Girl power is getting a boost this award season with three major female-driven films. Dee Rees, Greta Gerwig and Patty Jenkins may not have crashed through the glass ceiling but they have certainly added some major cracks to a played out metaphor.
Dee Rees with Mary J. Blige
Yes, of course I am happy to see talented women thrive in the film industry. It is fantastic these wonderful films were made by wonderful directors who are wonderful women, but is it really the start of a flood of girl on girl films or are they token representation from a besieged white male establishment wanting to show progress so everyone will shut the hell up for a while?
Mudbound, Lady Bird and Wonder Women are additional proof that women directors are equal to their male counterparts in the storytelling task. And they made a shit ton of money (which is what matters most). I am jealous of their success. There, I’ve said it. And while I would never begrudge anyone earning their place at the table, I want my shot, too. My beef is that opportunities don’t come to everyone, no matter how talented, deserving or earned their inclusion may be.
Patty Jenkins with Gal Gadot
Women at the top are often called Queen Bees (sorry, Beyoncé fans – she didn’t invent the term) because once they rule the hive there is no room for another female in command. It may be unfair to judge all women in a position to mentor or assist those coming up the ladder as being less than enthusiastic, but let’s face it – it’s true. It may be something as simple as highly sought after hardworking women are so hardworking they don’t have the time to donate to lower level women. Maybe they are not secure in their ranking and need to keep working to keep up with the fellas. Or, most disturbing, they relish their position as the only gal on the game and keep any competition off the field. *See Omarosa and the kerfuffle over her White House career.
So what to we do?
Lower down the ladder of success the opportunities for us to rise are not about earning a seat at the table they are about making life easier for someone higher up. Can you or your project make them money? Can you give a company positive publicity or a higher Q score? If so, then you are in. That is all it takes, my worker bees.
Forget about the sisterhood, there ain’t no such thing. It is nice to see big fish like Ava DuVernay or Shonda Rhimes talk to young women and girls about boosting each other but, come on now, you know in reality survival is every person for themselves. That is true equality. There is no special treatment for anyone. All that matters is if you can earn your place with a project that makes money. Once we get that through our heads we can get to the business of moving forward.
Is it is harder if you are a non-white male. Once we accept that as truth we can focus on selling ourselves as who we are with the stories we tell. Developing a relationship-connection-acquaintance with someone who respects your work goes a long way. People want to work with who they know. It is important to nurture even a fleeting email relationship with someone in a position to help to improve the chances of a project moving forward. If you got to ask JJ Abrams a question during a Q & A once, then see Star Trek it couldn’t hurt to drop him a line saying how much you loved the movie. Create a bond.
No one, repeat: NO ONE, will help you or mentor you out of their own good will unless there is something in it for them. You may get lucky and find a successful mentor who gives you her time, encouragement and/or use of her contacts for nothing up front. Savor that and be prepared to pay her on the back-end with points, credit or a straight payment. If you use gender, age, race or sexual identity to get up the ladder, I would suggest to nurture a genuine relationship with someone with whom you have something in common. They know what you want and are not fooled by the obvious flattery. Take the time and be real which will pay off in the end. Any butt-kisser can establish a career, however how long will that friendship last? There is an old saying, “Be nice to people going up the ladder because they are the people who will be nice to you as you’re going down.”
Minority women over 40 have some amazing stories to tell but need to work harder to get them heard. This is about sex and perception. What is attractive to the establishment? I submit that a confident 25-year-old with hot pants and a shitty script will get more meetings that a worn down 50-year-old with the female Rocky. So women, after you are sure your script kicks ass, take a look in the mirror and make sure you are someone no one is embarrassed to be seen having lunch with. Sexism aside, we are dealing with people who go with their gut and their crotch when opening a checkbook. As vile as that is, we need to be mindful of it. Besides, if your script is great it will find a home– eventually, as long as you keep working hard and never give up.
I am off to see Lady Bird at my multiplex now. Not because I’m supporting the sisterhood but because I’ve heard it is a fabulous film that deserves to be seen. There is room for all of us as women in film in whatever capacity. We need to keep pushing for equal time, but remember when rising up the ladder you are selling to a person who wants to work with you and make money off your project. Don’t assume because she’s a woman she’s going to help and don’t give her an excuse to say, “No.”