This week in WIF: recapping the week for women in film

There’s a lot to catch up on from the world of women in film. Recapping October’s biggest moments for female directors and characters:

#IfAWomanDirected: The Twitter account for the streaming service FilmStruck prompted its followers with this tweet Oct. 22: “#ifawomandirected _______, then ________.” The hashtag quickly took off, with Twitter users looking at films like Knocked Up, Working Girl, A Star Is Born, The Shining and Kill Bill from the female gaze, contemplating how the character development would have been different with a woman’s leadership. Other notable example included Sixteen Candles, Ocean’s 8 and Eighth Grade – all contributing to the conversation of why female directors need more opportunities, starting with the audience’s support.

Halloween success: Though no female screenwriters are credited on Halloween (2018), star Jamie Lee Curtis attributes its box office success to “women getting things done.” She and Judy Greer star as mother and daughter Laurie and Karen who team up in one final showdown against mass murderer Michael Myers. “Biggest horror movie opening with a female lead. Biggest movie opening with a female lead over 55. Second biggest October movie opening ever. Biggest Halloween opening ever,” Curtis tweeted Oct. 21, after the film grossed $70 million its opening weekend. The original Halloween premiered in October 1978 and was co-written by Debra Hill, who created Curtis’ character Laurie Strode.

Bryce Director Howard: Actress and writer Bryce Dallas Howard is directing her first long-form documentary for Imagine Entertainment, she announced on her Instagram Oct. 25. “Collaborating with this rad dude for a new @imagineentertainment documentary I’m directing called Dads,” she wrote with a photo of her father, Dads producer and Imagine chairman Ron Howard. “My father is my hero and always has been, so it’s an honor and a privilege to get to share the stories of these remarkable dads from all walks of life, all heroes in their own right. So far it’s been an emotional, enlightening, provocative and insanely funny ride!”

Female Guardians: Though Marvel announced in July that its standalone Black Widow film will be directed by Berlin Syndrome director Cate Shortland, Internet rumors swirled in mid-October that the studio is seeking a female director to replace James Gunn for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3. Purely speculation at this point in the process, Disney is facing mixed responses to the abrupt firing of Guardians director James Gunn because of controversial past tweets. An apparent shortlist for a third installment includes SJ Clarkson (originally considered for Black Widow) and Dee Rees (Mudbound).

Half-Fest sheds light on women in television: Ryan Murphy’s inclusion initiative The Half held its annual Half Fest in mid-October, hosting a panel of female directors and screenings of short films directed by women. Created in 2016 to make television more inclusive, The Half includes a mentorship in which every director working on Ryan Murphy Television productions works with emerging minority and female directors. Panelists at this year’s event included Tina Mabry, Jennifer Lynch and Erica Andersen, who spoke to their experiences as leaders who happen to be female. “Nobody blinks when I pull into the Fox lot and I say I’m a director,” Lynch said. “Strangely, the sadness is that I still feel the best thing we can do is stop identifying each other in any way other than ‘Hi you look like a nice person.’ I am constantly being reminded of my gender, my vagina, my uterus. I don’t think about that when I’m working. I don’t hold the camera with my vagina.”

Feig and Blum present opposing viewpoints: Director Feig is a longtime advocate for women in film, from being a ReFrame ambassador championing inclusivity to creating his own digital content company for female and minority creators. He made headlines October 23 for speaking with the Hollywood Reporter about the supposed lack of female directors working today. “There are. You’re wrong. They’re out there. You just have to give them the jobs,” Feig said. “The dirty sentence that people say all the time is, ‘Well, we just have to hire the best person.’ I find that very insulting, because it implies that we’re saying, ‘Just hire any woman.’ Here’s the great thing about this: we ambassadors are established in the industry. Our reputation is all we have. So why would we possibly advocate for somebody who’s not going to do a good job? It’s going to make us look terrible. Once we find the people that we think are good, we can put our money where our mouth is and get them out there.” Feig’s comments come on the heels of horror producer Jason Blum receiving backlash for claiming there “aren’t a lot” of female directors to provide with opportunities. He later apologized, telling Variety: “I made a mistake about it. Our audience is 55 percent women, the executives at the company we have are 50 percent women. I am passionate about hiring women, and I totally made a mistake in the way I represented that.”

Half the Picture: Amy Adrion’s documentary about women directors made its television premiere on Starz Oct. 22. Interviews with Catherine Hardwice, Kimberly Peirce, Ava DuVernay, Lena Dunham, Jamie Babbit, Gina Prince-Bythewood and many others shed light on the discrimination even the most prominent female directors face. Also available on iTunes and VOD, Half the Picture perfectly exemplifies what FF2 Media and all publications supporting women in film are all about.

WW84: Patty Jenkins and Gal Gadot announced on social media Oct. 22 that Wonder Woman 1984 will be released June 5, 2020, exactly three years after their smash hit Wonder Woman hit theaters. “Our weekend. Feels like home,” Jenkins tweeted. “Can’t wait for the day to come to share so many people’s great work, blowing me away every day.” Wonder Woman broke multiple box office records in 2017, including becoming the biggest-grossing live action film directed by a woman both domestically and worldwide.

Are you there, Judy?: Author Judy Blume recently sold the rights to her beloved 1970 preteen novel Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret. Spanning generations in the nearly 50 years since the book was published, Blume has turned down several opportunities to adapt it – until now. The Edge of Seventeen director Kelly Fremon Craig and producer James L. Brooks will adapt the novel, with Blume producing. “It is this right of passage for women and girls,” Fremon Craig told Deadline Oct. 17. “It’s rare for me to run into a woman or girl who hasn’t read it and every time I’ve mentioned it to a woman, they clutch their heart and let out this joyful gasp. There’s something so timely and full of truth and I remember for me that at that age, it felt like a life raft at a time when you’re lost and searching and unsure. This book comes along and tells you you’re not alone. Women remember where they were when they read it. I can’t think of another book you can say that about.”

CIFF: The Chicago International Film Festival wrapped up Oct. 21 after a 12-day lineup featuring more than 30 films directed by women. We recapped the best of the fest, including Nia DaCosta’s Little Woods starring Tessa Thompson and Lily James. Other prominent October festivals celebrated women in film this month (despite the New York Film Festival’s poor showing), including the Woodstock Film Festival and the Hamptons International Film Festival.

Kidman talks women directors: Though many entertainment outlets have chosen to focus on Nicole Kidman’s comments about her marriage to ex-husband Tom Cruise, she is using her press tours for upcoming films Boy Erased and Destroyer to speak about working with female directors. (Destroyer is directed by Karyn Kusama; Andrea Arnold is directing season two of Big Little Lies for HBO.) “I feel it’s important to go, ‘I want a woman to direct this,’” Kidman told the Associated Press at the London premiere of Destroyer. “Obviously I have given performances with male directors that I am so proud of and that I love and I love working with men, but…to be in a position where I can help change [statistics on women directors] or just slightly change them, that is my job right now and I really take it seriously.”

In theaters: Though there’s still a week left in October, 30 films from female screenwriters and directors have already hit New York City theaters so far this month, from the buzzy Melissa McCarthy drama Can You Ever Forgive Me? to the heartbreaking dementia story What They Had.

© Georgiana E. Presecky (10/28/18) FF2 Media

Photos: Halloween; Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 

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