Tales both have very short resumés, mostly abroad. Cars 3, the film we just got the first bizarre teaser for, was directed by Brian Fee. His experience? He was a storyboard animator on the first two films. This is his first directing gig.
What about Marvel Studios, which falls under the Disney banner? Before Thor: The Dark World Alan Taylor directed a slew of TV episodes. Before Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Captain America: Civil War Anthony and Joe Russo also worked mostly in TV. Veteran screenwriter Shane Black went from his first directing job, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, straight to Iron Man 3. Next year’s Spider-Man: Homecoming was directed by Jon Watts, who directed Clown and Cop Car before that. Are you noticing anything here?