Hosted by Megan Lombardo, professor in the Film and Television Department of Savannah College of Art and Design, this year's Wonder Women: Producers panel was a pure zoom affair. On the computer screen were six different (albeit all white) women with a variety of career stories. There was Jayme Lemons, whose Dawn Porter-directed document The Way I See It had played the virtual festival earlier in the day and who runs Jaywalker Pictures (with another wonder woman, Laura Dern). Also Julie Christeas, founder and CEO of Tandem Pictures, who most recently produced Lawrence Michael Levine's Black Bear; and Libby Geist, vice president and executive producer of ESPN Films and Original Content (and one of the forces behind Jason Hehir's epic Michael Jordan / Chicago Bulls series, The Last Dance). Geist was also behind Bao Nguyen's Bruce Lee Doc Be Water from British producer Julia Nottingham, who was also on the panel. So is Nottingham's compatriot, Alison Owen, who may be the veteran of producers and whose long list of credits includes everything from the 1998 Cate Blanchett car Elizabeth to the '90s comedy How to Build a Girl last year. The lineup was rounded off by Cate Blanchett's American business partner Coco Francini, whose Dirty Films was last produced by Mrs. America for FX Networks.
After a few brief introductions, the moderator came straight to the topic. How does the experience of being a woman affect each of your decisions when it comes to attitudes and the choice of stories to tell? Owen noticed that working with women had been a conscious choice for her from the start. Working with an all-female crew dealing with a female story is much different than just working with a female story, she pointed out. Interestingly, since the Time & # 39; s Up movement began to grow together, she has also felt more comfortable, adding that watching the female POV depicted on screen is like relaxing in a warm bath. Not having to transform yourself into a male filmmaker's perspective to connect to a story is a relief itself.
Nottingham also stressed that he makes a conscious effort to work with a diverse crew – and that it does indeed take effort to go that extra mile to find and achieve diversity. Which is a necessity. Although she had started her career doing pretty much every job at different production companies, she had decided to go into business for herself to tell the stories she wanted to tell.
For her part, Francini pointed out that more than half of the films on her board are directed by women – due to the fact that two of the three partners at Dirty Films happen to be women. Which led them to discuss the "power of inclusion". “If you let more people into the room, you get more perspective. And they invite other people, ”she explained. The decisions that these people make are not made consciously, but organically because they are responsible for them. Bringing up on Frances McDormand's infamous speech at the Oscars, she added that in practice, for every role – both in front of and behind the scenes – a producer should interview at least one woman and one person of color. (But why stop at one? I wondered.) This forces decision makers to look further than they normally could. It was also a rule Dirty Films strictly followed in founding Mrs. America – and which ultimately built many careers. That was the power of a single choice.
Christeas fully agreed, having grown up in production companies in New York City, where she was often the only woman in the room. She had started her company to focus on women, although the attitude was important in queer and colored communities alike. "A tandem set is a diverse set," she added, referring to the name of her own company. Lemons agreed, emphasizing the need for parity in all departments, and talking about "Laura and Reese" and The Tale, which were very zeitgeist when they came out. People are now ready for a series of conversations that they didn't have before, she guessed.
As for spirit, she made the surprising claim that she works in a 50 percent female space at ESPN, which has long been viewed (at least to me) as the bastion of male branding. Geist also has the luxury of reaching and working with filmmakers outside the company – which enables her to hire not only women, but people from all walks of life. However, this is a luxury that the VP and XP see as a mission and is difficult to accomplish. And yet, women still don't seem ready to join the company, and she admitted that it's forever a challenge. Or maybe not. The more miracles women speak and act like this, the more doors will inevitably be visible in the future of the industry.