Who Says Women Can’t Direct?

There’s a Tumblr making the rounds called “Shit People Say to Women Directors.” It’s worth reading to see what women in our industry are having to put up with. It’s ridiculous, in this day and age, that anyone can make these sorts of comments with a straight face. I’ve spent my entire career, from film school through my various jobs in post, working with a variety of talented directors who happen to be women, and the notion that gender imposes any kind of limitation on the job is ludicrous.

Put more bluntly, there is no shortcoming I’ve seen ascribed to women directors that I’ve not also seen exhibited by male directors. I know from personal experience, as a director of one one feature and several shorts, that directing is a grueling gig. At the end of the day, it’s preparation, experience, creativity, and character that separate good directors from terrible ones.

I studied theater arts with an emphasis in film production at U.C. Santa Cruz, and of the professors I considered very influential, two were women. Deborah Fort was a visiting film production professor, whose critical eye and ability to articulate the importance of taking responsibility for the images in your frame stick with me on every project I direct. Marcia Taylor was a formidable directing and acting professor with vast experience, whose practical advice on stagecraft, and direct critiques of my various directing exercises drove me to work harder and prepare more rigorously; when she told the class that “every production you undertake as a director will require everything you’ve ever learned,” she wasn’t kidding, and I find this to be true even 25 years later.

If my memory serves me correctly, our film program’s small classes were somewhere around 75% male and 25% female, and I fell into to working alongside many of the women in my class on their projects; the nature of the program was that everyone did a little of everything, so I worked as a student on several woman-directed projects, and they worked with me on mine. Not once did I ever feel that the women were somehow less talented, in-charge, or in any other way less capable. We were all in it together, and good work (and tedious work) was exhibited equally by everyone.

Moving to San Francisco where I started my postproduction career, I encountered many women directors at the Film Arts Foundation and Bay Area Video Coalition, both organizations of which were dedicated to enabling work outside of the mainstream. As an editor, then later as a broadcast designer, I worked for many women clients, directors and producers, on many varied productions, and looking back I find no generalizations worth making that relate to gender.

Moving later to Los Angeles and Manhattan, where I completed the metamorphosis of the post-production part of my career into a colorist, I worked with many more women directors. And transgender directors. And of course male directors. The good ones were good because of preparation, experience, and creativity. Gender, in my experience, played no role in who was great to work with, and whose work I thought was solid.

And not that I need any more examples, but I’m married to a woman who’s an extremely talented director, with whom I’ve worked in both production and post on two shorts. With twin backgrounds in acting and art direction (she’s been the production designer on all of my recent films, as I’ve been the editor and colorist on hers), she comes at the craft from a different skill-set then I do, and I often find myself envious at the comfortable way she’s able to work with her actors.

If you think that men make better directors then women, you’re wrong. And if you’re lucky enough to get a job on a film, as tough as this industry is, and you can find yourself able to insult or demean the woman who’s directing because of her gender, then you should be fired. It’s the 21st century, and well past time to leave this kind of baggage behind us.


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