Over the years since I started this website, I’ve had a few anonymous emails from young women complaining about similar difficulties at film school to the ones I experienced. But another experience I’ve heard recounted from more than one source goes something like this:
- Young woman: “I want to direct films.”
- Film pros/professors: “No, you don’t. All the real power is in producing. That’s what you want to do.”
I had this experience, too. What I’d like to know is: did they tell this same thing to any of the young men who said “I want to direct films?” Because if they did, they didn’t do it in front of me. And I was advised to avoid directing in front of witnesses.
But this myth that there is any power at all whatsoever in producing films compared to directing them is complete bullshit. Directing is hard, frustrating, stressful work, and a lot of men burn out on it as well as women (and the men don’t have the added burden of a crew that figures they can mutiny any time they get tired of doing what the “bitch” tells them). But directing is powerful, even when it’s not. Being in direct command of a large crew? Even when decisions are being taken out of their hands, women directors have reported to me a real sense of power in their ability to command a set and make a movie happen. And let’s do a little reality check of our own:
- Name three famous movie directors. You have five seconds.
- Name three famous producers – who aren’t also directors. Relax, I’ll give you thirty seconds for this part.
Unless you are a film student, you struggled far more with the producers. If you are a film student, you gave up immediately because you knew that game was rigged: every producer of note has also directed. Every goddamn, bleedin’ one of ‘em.
Because you know what producers do? They organize. They enable things to happen. They work up schedules and budgets and that sort of thing. But they don’t actually do the stuff. They just set it up so others can do the work and reap the glory. Sound familiar? Sound like anyone you know? The person who’s always behind the front man – and I do mean front “man”? Why, yes – it’s Traditional 1950s Mom, always content with her place in the shadows, under-appreciated and overworked.
I’ll be honest. I don’t believe for a second anyone is telling young men in film or film school that they should opt for producing rather than directing.