Like I didn’t love everything about Jessica Chastain already (talented actress, seems like a down-to-earth human being), she has gone and written a stunning essay on the power of more women on film sets. Jessica is currently filming The Zookeeper’s Wife in Prague (of which I’m highly anticipating; after all, everything she touches turns to gold, expect for maybe Crimson Peak) and has penned an essay from the set that was published on HollywoodReporter.com last week.
Starting off by saying how “amazing” it is being directed by a woman (the film’s director is Niki Caro), Jessica launches into what is the essence of her piece: “I’ve never been on a set with so many women. We’re not even 50 percent of the crew—we’re probably something like 20 percent women and 80 percent men—but it’s way more than I’ve ever worked with on a film before.” I had no idea the situation was that abysmal.
That Hollywood is mostly run by white men is no secret—only 4% of Hollywood studio films are directed by women—but why this is the case and, more importantly, why things are still not improving deserves our attention. Jessica really sums up gender inequality in filmmaking and in general, says:
“Some people might say a woman can’t direct this because of that, or a man can’t direct that because of this. I don’t like to do that. Look at Kathryn Bigelow: She can do incredible action films. Or Anthony Minghella, who directed the most beautiful, sensitive romances. For me, sex really isn’t the qualifier in the way someone directs–but I just know that when you have a set with predominantly one gender, whether it be all men or all women, it’s not going to be a healthy place. I imagine it’s the same thing in the workforce or other environments: When you have both genders represented, then you have a healthier point of view. The energy is great, you all are working together as a community, and everyone is participating in the exchange of ideas. You don’t feel a hierarchy; you don’t have anyone feeling like they are being left out or bullied or humiliated. Sometimes being the only girl on a set, you can feel like a sexual object.”
If Jessica Chastain feels like a sexual object on set when she’s the “only girl” in 2015, feminism, gender equality—call it what you want—still has a lot of work to do.
Another powerful part of the essay is when Jessica underlines the importance of supporting female-helmed projects—and really that is the number one thing anyone (women and men) can do to balance the scales, if even just slightly:
“I want to make sure I’m contributing to creating diversity in the industry. I want to work with anyone who is talented, but I know that some people have to work harder to succeed in this business than others. I did “Texas Killing Fields” with Ami Canaan Mann, “Zero Dark Thirty” with Kathryn Bigelow, “Miss Julie” with Liv Ullmann, and now “Zookeeper’s Wife” with Niki. And I’m doing another film with a female director that’s not been announced yet. I read this incredible article Chris Rock did where he talked about race in Hollywood, and he said that if there is an African-American who needs help, he’s going to be way more into helping them because he understands they don’t have the opportunity that other people do.”
So SheRas, contribute how ever you can to creating diversity in whichever industry you work in. We love the below pic, but it would be even better if it had an balanced spread of genders, an even spread of people of color, and a more even spread of people of different ages. That’s equality…something that Hollywood is unfortunately nowhere near achieving.
Main image courtesy of www.hitfix.com.