By Jonathan Reed
Throughout the years, I have always been aware that the film industry has been a man’s world; male directors, stars, producers, scriptwriters, executives and CEOs. The scales of power have always been tipped against women, which many would argue resulted in the years of the casting couch and, most recently, sexual abuse and harassment of women within the industry.
With the allegations made against Harvey Weinstein and others from every level of the industry now out for all to see, a new morning call sounds over the movie studios of old and it is the roar of women. For if 2018 is proving anything, following on from the monumental ‘Wonder Woman’ last year, it is that not all feminine heroes come with a kickass lasso of truth and crown. There are a growing number who stand behind the camera and are making room for women, by women and the scales are beginning to tip towards equality.
There has been many critics of women having power within the film industry and this condemnation has existed right from Hollywood’s conception. The age-old myth of women unable to create as skilled artistry as men, both in front of, and behind the camera to most now seems redundant. From the days of Marilyn Monroe, Joan Crawford, Elizabeth Taylor and even powerhouse, Bette Davis, to be seen as equal was a constant struggle. To be seen even more than the ‘prop’ was an ask that reached too far. Actresses in Hollywood were inferior and more so, the idea of a women director or producer was laughable.
What is most sad about this so-called ‘Golden Age of Hollywood’ is that aspects of this draconian attitude are still alive and kicking. For over thirty years, Harvey Weinstein, a highly successful and respected producer actively sought out the thrill of controlling women and worse, he was protected in doing so. Throughout the years the allegations and rumours regarding inappropriate behaviour in the film industry has plagued Tinsel Town; and what is worse, it has been allowed to happen. For many women, their voices have been drowned out by the ‘ker-ching’ of the Box Office register. What did it matter if women suffered, as long as the money kept rolling in? It didn’t matter, until now.
This shift in attitude can be seen as a response to the Weinstein scandal, but I like to see it as something more. Yes, Harvey Weinstein has a part to play; his actions finally caught the attention of the public and media. But I do not agree, that it was this moment in Hollywood’s long questionable history that gave women the drive to forge their own paths in the industry.
Long before men like Harvey Weinstein appeared onto the scene, there has been those trailblazers, those women who have silently starting chipping away at the male dominated hierarchy of film making. Take Bette Davis for example, who famously took Warner Bros to court, and even though she lost, continued to fight for better representation of her talent.
What is remarkable, is that Ms Davis is one of many women, each in turn, carving a path for others to be inspired by. And what is deeply refreshing, is none are waiting for the red light to turn green. They’re aren’t holding on until Hollywood says, “we’re ready for you now.” Instead they are demanding to be seen, to be heard and for the whole system to damn well listen. It is beyond empowering or inspirational. It is setting a course for something new and exciting, and most importantly, blowing away the cobwebs that have dirtied Hollywood for years.
Women like Kathleen Kennedy, someone with a long-standing career who has been behind some of the most recognisable and iconic movies ever made. Her CV is beyond impressive, sighting Jurassic Park, Indiana Jones and many more. In fact, Kennedy has participated in over sixty films that have garnered eight Academy Awards and earnt a worldwide domestic Box Office of $11 billion, including three of the highest-grossing movies of all time! And to top it all off, she is now President of Lucasfilm. She is proof that women can make movies like men, if not better. She is proof that, when women are giving a seat at the table, they can create masterpieces that are successful.
But whereas Kathleen Kennedy heads a company once run by men, others have created their own. None more embody this than Dany Garcia. Owner of The Garcia Companies and co-founder of Seven Bucks Digital Studios, she has created a platform that not only celebrates women but elevates their voices.
It is obvious from her social media pages, that Garcia doesn’t wish to just inspire but offer, offer a platform, a voice, a screen, a safe space for ideas to flourish. She relishes in the accomplishments of those around her, men or women and managing actors like ex-husband and business partner, Dwayne Johnson and Superman himself, Henry Cavill, she has a lot of relishing to do. And she has proof in her dynamic pudding with acclaimed projects such as the highly successful remake of ‘Jumanji’, the Academy Award nominated Documentary ‘Which Way Home’, the highly anticipated ‘Jungle Cruise’ and her latest venture, Titan Games. She is a woman who is breaking glass ceiling, after glass ceiling and she is helping many others, from all walks of life, smash their own.
Similarly to Dany Garcia, Ava DuVernay is at the forefront of creativity in film, directing movies such as, ‘A Wrinkle In Time’ and ‘Selma’. She is smashing the mould of what a director has always been dictated to be, male and white. Ava DuVerney is a black woman, but she is so much more. Her films portray an understanding of the African American community in the same way Dany Garcia’s work does for the Hispanic community. She adds an authentic experience, especially in ‘Selma’, that many filmmakers would fail to grasp.
She is a leading light in the freedoms for women of colour, not just socially but creatively. She makes films that she chooses to make and envelopes a freedom of storytelling that inspires and informs. DuVerney stands with the best of them, not because she is invited, but because she has earnt her place.
Patty Jenkins is another film-maker who has proved the stalemates in Hollywood wrong, achieving immense success with ‘Wonder Woman’, one of the biggest movies of that last decade. Jenkins successfully created a superheroine that embodied the strength of her male co-stars but was stronger for her humanity. Bravery and physical prowess are strong qualities, but what made Jenkin’s ‘Wonder Woman’ so impressive was her compassion. For so long we have seen male superheroes shy away from emotion; it wrongly being perceived as weakness. But Jenkins was able to dive deeper in the psyche of Diana Prince because she is a woman.
This is something that Hollywood has always seemed to stumble with. It makes sense to have a female director helm the story of a female led movie. We have witnessed far too often women portrayed as an embarrassing stereotype of what men in Hollywood perceive how they should be seen. Finally, it feels as if we are emerging from that destructive fog.
For many, in Hollywood they have deemed this shift to be because of the Me Too and Time’s Up movements. For me, yes, they are a factor, but I’d rather give more credit to the women within the film industry. What is a shame for this article, but inspiring for Hollywood, is that there are so many more women who we haven’t mentioned.
But by highlighting Kathleen Kennedy, Dany Garcia, Ava DuVerney and Patty Jenkins, it proves that women are placing themselves at the table whether some want them there or not. It isn’t so much as demanding that we take note and listen, instead showing the world that women can make movies and bloody brilliant ones at that.
What should not be forgotten, is that Hollywood is full of ‘Wonder Women’ who want to tell stories on all sides of the camera, and much like Diana Prince, they aren’t going to wait for you to tell them when you’re ready.