Greta Gerwig On Battling Bias As A First-Time Female Director With ‘Lady Bird’

Lady Bird

When it comes to filmmaking it’s a “learning by doing” craft, says actress-turned-filmmaker Greta Gerwig. And the trick for female filmmakers per Gerwig is to not be afraid to ask questions of those around you.

“Filmmaking can make you feel like you don’t understand the technical things,” said Gerwig at today’s Women in Entertainment conference at Los Angeles’ Skirball Center, “and people can use that to their advantage.”

“So, I sought out sound editors and cinematographers who took the time to explain things to me,” said Gerwig. She shared the story about Mike Nichols on his first movie Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Having come from theater, he was unaware of how lenses worked, having gone through an extensive planned opening shot for the film that entailed the characters fighting. “The cinematographer realized that Michael didn’t know anything about filmmaking, had him clear his weekend schedule so he could teach Nichols about lenses at the studio,” said Gerwig.

“There’s a tendency to over-prepare in the sense that you need to be so qualified. For women there’s a fear that someone will call you out. It’s a double-edged sword. It’s difficult to learn if you say you don’t know,” she said.

Written by Gerwig, Lady Bird is loosely based on her life as a Catholic school student growing up at the start of the millennium in Sacramento, and trying to bust out of the town to a prestigious Northeast college. A24 is opening the movie tomorrow.

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