Late last week, Jill Soloway, the creator of Transparent, gave a speech to students of the American Film Institute’s Conservatory Directing Workshop for Women. And she f*cking blew the roof off the place. You can read the full speech over at HitFix, but here are a few highlights of what it looks like to not pull a single punch while talking about women in film. Or the world.
Soloway started off with an acknowledgement that this is an “amazing time for lady directors.” ‘Amazing’ in that things are kind of terrible and women should probably just “sue all of Hollywood.” Because with the recent ACLU investigation and the popularity of the “Sh*t People Say To Women Directors” blog, it’s not a harder time to be a woman in Hollywood— it’s just finally acceptable to be publicly angry about how hard it is to be a woman in Hollywood.
So even though there are 600 people here I want to give some words of wisdom to those 20 new filmmakers, as well as any woman creators in the audience. I want to give you some real professional TOOLS for making it as a woman. In man’s world. That’s why I brought this.
At this point, Jill Soloway takes out a copy of The Rules. The Motherf*cking Rules. The book that taught legions of women not to accept dates with less that two days notice and to never EVER split a check. It is, irrefutably, the worst.
Okay but my POINT is that if some of these things work for chicks trying get their way with dudes in life, they should also have to work for chicks trying to get their way in the male-dominated industry of Hollywood.Take for example the stupid-ass rule “Be a Creature Unlike Any Other.” That’s absolutely TERRIBLE advice to give to a human woman, right? Right.
But it’s true as a director. DON’T BE LIKE ANYONE ELSE. Find your voice, your script, your rhythms. Before you make a movie, you’re comparing two things in your mind: the empty space where there’s no movie, and then the opposite of no movie, which is your completed movie. No movie, movie. Movie is better than no movie, right? But after I made my first feature, “Afternoon Delight,” I realized that your movie gets compared to EVERY OTHER MOVIE THAT’S EVER BEEN MADE in reviews. Distribution deals. Word of mouth. Getting people out if their house and into the theater.And that’s not the only “rule” that can be reappropriated for the film industry. The famous and stupid “Don’t Expect a Man to Change” = Don’t expect the industry to change.
So you gotta go for it. Just do me a favor and F*CK SOME SH*T UP. Surprise yourself, wake up your actors, get wild with your performances, try sh*t, put in that funky dialogue you’re embarrassed of, in fact, rub your f*cked-up-ness all over your scripts, add some shame and embarrassment and glee, and then dare yourself to shoot it, SERIOUSLY, go big or go home — be a creature unlike any other.
Guys are holding on so tightly to male protaganism because it perpetuates male privilege. From their subject seats they can POINT — “She’s old, SHE’S hot, she’s not, she’s old, she’s fat, she’s someone I want to bone, she’s past her prime, that person’s black, queer, fat.” (I’m not pointing to you guys.)
That pointer is a powerful thing. That white cis male gaze is like a lifeguard chair, it’s a watchtower - I’m way up here naming things. And they are NOT GIVING UP THOSE LOOKOUT SPOTS EASILY, in fact they won’t even cop to the fact that they have that privilege. Wait what? We’ve had the voice too long? We’re not doing it on purpose… So yeah, instead of waiting for these guys to change, instead STORM the gates, grab hands with each other, RUN like red rovers at the lifeguard chairs, snarl at the bases like wild starving beast dogs, boost each other up those watch towers and pull those motherf*ckers down.
Still, Soloway says that what’s even better than reappropriating The Rules is to throw them out entirely. Forget everything we’ve been taught about women (and men! everyone has rules they think they need to play by) have to behave to “make it.”
You know how they used to tell women IF YOU HAVE TO CRY GO TO YOUR CAR. Or go to the bathroom? On my set, I say, IF YOU CAN’T CRY YOU’RE A LIABILITY. If you can’t cry you can’t feel and if you can’t feel, you’d better not be holding my camera. And speaking of the camera, the camera is recording images of humans — skin and water moving over muscles and bone — feelings. And I’m just curious, how in the world did men convince us that feelings are their specialty? Feelings are OUR thing. There are so many status quo filmmaking supposed norms, questionable militaristic language like “point” and “shoot” and “cut,” “CAPTURE” a moment, but the truth is - I came into most of my power as a filmmaker when I realized that all I needed to do was make a safe space for people to have feelings. And that’s feminine energy. That’s mommy energy. That’s OUR birthright. Our wombs, our space-making, crucible containing bodies. (As a newly politicized member of the genderfluid revolution I’ll remind you that you don’t need a female body, you can also bring your spiritual womb, your conceptual pussy if need be). What I’m talking about is no more imitating men’s style or competing with them on their terms, instead reinvent at every turn.Soloway encourages these women entering the industry to make their own rules. Rules that make a hell of a lot more sense than the existing ones.
You CAN cry at work, in fact, you must cry at work, in fact if you’re going to make a movie, do me a favor and think of it “as bring your tears to work day”, hell while you’re at it, ” hashtag #bringyourpussytoworkday”, every day. You’re gonna need it.