It is no secret that the Hollywood Foreign Press was put under fire for shutting out women in the Best Director category at this year’s Golden Globes. In fact, the amount of women, people of color and underrepresented voices were fairly thin across all categories. Deadline talked to female filmmakers, producers and even some men on the red carpet to get their feelings about the issue and what the film and TV industry needs to do to change the landscape.
“I think there is a real prejudice around what directing is as a craft,” said Lulu Wang, director of The Farewell, which is nominated for Best Foreign Film. “It’s seen as a technical craft and there’s a prejudice that men are technical and women are emotional. They’re happy to honor women in front of the camera but there is still this unexamined prejudice around seeing women as technical-oriented people.”
The Farewell producer Daniele Tate Melia added: “When you are looking at the amazing filmmakers being recognized they have had long-standing careers and they are white men. As young filmmakers like Lulu enter the landscape, that is the trajectory we are going in. Directors like Marielle Heller, Greta Gerwig and Alma Har’el are the future. Hopefully, more and more women make movies as we have a conversation that we should have had a long time ago. The change is going to happen and we are seeing it.
“I hate to say that we could have predicted where we are a few months ago, but I think we could have and I don’t think that is a good thing,” said The Farewell producer Andrew Miano. “Lulu said it best when she said when you are part of the change, you don’t necessarily benefit from it. What you’re seeing is the change happening and that’s what’s good and important. Things like Big Beach where Daniele is, are continuing to support diverse filmmakers.”
Lorene Scafaria, the director of Hustlers said, “I really think we have to look at the root of the problem — the inherent sexism, misogyny and the way that stories of women and marginalized people aren’t considered as cinematic or as valuable because they are seen on a certain scale. We’ve seen them get recognition in other places. ”
She added, “It was certainly a competitive year and we had a number of great movies made by men and women. It’s hard to say who is at the top in the year of Parasite. We had a lot of legends that made movies this year.” When it comes to what needs to change, Scafaria said it’s about access, opportunity and speaking to what’s considered valuable. “The female experience is often considered the female experience not the human experience,” she said “For people of color it’s twice as hard. I’d love to see change. I’m not sure this is the place to crack the code — but it’s definitely worth talking about when things like this have an impact.
Jessica Elbaum, who produced Hustlers, has been very open about the absence of women in the Best Director category. “It’s sort of crazy that we base accolades and recognition for this particular show from about 51 people that vote. It needs to be a bigger group. I’m pretty disappointed in the HFPA and I have not held back. I have produced two of the films that were shut out. But forget Booksmart and Hustlers, there were so many to choose from and it almost feels blatant and strange.”
“I don’t know what needs to change,” continues Elbaum. “I am looking forward to some of the other shows that are recognizing women more. Let’s see what the Oscars bring — hopefully they have learned their lesson.”
Another female filmmaker who was left off the Best Director list was Harriet‘s Kasi Lemmons who said that when she first started directing she was part of a small group of “unicorns” in the industry and expected change to happen quickly — but she realized that it was the beginning of a very slow movement that was happening.
“It’s happening gradually and we see it happening gradually — but it’s still slow progress,” said Lemmons in regards to inclusivity in Hollywood. “A mindset has to change. There’s been a big shift this year in a lot of ways, especially with women.”
The Golden Globe-nominated actress of Harriet, Cynthia echoed Lemmons saying, “I know women are working really hard to create some of the most amazing pieces — a lot was created this year. I just want us to start acknowledging the work that is done by women and bring them into the light. I don’t want it to be too late to do that. Hopefully, because it’s so obvious how little women were celebrated this year that it will spur a change for next year.”
For Portrait of a Lady on Fire director, Céline Sciamma she thinks that it’s all about political will when it comes to making change. “It’s a decision,” she told Deadline. “It’s not about the natural course of things. It’s about wanting it and who has the power. It’s about educating people who have the power and also changing the people who have the power.”
There were many projects this year that dealt with the very timely topic of harassment and Gretchen Carlson has become a prominent voice in that movement. Her experiences with Fox News was very public and was a groundbreaking moment in the #MeToo movement and was portrayed by Nicole Kidman in Bombshell. More recently, she signed a deal with Blumhouse TV and the series, which she will host, will include interviews with people sharing things that they have never told anyone before.
“This has been central to what I have been doing the last three and a half years — specifically harassment in the workplace,” said Carlson. “It’s not just about famous Hollywood actresses and well-known journalists this is about the every woman story. Documentaries I worked on in the past are about women of color, fast food workers, firefighters, police officers — this is epidemic. This has become a passion of mine.”
The Morning Show also includes a narrative adjacent to Carlson’s as it follows the story of a disgraced news anchor who was accused of sexual harassment. Executive producer Michael Ellenberg is passionate about championing these types of stories and of inclusion of underrepresented voices in Hollywood to tell these stories. He tells Deadline that it is all about commitment when it comes to making change.
“Things were better than they were 10 years ago but they have a long way to go,” he said. “The most important thing is not to be distracted if there is a movie or show that has a moment and thinking things are fixed. There have been landmark moments in the past, but this is an ongoing sustained effort and until it’s right, it’s not right.”
Ellenberg adds that there needs to be a “sustained commitment” not only from guilds but from people like him and producers to stay the course in the talent you’re chasing and celebrating, who you are giving the opportunity to and putting them in the forefront. “Also, let underrepresented voices speak for themselves — and give them a platform to advocate for themselves.”
Mimi Leder, also an executive producer on The Morning Show said of the lack of female representation at this year’s ceremony, “One of the things we deal with our show is gender bias — and I think there’s still lots of gender bias because the work of many female filmmakers this year and every year are consistently ignored. This year there were a lot of great films directed by women and they should have been recognized here at the Golden Globes. ”
Kaitlyn Dever, who was nominated for her role in Unbelievable, a Netflix drama following a serial rape case, feels that in order for progress to happen, women and underrepresented communities need to continue using their voices in a time when everyone is being loud and letting themselves be heard right now. “I think we have to continue making stories like Unbelievable and Booksmart which are female-driven and have representation,” she said. “This industry started with no female directors. The fact that I’ve worked with so many female directors, it is my goal to be part of projects that are created by women.”
Ramy Youssef, the first Muslim American nominated for a Golden Globe in an acting category, said of Hollywood’s need for diversity: “It’s not about making things, but it’s about making sure those who are distributing these projects are putting a marketing budget behind it and getting it out there. Sometimes a show or film can get made, but that doesn’t mean it’s reaching everyone. What’s amazing about being nominated for Ramy is it shows networks that they can not only make shows like this but promoting them and showing that they can reach a lot of people — it’s not just for the one group it represents.”
David Heyman, producer of Marriage Story and Once Upon A Time In Hollywood says that we don’t only need to encourage more female directors, but opportunities for underrepresented — not just directors and actors, but below the line as well. “A lot of people don’t know there’s an opportunity for them,” he said. “It’s about education and people in power giving opportunities.” Heyman walks the walk as he and some colleagues in the UK started a school called the London Screen Academy, a free school for 16 to 18 year olds who are interested in roles behind the camera.
Missing Link director Chris Butler and producer Arianne Sutner, who nabbed a Golden Globe this evening talked about working in an industry that has always been an “old white man’s industry.”
“We are making as many movies we can and diversify the people we hire,” said Butler. “I’m gay and one of my movies had the first openly gay character in an animated kids film — and it was nominated for a GLAAD award. As long as we keep pushing the boundaries at what is deemed acceptable as family entertainment I think we are doing the right thing.”
“We are always talking about the reflection of the world we live and bringing that to the screen,” adds Sutner. “I think people want to see that. They don’t necessarily need to have a perfect reflection — every character we have is imperfect, but three-dimensional.
Jane Rosenthal, who is a producer of The Irishman and the overlooked When They See Us, realized that the numbers from 2019 are better than 2018. However, more work needs to be done. “We have to keep going and more women have to support each other and bring each other up,” she said. “We also have to start telling more stories that are about women and for women. Change doesn’t happen because you say it’s going to happen. It’s a concerted effort. Those who are in the field have been doing it for a long time and it’s a shame that women were cut out of features and television — but you hope for next year.”