UPDATE with statement by Trevorrow:
In a year that has already been filled with controversy about the gender imbalance in Hollywood, Star Wars: Episode IX director Colin Trevorrow has sparked intense criticism and some discussion in comments on Twitter that even he admits might be “naïve.”
The fracas started on Wednesday with a Los Angeles Times article noting the mixed results studios have seen in 2015 bumping untested directors from obscurity to tentpoles. Asked about criticisms that studios are taking huge chances with male directors but not extending the the same opportunity to female directors, Trevorrow drew some criticism for taking such talk personally, and for attributing the disparity in part to a lack of interest in big budget studio films on the part of up and coming women.
“Obviously it’s very lopsided, and hopefully it’s going to change as time goes on. But it hurts my feelings when I’m used as an example of white, male privilege,” the Jurassic World helmer said. “I know many of the female filmmakers who are being referred to in these articles. These women are being offered these kinds of movies, but they’re choosing not to make them.”
Trevorrow might be referring here to Selma director Ava DuVernay, who admitted earlier this summer that she had spoken to Disney/Marvel about potentially directing Black Panther. She passed due to unspecified creative differences that suggested similarities to Edgar Wright’s reasons for bolting from Ant-Man in 2014. “I think it makes [female directors] seem like victims to suggest that they’re not getting the opportunities and not artists who know very clearly what kind of stories they want to tell and what films they want to make,” Trevorrow continued. “To me, that’s the reality.”
This prompted a fan on Twitter to ask Trevorrow straight up whether he thinks he would have been offered the Jurassic World gig if he were female. “I want to believe that a filmmaker with both the desire and ability to make a studio blockbuster will be given an opportunity to make their case,” Trevorrow tweeted back. “I stress desire because I honestly think that’s a part of the issue… To me this is not a simple case of exclusion within an impenetrable corporate system. It’s complex, and it involves a component that I think is rarely discussed – very high levels of artistic and creative integrity among female directors.”
He admitted that this might be naïve, and insisted that in his experience there is “a sincere desire to correct this imbalance at the highest levels of our industry,” and that “nobody wants to be part of the problem.
Suffice it to say, Trevorrow’s response generated replies from several experienced female directors and other Hollywood professionals. Quickly, many joined in the conversation to express their disappointment with Trevorrow’s point of view as well as their frustrations and desire to take a crack at a blockbuster.
“I cannot begin to tell you how naive & wrong it is. I have all the desire in the world. I would kill to make a blockbuster,” said Hysteria director Tanya Wexler.
“…I can tell you 1300 other women do too! Not lack of desire. Lack of opportunity!” added ex-DGA Women chair Rachel Feldman.
Actress Jamie King was more direct, saying last night that “As the next director of @starwars & the rad Jurassic World @colintrevorrow- it’s unfortunate that you believe this.” Trevorrow responded directly, saying “I believe that there is an imbalance in our industry that needs to change, and it will. If I’m muddling my point, I apologize.”
The conversation remained civil throughout, however. When asked directly by Gamechanger Films’ Mynette Louie “Who has the sincere desire to correct fact that only 6-7% of dirs of top 250 films=women? Name names,” Trevorrow said, “Well, I do.”
Trevorrow has also made a fuller statement, sent as an email to Slashfilm, in response to the discussion:
The last thing I’d want to communicate is that I don’t acknowledge this problem exists. I think the problem is glaring and obvious. And while it does make me a little uncomfortable to be held up as an example of everything that’s wrong, this is an important dialogue to have, so let’s have it.
Would I have been chosen to direct Jurassic World if I was a female filmmaker who had made one small film? I have no idea. I’d like to think that choice was based on the kind of story I told and the way I chose to tell it. But of course it’s not that simple. There are centuries-old biases at work at every level, within all of us. And yes, it makes me feel shitty to be perceived as part of this problem, because it’s an issue that matters so much to me. If I didn’t care, I wouldn’t talk about it in the first place.
I do stand by the idea that a great many people in the film industry want this to change. I have made attempts at every turn to help turn the tide, and I will continue to do it. When I got the script for “Lucky Them,” released last year, I advocated hard for my friend Megan Griffiths to direct. She did, and she made a wonderful film (see it please). On my next project, “Book of Henry,” nearly all of my department heads and producers are women. Will I give a female filmmaker the same chance Steven Spielberg gave me someday? Let’s hope that when I do, it won’t even be noteworthy. It will be the status quo.
I came home from New York tonight and saw my daughter again after a week away. This had come up earlier in the day, so it was on my mind. I did think a lot about how vital it is for me to empower her now, even at age 3. To encourage her to go out and grab whatever it is she wants in life, to lead. It starts with the constant, steady assurance that the top job is attainable.
Becoming a filmmaker is not easy. It’s years of rejection and disappointment and it’s very hard, often grueling work. The job takes insane levels of endurance and sometimes delusional amounts of self-confidence. All I can do is raise one girl with that kind of fearlessness, then let her choose her path. That’s my contribution. The rest is up to her.