Hannah Fidell, left, Liz Garcia, Cherien Dabis, Naomi Foner and Gabriela… (Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles…)
This is the full, unedited transcript of the Los Angeles Times Women Directors' Roundtable at the Sundance Film Festival as moderated by staff writer John Horn.
John Horn : Well, congratulations for all being here, but I'm gonna start with a study that you may have seen that was published yesterday or two days ago. Here's what the study found. Just under 24 percent of all U.S. movies programmed for the Sundance Film Festival between 2002 and 2012 were directed by women. Women were much more likely to direct documentaries than narrative films. Thirty-four percent of U.S. documentaries shown at the festival last decade had female directors, while only 16.9 percent of U.S. narrative films did. And if you look closer at the data, in terms of submissions, in terms of narrative submissions, every woman who submits a film, there's six films submitted by a man. Every woman who submits a documentary, there's three documentaries submitted by a man. So it's not just the festival, in terms of what it's choosing and showing its bias. Women aren't making nearly as many movies as men are. And I'm curious if any of you have any ideas why that might be.
Liz Garcia: Yes.
Liz, go ahead.
Garcia: Well, I think that there is just a deep and abiding sexism that's part of your life from the moment that you're conscious as a female. And you are afraid to step into the idea that you could be an authority figure, that you could be a boss, that you have a vision that other people should listen to you on a set, for instance. And I think that you therefore don't allow yourself access to the dream of being a director. It took me a long time. Much longer than I was actually conscious of wanting to be a director.
Naomi Foner: Not as long as me.
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Naomi, it's been how long?
Foner: Oh, I would say 30 years.
Now, has that been because you have tried and failed? I mean, do you think there's ...?
Foner:No. It was because I thought I needed to know more than I actually needed to know. Because I thought I needed to know what lens to tell the DP [director of photography] to put on. And I thought that there was a level of skill required that actually isn't required. What you need to have is a vision. And so I think we edit ourselves out of it. You know, we definitely decide something—it's fear. It's just as simple as that. And I think it's—
Hannah Fidell:But that's universal. I don't think that's specifically gender.
Foner: But the gender part of it I think comes along with the things you lose when you do it. The culture doesn't tell you out loud, but actually it does seem to go along with taking that kind of power. I mean, I thought for a long time about somebody like Willa Cather, who was a gay writer in the 1880s. I don't think she actually was gay. I think she was defined out of being a woman by a world of men because she was trying to do things that men do, and that's what was left to her. And, you know, that's something that may not actually be true. But in my mind, I think that you give up a lot. Unless you fight for it. And having kids is a full-time job. And I don't know any woman who isn't constantly fighting between the exquisite selfishness required to be an artist and this exquisite selflessness that's required to be a parent. Every minute when you have a child—
Are you guys parents? Hannah, do you have kids?
Fidell: No, I don't.
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So, you were about to say something else. That it's true in every occupation? Is that what you mean, or in terms of barriers to entry?
Fidell: Barriers to entry, that fear that you're talking about, of knowing what lens to tell the DP, I think that is not specific to any gender.
Foner: I think the barrier to entry isn't made by someone else. We make it ourselves.
Foner: And that feels to me like a big difference between what happens between men and what we do. I think we censor ourselves....
Gabriela Cowperthwaite: Men are also socialized to be more bold.
Cherien Dabis: So even if they don't know, they're willing to kind of take that risk, whereas women are socialized to sort of be the opposite. So we're gonna be less likely to take that. But the other thing I was gonna add was that, you know, I think that once we do make the decision to do that or once we do realize that we can achieve that, I think the next barrier is financing. Because I don't think that women are entrusted with the same kind of money and budgets that men are. That's where I feel like I've seen the most sort of um ...
Foner: Well, I've been a screenwriter. A fairly successful screenwriter with an Academy Award nomination, for years. And there are certain things no one will ask me to write.
Which is a slightly different question than what you're saying about money. Because they assume there's only one kind of movie you can make, or write? Is that what you're saying?