As a woman who has spent years working in nearly every position behind the camera, from filmmaker to director to business woman, I’ve learned what Hollywood will try to make of you. Maintaining your values and sense of self while working towards a vision can seem excruciatingly unattainable, especially within a heavily male-dominated industry. Some Hollywood statistics for you: only 1 percent of top-grossing films employed 10 or more women in a behind-the-scenes role. Surveying the 250 top-grossing films, the study found that overall, women comprised only 18 percent of directors, writers, producers, executive producers, editors and cinematographers.
At times it can seem like we are speeding towards an exciting new frontier in filmmaking. However, this new road does not pave itself and takes dedication. Whether I'm in or out of Hollywood, I have been able to distill my journey as a filmmaker into essential lessons, from how to perceive yourself in a male-dominated industry, to finding and formulating depth in your own ideas as a cutting edge creative. Below are a few tips I am honored to share with aspiring female filmmakers; I hope they help to ground you in your motivation as a thought leader in this era of change.
1. Disband stigma.
“When I make a movie that I direct behind the camera ... I am pretty much in control. But when I decided to make a movie sitting in the audience with you, and I direct a film in the seat right next to you, that means I'm making the picture for you. And your reaction is everything."
- Steven Spielberg, male filmmaker.
Imagine if Martin Scorsese or Steven Spielberg were considered ‘male filmmakers’. First, let’s disband stigma for a moment: You are a filmmaker. Gender doesn’t define what we do yet we live in a society where, for some reason, it does. Don't let the constructs of a patriarchal society define how you act. Remind yourself: You are a director. Don't let anyone else threaten or intimidate you. When you are in a room, treat people as equals. Set the bar for everyone around you. You are a filmmaker. Enough said.
2. Drop the ego, maintain confidence.
Think of the concepts who, what, when, where and why. Usually, people lead with ‘who’ they are. Let’s face it - we are in a business where a hundred other people will have the same credentials as you.
Moreover, there are people probably better suited than you to get investments. There are hundreds of aspiring directors with scripts prepared, already talking to investors. That being said, what sells a creative process is not what you do or how you will do it. What sells is the 'why'. What do I mean by this? To quote one of my heroes, Simon Sinek, “People don't buy what you do, they buy why you do it. The goal is not to do business with everybody who needs what you have. The goal is to do business with people who believe what you believe.” Draw confidence and distinction for your creative product from what you believe in. Know why it drives the work that you do. Your 'why' sets you apart from every other filmmaker marching into Hollywood with the latest big idea.
3. Lead your pitch from this WHY.
As a business woman and as any kind of person with the power to change thought, you must always understand and hold close the value of your 'why'. Why are you choosing to tell this story, why are you choosing to tell it now? Whose mind will it change, why will it affect its audience? Why do you do the work that you do? With a clear motivation, you are best suited to sell your story because you understand the merits that set it apart. When I pitch my ideas to corporates, to individuals, to educators and visionaries, time and time again, the feedback is positive and specific. Why? Because I infuse every pitch with my own 'why': I want to not only change the world with my content, but also the business I participate in as a whole. With this transparent passion for the work that I do, I am able to step into each meeting with confidence and predictability-- these people know who I am, what I stand for, and why I am best suited to deliver the work at hand .
4. Be patient.
I am a firm believer in the idea that if something doesn’t happen correctly, it means it wasn’t meant to be. When making my short film Love Is All You Need, I had a notion that simply by changing one element of the world we live in, a global perspective could be shifted to see prejudice where we believed there was none. This vision led to the ultimate construction of the most viral short film of all time. Despite the unbound success of the short film, I pitched the feature film concept to hundreds of investors for two years. It was incredibly difficult to find people for the project who saw the same vision that I did.
However, the lull in the process with this film allowed me the opportunity to turn my attention back towards my company, Genius Produced, where I was able to apply the same principles I do to my creative process. With two years of focused time and attention, the company has quadrupled in both size and scale and will now provide me the opportunity I have been seeking to produce and market the film I had set aside. So, from my heart to yours, be patient. Opportunity doesn't strike when you want it to, but exactly when it needs to.
5. Never sacrifice your values.
As a female CEO in the entertainment industry, I have never compromised my integrity. The result? I have created a thriving counterculture to the stereotypical “Hollywood” you have been reading about lately. But what I have achieved is not commonplace, and I have watched other women fall victim to false definitions of “partnership.” Like anyone in a high-stakes industry, you will undoubtedly come across people who will want to exploit you, as I have time and time again. Remain connected to your WHY. Stay grounded in the values of your work and trail blaze for the future. With patience and trust, you will find solace in others whose values you also respect, who you feel empowered partnering with. Working collaboratively with the people whose values we admire is the first great step we can take in creating a new Hollywood network designed to flush away the stereotypes of an era of objectivity.
6. Remember that the final call is always yours.
Your vision, your voice and your process is the one that brings your work into being. When making Love Is All You Need, I was told again and again that the movie would never sell. There would be no market for a movie like this. It had been done before. I created despite this feedback, and I have changed the world with my vision. My short film has been translated into dozens of languages. I get emails every day from people who have seen Love Is All You Need and had to contact me because it inspired them to write a play, or call their children, or to see others differently for the first time in their lives. People have stopped me in public and thanked me for telling a story I believed needed to be told. If I had listened to anyone else, I would still be sitting next to directors instead of playing that role myself. The final call defines you, because it is yours and yours alone to make.
Dr. Victoria Bateman, an esteemed economist best known for her nude protests for gender equality, uses her body as a form of art that serves to challenge the stigma around women's bodies and women's rights, in the world of economics. In March 2018, Bateman attended the annual conference of the Royal Economic Society in Brighton stark naked with the word "respect" written across her chest and stomach. Unbashful in delivering her message, Bateman was determined to start a conversation.