The Hollywood Reporter put out its annual ‘Most Powerful Women in Hollywood’ issue this week. Most of the most powerful women are heads of studios (Anne Sweeney, co-chairman of Disney Media Networks came in at number one) but by the time we were in the 40′s we got to Tina Fey and blockbuster queens Kristen Stewart, Jennifer Lawrence and Meryl Streep came in at 50. But when a number of these powerful women (and a few men) were asked what it would be like if women really did run Hollywood, their answers were surprising.
The buzzwords seemed to be “inclusive” and “diversity.” Women tend to be more inclusive in the way they work but does this mean we would see more films like the female-driven The Help every year? Not necessarily. Gale Anne Heard, producer of The Walking Dead, said, “Content, driven by the marketplace, likely wouldn’t change much. And the business would still be populated by passionate, hardworking individuals, male and female, devoted to creating and sharing stories with the world.”
Anne Fletcher, director of The Proposal and The Guilt Trip, said she didn’t like this question because it automatically pitted men against women. She said, “The truth is, there are so many women who are at the forefront of this industry, which is the good news. There are more and more women today who are heads of studios, editors, writers, directors, producers, actors, etc. In reality, what we offer and bring to the table, man or woman, is our own unique point of view. So I’d like for our work to speak for itself. But since you’re asking — I’d also like to see healthier food on the craft service table, with a secret stash of M&Ms hidden somewhere for emergencies.”
When men in the industry were asked this question many of them couldn’t even believe it was being asked. Women dorun Hollywood, they said. Community and Talk Soup star Joel McHale said, “If women ran Hollywood, there would be hit romantic comedies about hunky male strippers, hugely successful film franchises about sparkly vampires and music and dancing competition shows would dominate the airwaves — wait, are we sure women don’t already run Hollywood?”
Now Joel does make a good point and this list does show that women are taking on the power roles but in many ways women are still behind in this industry. Women made up only 16% 0f all directors, executive producers, writers, cinematographers, and editors working on the top 250 domestic grossing films of 2010. This was a 1% decrease from 1998, according to a study by Martha M. Lauzen, Ph.D and director of the Center of The Study Of Women In Television and Film. According to a new study the number of women both in front of and behind the camera is on the decline in television. Women comprised 15% of writers on the prime-time dramas, comedies and reality shows on ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox and the CW, down from 29% in the 2009-10 season, according to the report from the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University. In the directing ranks, it found, 11% were women, compared with 16% the previous year. “It is my impression that women are still viewed as “riskier hires” and, as a result, are not considered for the big-budget, high-profile films and/or films in genres other than romantic comedy and romantic drama,” Lauzen said in an interview last year
As Liz Meriwether, creator of New Girl, pointed out, “If women ran Hollywood, The Hollywood Reporter would have a “Men in Entertainment” issue every year, and those jerks would have to write something.”
But Lauren Shuler Donner, producer of the X-Men franchise, is hopeful. “Women do run Hollywood. Are they the CEOs? No. But the ones who make the decisions are Emma and Amy and Hannah and Stacey and Donna. They certainly make a lot of the decisions. It will always be a male business, but I think this is a time when you look around and you can say women run the business — except at Paramount, Disney and Warners. The reason that I thought both Spider-Man and X-Men were as successful as they were was, not only did Laura [Ziskin] and I have wonderful directors in Sam Raimi and Bryan Singer, but we instinctively understood that the characters had to be grounded in emotion. No matter how much action there is, there needs to be heart, and it needs to be personal.”
So in the future plan on still seeing action movies, but with characters with emotional depth.