Women & Hollywood’s Melissa Silverstein Tells TJD: “We Have A Lot More Work” To Get Women Leaders In Film
9:30 am, May 23rd | by Amy Tennery
Melissa Silverstein is the founder and editor of Women And Hollywood, a powerhouse site that tracks women in pop culture and the entertainment industry. Needless to say, she’s kind of an expert when it comes to women’s stock in film and T.V. And when we wanted a guide to the world of women in the movies, we knew where to turn.
In a q&a with The Jane Dough Silverstein weighed in on the dearth of women at this year’s Cannes Festival, told us which movies she’s excited about and weighed in on women’s roles in television.
The Jane Dough: 2011 was, by many estimations, a banner year for women in film and television — particularly in comedy. In your opinion, do you see the momentum carrying over into next season?
Melissa Silverstein: I’m not convinced that looking back on 2011 it will be remembered as a banner year even though I may have been one of the people who thought it was last fall. It may have started off that way because it looked like there were these new female creators striking out and making shows with interesting female characters, but honestly, to me, at the end of the day none of the shows are anywhere near as strong and interesting as Parks and Recreation and 30 Rock.
TJD: On the flip side, of course, we’re still seeing shockingly few women in leadership roles in film and T.V. What needs to change to get more women in director and producer roles? What are the biggest hurdles women face in the industry?
MS: The thing about TV is that is is all driven by advertising and women are the ones who make 80 percent of all consumer purchasing decisions. So we will always see shows with women because the networks know that women are what keep the lights on at the networks. But the people in leadership of TV just like in the movies and the rest of the world still trust men more and will still buy more shows by men even if those shows are about women. I counted the pilots that got picked up this year and there are only 12 shows out of 39 created by women. We still have a lot of work to do to get more women into leadership positions behind the scenes on TV shows.
TJD:You’ve written about the lack of a female presence among the entries at Cannes this year and spearheaded a successful petition against apparent sexism at the event. Do you expect the recent outrage over sexism at the festival to make a tangible impact on next year’s selectees?
MS: One can only hope that the Cannes conversation will make a tangible impact, but I am realistic and know that there needs to be many more people especially the men in power who want change in order for things to be different. But I am hopeful because the conversation has been so varied and consistent. The petition I coordinated was taken seriously by people all across the world. People know that something smells rotten here.
I think that the public is far ahead of the industry on this issue. People want to see different kinds of stories.
TJD: Which upcoming women-led movies and shows are you most excited about? What should be on our radar, so to speak?
MS: Here are the films on my radar screen this summer and fall: Prometheus — the fact that it is an Alien pre-quel starring Noomi Rapace makes me so excited.
Brave — because it’s the first female led film from Pixar.
Beasts of the Southern Wild — it won the best film award at Sundance and everyone who sees it is blown away.
Won’t Back Down — Viola Davis and Maggie Gyllenhaal trying to get kids educated properly.
Middle of Nowhere — written and directed by Ava Duvernary. Ava was the first African-American woman to win the Best Director award at Sundance.
Anna Karenina — It’s my favorite book so I can’t resist.
I am also highly anticipating Kathryn Bigelow’s movie about capturing Osama Bin Laden, Zero Dark Thirty. While that movie is clearly not about women we have never before had an female Best Director Oscar winner release a film following her win. She is blazing a trail for women, even if she doesn’t want to embrace the fact that she is a female director.
As for T.V., I will watch Connie Britton in anything and will be so excited to see her star in Nashville from Thelma and Louise writer Callie Khouri (who is due for another success). Lastly, Monday Kaling is hilarious and she is poised to break out on her own with the Fox drama she created and stars in The Mindy Project.
This interview has been edited and condensed.