Kathleen Kennedy is a powerful woman in Hollywood. The most powerful, according to some. She was the co-founder of Amblin Entertainment (alongside that Spielberg fella) and as such helped bring things like E.T. and the Jurassic Park franchise to the screen. As head of Lucasfilm since 2012 Kennedy has steered the multi-billion dollar behemoth that is Star Wars into its current renaissance.
She’s a boss-ass successful woman breaking through the closed boys’ club that is the movie business, in other words.
Kennedy has also been instrumental in trying to diversify the famously white, male Star Wars universe, with The Force Awakens’ primary two protagonists being a capable woman and a black man. That’s a good step in the right direction. Representation matters.
What also matters, however — and arguably much more — is behind-the-camera talent. The root-level creative forces, that’s where change needs to really happen, because then all other change follows on from there.
TK wrote an article about a year ago about the lazy form of progressiveness that would be the casting of Idris Elba as James Bond:
We think that we’re being progressive when we say we want someone like Idris Elba as James Bond. And I suppose, to a certain extent, we are. But we’re also addressing only a small corner of a vast problem that exists in Hollywood — it’s a lazy form of progressiveness. Not enough people are casting underrepresented groups in major or minor roles in movies. Not enough of them are being tapped to write, to direct, to create. That last one is the key, to be frank. It’s not just about the actors, it’s not even just about the directors. It’s about the creators. The ideas. That’s what we should be striving for. Don’t throw me a bone by casting a black man in a white man’s role. Give me a black person in a role made for him or her, with their own unique history and personality.
And this is where a recent interview that Kathleen Kennedy, boss-ass successful woman, gave to Variety proves slightly troubling. While addressing the lack of women directors in the industry (and specifically involved with Star Wars), Kennedy had this to say:
We want to make sure that when we bring a female director in to do Star Wars, they’re set up for success. They’re gigantic films, and you can’t come into them with essentially no experience.
At first glance, and if one was feeling forgiving, that could be seen as just simple, smart, capitalist-sense. These movies are huge investments; they need a safe pair of hands accustomed to steering large, bloated-budget ships. It might be unfair and revealing of a systemic gender problem in the industry, but that’s another issue. You can’t give the reins of a big budget movie to just about anyone. It’s fundamental that they have plenty of experience — many years and several projects’ worth ideally — working with large productions. It’s not just women directors. No studio would hire a man wh-…
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story — directed by Gareth Edwards, previous feature credits: Monsters (budget: $500,000) —> Godzilla (est.budget: $160,000,000).
Jurassic World (est. budget: $150,000,000) — directed by Colin Trevorrow, previous feature credits: Safety Not Guaranteed (budget: $750,000).
The Fantastic Four (est. budget: $120,000,000) — directed by Josh Trank, previous feature credits: Chronicle (est. budget: $12,000,000).