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March 09, 2007

It's a Wrap

Michael Blowhard writes:

Dear Blowhards --

The Wife and I -- OK, really our dynamic and gifted young director-buddy -- have finished shooting the film the three of us co-wrote. It's in the can, or whatever it is that experienced filmpeople say when they've come to the end of the "shooting it" part of making a film.

I blogged here and here about some of my reflections and observations about microbudget filmmaking. Now that our shoot is over, I've collected a few more notions to pass along. For today:

* Boys and Girls. A question that comes up regularly in journalistic discussions about filmmaking is: Why are there so few female film directors? According to this Salon article, around 95% of American films are directed by men. Can the usual catch-all explanation -- ie., sexism -- explain that big a difference?

Going into our film shoot, my feeling was that sexism can't possibly explain why so many film directors are male. But my explanation went in this direction: "After all, women aren't in short supply in high-level positions in the movie business. They've run studios, production houses, and agencies. Female stars have acquired tremendous power. Unless you want to accuse Sherry Lansing, Amy Pascal, and Drew Barrymore of being anti-woman sexists, other elements must certainly come into play. There must be good, or at least understandable, reasons why even women usually choose men to direct movies."

Now that our own little film has finished shooting, my preferred explanation has shifted somewhat. I still look at the "sexism" explanation skeptically. (Not that I doubt that sexism plays some role. But how big a one?) But now my own preferred explanation has become a little more down-to-earth. It goes this way: "So very many film directors are men because making an ambitious narrative movie requires a great deal of" -- tender sensibilities please leave now -- "dick energy."

Being a director of ambitious narrative movies is rather like being a general. It requires a kind of maniacally focused drive. You have to be pushy, somewhat myopic and blinkered, maybe a little autistic, and incredibly determined. Making an ambitious narrative movie -- and our film, however micro, is nothing if not ambitious -- takes glee, directedness, and drive. Ego, foolishness, and maybe some recklessness don't hurt either. You have to be willing to let go of a lot of the rest of life in order to get your film in the can. These are, generally speaking, penis virtues, not vagina virtues.

Directing a film is for single-track minds, and for action-oriented, dynamic bodies -- our own young director-buddy collaborator, for instance. During our shoot, he was quite a phenomenon to witness: focused, tense, happy, and sweaty. High on the excitement of it all, he grew leaner and leaner as the two weeks passed. He was so single-minded about achieving his goals that he needed to be reminded to eat.

This isn't to say that filmmaking itself is, let alone should be, closed to women. I happen to be a big fan of the work of a lot of female directors: Amy Heckerling, Catherine Breillat, Gillian Armstrong, Martha Coolidge, Lynne ("Kissed") Stopkewich, and Margaret ("Be Here to Love Me") Brown, as well as some others. Leni Riefenstahl was a funny case, wasn't she? She seemed to direct her movies in a spirit of "Well, if the men aren't going to make the heroic, big-dick films that I think they should be making, then I guess I'm going to have to!"

I like many of the films made by these women, and I like what they have brought and what they bring to movies. To be wildly overgeneral: Women filmmakers often have a canniness about character, motivations, and emotions that's both sympathetic and scarily precise, and they're often able to put moods and experiences onscreen in inside-out ways that are by and large beyond the range of guy-directors.

Movies are enriched by this, of course. But, let's face it, these women are and so far have been exceptions. I think the main reason for this may be that film directing tends to be such an all-consuming job. Filmmakers often live filmmaking 24/7 even when they're in-between films. When they're actually shooting, they're living their filmmaking more than 24/7. And it seems to be a basic fact of life that many men crave that kind of X-treme involvement in their jobs, while most women seem to want more in the way of balance in their lives.

All that said, there's a hands-on filmmaking role that seems to suit the female temperament extremely well: being a producer. The Wife played producer on our own little movie, for example, and she was in her element. Although she had moments when she craved a little director-style creative input, she also found that producing came easily to her. Taking the large view ... Multitasking ... Attending to people and their needs ... The Wife found that producing can be like being a den mother, if on a big scale.

While the director is relentlessly focused on capturing on film or tape what he needs for his movie, the producer has broader horizons. She's focused on keeping the whole enterprise alive and functioning. The director prosecutes specific battles; the producer keeps the homeland nurtured and well. Or maybe: The director is the daddy, heading out day after to day with the single-minded goal of slaying mastodons, while the producer is the mommy, doing the zillions of things necessary to keep the family together, healthy, and moving in the right direction.

Brief musing: There may well be ways of directing films that suit the general female temperament well. I suspect, though, that they'll seldom result in the director-driven, ambitious narrative thing, which will likely always demand tons of dick-commitment. But filmmaking as an activity is opening up in ways analogous to the way writing and publishing opened up five and ten years ago. DV videocams, home computers, YouTube ... No longer do films have to be 90 minutes long; no longer do they have to tell fictional, enacted-and-staged stories. They never did have to, of course. But today's technology and distribution possibilites mean that you can make your oddball film and actually put it out there in public.

Which means that filmmaking no longer has to be a let-it-consume- your-life-or-forget-about-it, dick-energy kind of thing. Filmmaking can be more modest, more casual, more personal. Filmmaking can be more like painting, acting, writing, or poetry. Note how many of the videobloggers on YouTube are female, for instance. Note how easy it is for them to put their concerns, their fizz, their beauty, and their emotions onscreen. Five minutes? Yakking at the camera? Dancing for it? Slamming it all together on your iMac? Say hello to an activity that allows for both self-expression and life-balance.

This isn't a putdown, by the way. I think the gal videobloggers are adding a lot to the audiovisual-through-time entertainment-thang, and I'm personally in a phase where I'm finding the YouTube end of filmmaking to be far more rewarding to follow than big-scale, big-dick narrative films.

It also isn't to gloat about male / female differences. I don't have the dick energy myself to general an ambitious narrative film through to conclusion. And when I think of doing some filmmaking of my own, my thoughts these days run much more in the direction of videoblogging with the iMac than they do in the direction of going mano a mano with David Fincher.

BTW as well: The Wife agrees with what I've written here about men and women, and about the way filmmaking responsibilities tend to divvy up. Phew!



UPDATE: To round these musings off a bit more completely than I groggily managed late last night ... So why aren't there more female producers in the conventional filmmaking world? My guess is that it has to do with how consuming the job is. Although the producer mindset tends not to be as narrowly focused as the director mindset, and although much of what it takes to be a producer would seem to suit the general female talent-set, being a producer is also something like being the mother of a large family -- a very, very large family. There's simply no break from it. And, in my experience, there are relatively few women who want jobs like that: some just-starting-out young 'uns, some lesbians, and a very small number of very-determined, very devoted artists. (Just an impression, but the lesbian presence among female film directors and producers has been rather high, hasn't it?) Most women -- even the most career-centric ones -- seem to want jobs that, to some extent, can be managed. Conventional film directing and conventional film-producing both will manage you instead. So, to my mind anyway, it makes simple sense that in the conventional filmbiz you'll find many women-in-power in the office buildings, and relatively few (actresses apart) on the actual film sets.

posted by Michael at March 9, 2007


If you had said "I do not have dick energy, I am just a dick" then you would have told the honest to god truth.

Posted by: hohoho on March 9, 2007 8:22 AM

Don't forget superb female directors like Maya Deren, Agnes Varda, and Caroline Link. And as for the YouTube thing, I'd have to add the wonderful Tasha & Dishka whose videos Hey, White Rabbit, Do You Love Me, Road to Milwaukee, and Lost in Hazan are real works of art.

Although I agree that the reason directors are so disproportionatly male has a lot to do with biology, I think that the lack of female directors is, in general, a bad thing. I seldom agree with feminism, but potentially valuable, or at least different, female perspectives are missing from the arts. This doesn't mean there is a patriarchal conspiracy to keep women out, but I would like to see what women have to say.

I also happen to think that the arts are one area, as opposed to say math, physics, or engineering, where specially encouraging women might yield actual dividends. I think there is a lot of unused female talent in the arts, for the reasons you've set so vividly set out ("dick energy" etc.).

One of Steve Sailer's readers once wrote in the following:

As for women screenwriters, I've got a small anecdote. I was talking once to Robert McKee, the screenwriting guru [portrayed in Adaptation by Bryan Cox], and asked him roughly the same question. He said that in his experience, women are often better writers than men -- more intuitive, more empathetic, less ego-rattled. They're better at creating living characters and charged situations. What happens, though, is that they then encounter the business. And it's a rough, awful thing, full of jerks. And women are simply more likely than men to give it up in the face of such hideousness. "I've gone to the trouble of creating something I love, and this is how I get treated?" -- that's how they're prone to react, according to McKee. So they bail out of the business. Maybe guys' lack of sensitivity, and maybe their jerk egos -- maybe both these things cripple them creatively a bit. But maybe they also help them (drive them?) to persist and survive the business and production challenges.

Posted by: Thursday on March 9, 2007 8:58 AM

One other very small thought on how sex differences might impact the tendency of men and women to seek out or avoid certain social roles:

Jobs like film directing are very demanding and of very uncertain financial payoff. So the existence of non-financial rewards might make a big difference. Tons of guys in Hollywood and film (and music and the arts generally) do it, in significant part, because demonstrating that kind of risk appetite and drive pays off sexually. The number of short, ugly guys in L.A. with very good looking wives (or boyfriends) is one of our local cliches.

I don't see the sexual reward to women who go through this type of ordeal-by-occupation. How many women do you know who go into bars and pick up guys by telling them they're a film director?

Posted by: Friedrich von Blowhard on March 9, 2007 10:51 AM

Hohoho -- Could be. But if that's your idea of contributing to a conversation I feel sorry for you.

Thursday -- I think I know the person who wrote that note to Sailer! (Blush.) And that's all really well put, thanks. I couldn't agree more with your general point about how the whole filmgoing-filmmaking thing would be enriched by more in the way of female perspectives. (And I even like Tasha and Diskha. Do we live in each other's heads? But you aren't crazy about Altman ...) It's funny how the nature of an artform plays a role in what and how the world is portrayed by it, no? Writers tend to be more introverted than the general population, so writing tends to deliver more of an introvert's p-o-v. Abstract sculpture using huge industrial waste as raw materials ... Well, I don't know that I've ever run across a woman artist who takes part in that game, while you don't often run into many male quilters, or romance-writers. Standup comedians are often Jewish guys. Anyway, fun to take note of all this. Not that I've done a study or anything, but I get the impression that countries with more subsidized film industries tend to have more women directors, presumably for political reasons. There are bunches of Frenchwomen directors, for instance, and Canada seems to encourage gal directors too. The big puzzle for me (hoping to expand this general notion into a blogposting someday) is why the gals who have made it in the American filmbiz don't do more to encourage female film directors. The gal stars and execs could easily, for instance, create a foundation that'd fund dozens of $50,000 directed-by-women features every year. Why don't they do it? (I have a rather naughty theory about this.) But how many of the women filmmakers who'd get a chance thereby would continue making films? There's just no getting around the fact that you can't direct feature films without a ton-ton-ton of ego and bullheaded commitment. In any case, I think DV and YouTube make a lot of these concerns moot. Young gals growing up with the technology and the access are going to be putting themselves up online as they see fit, and no one's going to get in their way. I guess the question then is, Is anyone going to recognize what they're doing as a contribution to film history? 2Blowhards certainly does!

FvB -- That's a really good point. Two points really: I think guys tend to be more willing to take absurd gambles with their lives than women do. And god knows there's nothing (for a guy, of course) quite like being able to smile at a pretty girl and ask her if she's interested in getting into movies ... I'd love to hear your reflections about filmmaking. You've certainly had a little time to digest your own experiences! (Note to visitors: in younger years, FvB did a lot of talented, no-budget ambitious narrative filmmaking ...)

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on March 9, 2007 10:56 AM

I would agree with your assessment, but I still find it funny that portions of the feminist movement have made the designations of our genders so poisonous that we have to find alternatives to "men/man" and "women/woman". This is not a criticism for your choice, but isn't it funny that people would read genital designations with less offence than gender pronouns?

Re the actual topic: Perhaps Sofia Coppola is one of those women directors who does a more feminine type of film rather than a "director-driven, ambitious narrative thing." Her films seem to be about mood and tone, and if the story fits in there in a logical way, well that's just icing.

Posted by: yahmdallah on March 9, 2007 11:15 AM


I think just about all your comments about the reasons for why so overwhelmingly more men than women producers and ESPECIALLY directors are spot on. I too think the “sexism” explanation, at least insofar as that term is understood to mean IRRATIONAL prejudice, is garbage.

(Of course I’ve come to think that all explanations that rely on prejudice are usually garbage – unless that is the prejudice is so strongly buttressed by law (Jim Crow, slavery) or nearly iron social custom that has much of the color of law (cast system in India). Can you tell I’ve long since left my lefty college beliefs behind?)

I think there’s an even more fundamental reason that there are more, LOTS, more men than women in these jobs. Landing such a job or even being on the track to them, is a GREAT way to get quality babes – both the one (or the several, serially) you marry, and the others you attract for liaisons (with a shot at getting the high status beautiful wife to put up with it, if you’re discrete and treat her as her status and attributes deserve). All men know this and nearly all fantasize about being in such a position, including the large number who never admit it (in part because it’s so clearly not in the cards for them).

As Frederick says above:

The number of short, ugly guys in L.A. with very good looking wives (or boyfriends) is one of our local cliches.

In contrast a female director or producer is perhaps going to far in the power game to attract the most attractive (to many women) sort of husband – or at the very least she has restricted the field that won’t be intimidated by her and that she won’t end up looking down upon to a very narrow and rarified one indeed – one she may not be able to access at all if she isn’t also stunningly beautiful, etc., and doesn’t have a sort of bi-modal personality or other way of acting convincingly (including to herself) differently in private.

Now ACTRESS. THERE’s a job that will get the best men swarming.

I have actually come to think that there will be FEWER, not more, women in really or even near top power type positions in all sorts of fields, like corps and law firms and so on, 50 years from now, than today. Because it’s just far more emotionally stable with fewer (certainly not none). That is unless the reigning feminist religion continues to hold strong ideological sway. And it’s already somewhat receding.

PS, I wrote a rather long response to your plea over on GNXP a couple of days ago that multiple intelligences be given a somewhat more sympathetic hearing by the “g” crowd. I agree with you, sort of. I came late to that set of comments, hence the point to here.

Posted by: dougjnn on March 9, 2007 11:59 AM

I get what you're saying, but you seem to be drawing your conclusions from a very limited amount of experience working in film.

Directing requires a great deal of multi-tasking and keeping the big picture in mind.

And though it's likely not the only reason, there is a lot of sexism in the film industry (speaking from my few years of gaffing/electric work in LA). It's not always blatantly apparent, but there are definitely roles which are considered more acceptable for women to have. E.g., you're more likely to see women camera assistants (very detail oriented work) as opposed to grips or electrics. But it's much more likely the women on set will be doing hair/makeup, craft services, script supervising, ADing, or PAing. These are not jobs that lead to directing gigs.

It'd be interesting to see what percentage of that 95% of male directors have multiple films under their belts. I'd bet it's pretty high which is another factor in why it's hard for new women directors to break into the business.

Posted by: claire on March 9, 2007 3:23 PM

One of the most often remarked differences between the sexes is the greater verbal fluidity of women versus the superior spacial relationships grasp of men. Now film is a predominantly visual medium. A great film may or may not contain a lot of the talkee talkee; but it must be visually arresting. And although the director, male or female, can lean on the cameraman to provide the visual feel of his/her film, all of the first rate directors are passionately concerned with and involved in determining frame by frame composition.
On the other hand there aren't that many leading women stage directors either. So maybe the male superior visualization theory goes out the window.

Posted by: ricpic on March 9, 2007 6:01 PM


Actually, my BIGGEST question is, how long before viewing is possible?

I gather from an earlier post that you intent to try to mine the indie cine festival circuit first? Before the webvideozine release that is?

Posted by: dougjnn on March 9, 2007 6:06 PM

Ooops. I keep forgetting that I've got to scrub all Word for Windows written comments here in a strict text program (like notepad) before posting).

THAT is a pain though. If there's an easy fix I'd love it.

Posted by: dougjnn on March 9, 2007 6:08 PM

So you guys fixed it this time? Can that be auto?

Posted by: dougjnn on March 9, 2007 8:38 PM

Congratulations on finishing your film.

Unfortunately, you've muddied my enthusiasm with the standard "Why aren't women doing something or other" BS.

I don't give a damn whether women produce and direct film.

Why should I?

I am, however, looking forward to seeing your film.

Posted by: Shouting Thomas on March 10, 2007 9:01 AM

My previous post was a bit huffy.

I think that there is a more serious issue here and it is this. Why are the arts so reflexively wedded to a leftist/Marxist point of view? It sure is tiresome, and it leads to the production of a ton of dreck.

I entered a 48 hour film festival a couple of years ago. At the screening, it quickly became evident that what was expected, and appreciated, was yet another recitation of all the usual leftist/Marxist cliches... and this repetitive recitation of leftist/Marxist cliches is always met with congratulatory acclaim as "fresh and courageous" when it is in fact boring and juvenile as hell.

The assertion that it is of any importance whether women are producers or directors is yet another recitation of that tired leftist point of view.

In the music biz, it is generally just assumed that you are some sort of leftist/Marxist. Why in the hell this has anything to do with music, I don't know. In fact, the best music doesn't even bother with politics.

The leftist/Marxist insistence that everything be viewed through the prism of race/class/sex has been a damnable bore for decades. It isn't an original point of view. The commies have been insisting on this bullshit since the twenties. The race/class/sex BS is as interesting and stimulating as the fifth rerun of a daytime soap opera.

I've lost interest in the Manhattan arts and social scene because... folks it's boring and stupid. The fag and fag hag scene is just junior high school replayed endlessly, and the attempts to outrage have been replayed so many times they just make me yawn. The pretense that a reactionary, oppressive right wing is amassing an army on the Jersey side of the Hudson is just so much childish self-dramatization. The artistic left is completely played out. And the leftist obsessions of the arts are empty and lame. Especially the bonehead: "Why aren't women... why aren't blacks... why aren't gays" nonsense.

Michael, it's time to abandon this nonsense.

Posted by: Shouting Thomas on March 10, 2007 9:34 AM

Nice analysis... Leni Riefenstahl as Camille Paglia, or, better yet, Margaret Thatcher.

Doesn't "Riefenstahl" mean something like "groovy steel"?

Posted by: Reg Cæsar on March 10, 2007 2:58 PM

In the absence of extreme and rigid barriers, then if not many of some groups can make it to big success, I say, who cares?

They shouldn't. They didn't have what it takes to begin with. If they're just arguably equal, they're really inferior, and if they aren't, but actually (barely) equal with disadvantages, who cares? What great societal good would their promotion give the rest of us?

Group after group has prospered in America. But to greatly differential degrees, if you look closely at the statistical evidence. Initial prejudices ALWAYS were modified by group average success, often GREATLY.

Of course groups that didn't make much relative progress didn't enjoy this benefit. As Thomas Sowell has pointed out, for many, MANY decades the Irish (who mass immigrated beginning in the 1840s and ending in the 1900s or so), by and large did not. They remained stupidly drunken and fisticufs and absentee worker prone for those same decades. Then it all changed. They became fully mainstream white Americans, not just (or actually first) in common larger society categorization, but in their behavior. Are Irish Americans still more inclined to drunkeness and brawling? Perhaps. But not by all that much. Formerly, massively so.

Posted by: dougjnn on March 10, 2007 4:33 PM

This goes way off topic, but dougjnn's comment deserves a rebuke.

They shouldn't. They didn't have what it takes to begin with.

"They" aren't getting hired. "He" or "she" is. Prejudice is deciding that he or she doesn't have what it takes because they're part of the same group as "they". "He" or "she"'s actual abilities have becomes irrelevant.

This is an enormous personal injustice, and reason enough to despise such prejudice.

However, even if the prejudices are "rational" (i.e. statistically the group in question shows characteristics outside the norm and it may make short-term economic sense to exclude individuals without evaluating their personal characteristics) this causes long term social harm.

By denying individuals the opportunity to demonstrate their personal characteristics, the return on defying the group's norm is minimal (and may cause social exclusion from the group). Removing or diminishing the incentives for making the effort to move towards the social norm hinders individuals and thus eventually groups from achieving their best. This is how "rational" prejudice harms society as a whole. Short term optimization such as "rational" prejudice is prone to end in a local maximum.

Thus "rational" prejudice is wrong on both a moral and long-term social level.

Posted by: Tom West on March 11, 2007 7:40 AM

Why are the arts so reflexively wedded to a leftist/Marxist point of view? It sure is tiresome, and it leads to the production of a ton of dreck.

Dreck for you, perhaps, but if it satisfies both the makers and the audience, isn't possible that it's *you* who are the black sheep here?

Quite frankly, I get a bit tired of hearing people complain about how certain groups are all left-wingers (artists, school teachers, etc.). To my mind it makes as much sense as complaining that stock broking is a hot-bed of capitalists.

People naturally tend to choose jobs that require characteristics that they themselves have. The fulfillment that jobs provide also depends on the characteristics of the job holder and thus also influence which people will seek certain jobs. (If you get no big rush from seeing a child succeed because of your efforts, you're less likely to become a teacher.)

The same characteristics that make someone see a particular job will tend to influence political beliefs.

Crudely put, expecting that school teacher be right-wing when most right-wingers wouldn't touch teaching with a 10 foot pole is dreaming in Technicolor.

The same applies to arts.

Now having said that, any occupation that requires group approval to succeed is going to be self-reinforcing, and the arts are going to be a strong example of that. However, that's is only going to exaggerate the strong tendency that is naturally there because of the nature of the occupation.

Posted by: Tom West on March 11, 2007 7:55 AM

Tom West, I had been mulling over a response to dougjnn's comment, but you said it better than I ever could have.

I'll just repeat what I said a few weeks ago ... dougjnn seems to get his talking points from The National Review and like-minded publications.

He could save himself a lot of typing, and us a lot of reading, by just saying, "[astute thing I read about this topic in The National Review is incorporated by reference]".

Trust us, Doug, we'll know what you're talking about.

Posted by: James on March 11, 2007 10:14 PM

Michael --

Your dissertation upon dick virtues versus vagina virtues was, of course, provocative and I know it was probably tongue-in-cheek, but it strikes me as borderline offensive, but more importantly, simply wrong.

Since just about any difficult task -- whether filmmaking, novel-writing, stock-brokering, lawyering, bond-trading, scientific research, etc. -- requires Olympian levels of endurance and commitment to do well, you would seem to have called into question the ability of women to reach the highest levels of just about any discipline. In short, you've had a Larry Summers moment.

Isn't it possible that, having had your first experience with filmmaking, you are overly impressed with the difficulty of the endeavor? I remember some of my first exposures to courtroom action as a fledgling attorney, and I remember being awfully impressed with the level of preparation, eloquence, and off-the-cuff knowledge that attorneys seemed to display in court. But as I gained more experience, I realized that a lot of what appeared and seemed difficult, really becomes a kind of second nature and what had so impressed me about those courtroom attorneys was frankly not very impressive once I understood it and got closer to their level.

I suspect that you, having had your inaugural outing as a director or producer, are unduly impressed with what you have done, and it has led to these frankly embarrassing speculations on why various ethnic and gender groups have not succeeded at this magnificently hard thing you have done.

Posted by: James on March 11, 2007 10:26 PM

Yahmdallah -- It is weird how PC-ness has blighted certain words, isn't it? It'd be nice if people wouldn't lighten up a bit. And yeah, I think that's a nice point -- Sofia's movies *are* kind of like an indiechick CD.

Dougjnn -- It'll be interesting to see how the sexes sort themselves out where jobs are concerned. I have to suspect that the political pressures of the last few decades will lose their oomph. And without 'em, what'll happen? And yeah, I agree that one of the motivatators for guys to give their all to become something like a film director is sex, more specifically sex with some of the world's most beautiful women. Do women have similarly powerful motivators, at least where wanting-to-make-movies is concerned? Thanks for asking about our release plans. Since our director-buddy doesn't think he'll have the film edited until the end of summer, we aren't real clear on 'em yet. But I'll be sure to supply hints here on the blog as the date approaches.

Claire -- I'm generalizing based on a *minute* amount of hands-on experience! In my defence, though, I've been a film buff for decades, have spoken with dozens of people in the industry (many women included), and have spent a few days on professional sets and in pro post-production facilities. Not that there aren't a zillion people who know these things better than I do, but some of what I'm passing along is what these people have told me. The sexism thing is interesting, isn't it? I once talked to a whole series of women in film. The ones who'd made it said that sexism, while there's some around, isn't terribly serious any longer. The ones who hadn't made it felt they were being held back by sexism. Hard to know what to make of that, but there it is. Eager to hear your stories! BTW, I certainly think you're right about how the female gift-set should be able to translate itself into directing. The Wife once spent a few days on a Gillian Armstrong set, and the way she described it made it sound like what you've described. So why aren't the companies buying more films from the likes of Gillian Armstrong, and why aren't they fostering talents like hers? My own best guess has to do with the all-consumingness of the job -- that relatively few women want to give years and years of theier lives to a job that requires 24/7 efforts. It's interesting that in film cultures where film people don't kill themselves to the same extent there seem to be more women directors. In France, for instance, crews tend to be small, everyone breaks for lunch, and goes home at a reasonable hour. Government money is also involved. And there are more women directors, although it's still a long way from 50/50. But I'm grateful for any further ideas.

ST -- "Why are the arts so reflexively wedded to a leftist/Marxist point of view? It sure is tiresome, and it leads to the production of a ton of dreck." I hearya, and it's a puzzle, isn't it? I mean, historically I see why and how it happened, but by this point it's a bore, isn't it? I don't really care much whether gals make films or whether they prefer to sing or act instead, btw. I figure it's their business, not mine. But I do sometimes enjoy seeing films made by women. Freshens the moviegoing thing up a bit.

Reg -- "Leni Riefenstahl as Camille Paglia, or, better yet, Margaret Thatcher." That's very funny! Explains a big hunk of the 20th century, as far as I'm concerned.

Tom -- I take your point, but I think one of the fun things about the Web is that it's opening the culture thing up some. People who are interested in culture yet who don't share the usual leftie thing that the arts have typically presumed are yakking in public and finding other people who share the same combo of liking culture yet not buying the usual leftie/progressive thing. So I'm hopeful that we'll soon be seeing a much broader array of culture expression than we've been used to. Could be wrong, but my fingers are crossed.

James -- It's possible that I'm all wet, god knows! I don't remember making any comments about ethnic groups, though. Not that I mind observations about 'em, to be sure.

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on March 12, 2007 12:46 AM

I hope I didn’t give the impression above that I don’t see female directors as immensely valuable for their particular points of view. I too find Catherine Breillat’s work fascinating (Romance, Anatomy of Hell, 36 Fillette – Fat Girl’s on it’s way from Netflix), Jane Campion’s The Piano (hot female oriented sex indeed) Sophia Coppola’s Lost in Translation, Nora Ephron’s Sleepless in Seattle and You’ve Got Mail (I didn’t so much love the later film as find such ultimate if stereotypical female fantasy spinning interesting). As well, there’s often great female input I think into male directors and screenwriters, some of whom also channel female points of view.

My basic point of view is to let a thousand flowers bloom, in open competition on endlessly many levels. I think merit, all SORTS of merit, will sort itself out. The one thing I think we SHOULD do that we don’t, is to try to institutionally limit extreme workaholic-ism. I’m not at all sure that the highest work is always created that way, and it does tend to limit female contributions more than it should – and hurt everybody’s home and family and friends life. I’m not arguing for the slacker anti-thesis or anything like though. Not at all.

How to implement? I haven’t a clue. The marginal utility of the 80th hour a week of work may be (and probably is) way below the 50th hour (except in what should be rare crisis mode situations), but there’s usually at least SOME value added by those extra hours, which if work isn’t paid on an hourly basis, means some extra competitive benefit for those with the 80+ hour key workers.

Still, I think we should make more conscious efforts to find good and valuable niches for good and valuable creative professional workers who wish a more normal workload of something like 40 hrs weeks, or even more part time ones of 20-30. This would be especially attractive to women, but I think others as well.

Posted by: dougjnn on March 12, 2007 9:06 AM

Michael Blowhard said in a comment above—

The sexism thing is interesting, isn't it? I once talked to a whole series of women in film. The ones who'd made it said that sexism, while there's some around, isn't terribly serious any longer. The ones who hadn't made it felt they were being held back by sexism. Hard to know what to make of that, but there it is.

Well, I think you are, as usual, leaning over a bit backwards in generosity.

I don’t think it’s hard at all to know what to make of that. The women who’ve made it obviously had the talent and drive etc. to make it, while the ones who didn’t, while they COULD have not made it for reasons of (sexist) prejudice, might also have not made it for the same variety of reasons why legions of men don’t make it (and yes a lack of good fortune at crucial times can figure in as well). Yet it’s far more ego sustaining for those with a ready excuse eagerly endorsed by wide segments of our population, including some males.

I.e. blame “sexism”.

In contrast the women who've made it seem far more likely trustworthy voice. They actually KNOW as opposed to only theorize on some evidence what it takes to make it, because they have. And yet they were subjected to whatever sexism there was as well.

Posted by: dougjnn on March 12, 2007 9:47 AM

Shouting Thomas--

The assertion that it is of any importance whether women are producers or directors is yet another recitation of that tired leftist point of view.

Well I can’t really agree. If there are NONE or virtually none, or only when they’re married to a producer or director and sort of get a short by force, and that’s about it – it looks highly suspicious, don’t you think? That ISN’T our current situation. Might have been about that in the 30’s and 40s though, or worse.

I tend to look at these sort of questions from the standpoint of “what’s best for the art form, overall?” What’s best for the profession? Rather than what will “most equalize outcomes” (ignoring all the rest of life’s pulls and concerns like relationships and family life and so on and so forth, yes sex differences and all sorts of related things which we still understand imperfectly – though it’s clear that “blank slate” total social construction ideologies are utter bunk.)

This tends to net into relative unconcern for theorized or perhaps real (hard to really know, isn’t it, if we’re at all honest) “subtle” or vaguely “structural” or “hidden” discriminations, or any discrimination demonstrate by disproportionate outcome or representation alone. Real strong and not clearly justifiable barriers not to mention absolute or nearly absolute legal or cultural prohibitions on the other hand are another thing altogether, and I think will nearly always tend to deprive a field of some very capable and interesting talent – whether that be female talent or black talent or whatever. However, I don’t think that sort of thing much exists anymore in America except in some small businesses, perhaps still a few labor unions (though I think that’s now been largely busted) and some private clubs and voluntary associations which are far less consequential. (Start you own small business, your own voluntary associations and so on, and besides many that already exist don’t have those issues.)

Posted by: dougjnn on March 13, 2007 10:00 PM

Tom West—

"They" aren't getting hired. "He" or "she" is. Prejudice is deciding that he or she doesn't have what it takes because they're part of the same group as "they". "He" or "she"'s actual abilities have becomes irrelevant.

The “they” you quoted from me didn’t refer to all members of a “disadvantaged” gender or ethnic group but rather the ones that didn’t make it to some threshold of success or achievement, explicitly in the ABSENCE of rigid or clear or easy to detect barriers against members of that group in fact succeeding.

I aborr making individual hiring or promoting decisions based on ethnic or gender group averages, even if accurately understood (researched, etc.). Judge individuals as individuals whenever possible, and in employment and credit and most other areas it’s always possible.

I just think the endlessly theorized discrimination of one form or tTom West-

"They" aren't getting hired. "He" or "she" is. Prejudice is deciding that he or she doesn't have what it takes because they're part of the same group as "they". "He" or "she"'s actual abilities have becomes irrelevant.

The "they" you quoted from me didn't refer to all members of a "disadvantaged" gender or ethnic group but rather the ones that didn't make it to some threshold of success or achievement, explicitly in the ABSENCE of rigid or clear or easy to detect barriers against members of that group in fact succeeding.

I aborr making individual hiring or promoting decisions based on ethnic or gender group averages, even if accurately understood (researched, etc.). Judge individuals as individuals whenever possible, and in employment and credit and most other areas it's always possible.

But there's a huge amount of BS about "discrimination". Sure people develop rules of thumb based on what they see but that doesn't mean that the great majority of people even when not in more formal hiring or promoting type roles don't very quickly recognize what's the story with an individual. And that's at the man on the street level, which is much more seat of the pants judgmental without lots of "what's right" filters that are usual for sizeable organization decision makers.

Posted by: dougjnn on March 13, 2007 10:29 PM

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