Jane Fleming applauds this year’s WIF honorees for being topnotch multitaskers.
“Jennifer Aniston can use her power to start producing. Elizabeth Banks crosses every boundary — directing, producing, the Internet,” says the org’s L.A. prexy. “And Holly Hunter is proving that you don’t need to be pigeonholed. It’s a progression that they are all on.”
“I was being put into a very specific category, and rightly so,” Aniston says. “It’s sort of a Catch-22: ‘Well, until you can see that I can do something other than this particular role, then you don’t know that I can.’ But then they don’t want to take the risk. So, it’s a Catch-22. It can get frustrating because there are so many great stories to tell.”
Aniston recently partnered with Kristin Hahn to form Echo Films. “We want to start generating stories and parts that would be fulfilling. There is more out there than the cliche rom-com. Girl meets guy. Guy meets girl. We have a couple of things that are at Universal, and we have a deal at Fox. It takes a long time to develop.
“It’s a natural progression for me to do this,” she adds. “It would make sense for all of us to say, OK, well, we’ve now learned this acting thing. Now we’d like to get our hands dirty and see what it looks like to stand behind the camera. Or, in my situation, partner up with someone and start generating stories. It’s such a common complaint: There are no roles for women. But there are.”
Aniston has 10 projects in development. “The one that we have that is extremely close is called the ‘The Goree Girls,’ ” she reports, “a 1940s story that centers around the lives of incarcerated female country-and-Western performers.”
Banks’ first producing challenge was to establish credibility. “I’m a blond actress who makes silly comedies. My partner is my husband,” she says of Max Handelman. “Right away, we had an uphill battle in terms of convincing people that we’re actually serious producers. Once people meet me, they can see past the blond-actress thing. But, for sure, it’s a determent.
“I’m always looking for the next challenge. It’s great to take advantage of your celebrity to create new revenue streams — I’m not going to have this face forever,” she acknowledges. But her producing work will live on in the feature films “The Surrogate,” “Forever 21” and “Too Far From Home.”
“Twilight” director Catherine Hardwicke points to certain built-in prejudices, like the notion that women don’t know about stunts and visual effects. Regarding that controversy, Hardwicke says timing was tough on her doing the ‘Twilight’ sequel. “I didn’t want to do it as fast as they did. The script wasn’t ready. I wanted more time to dream, imagine and come up with something interesting.”
Beyond the story not being ready, in Hardwicke’s opinion, there were some old prejudices at work.
“Stunts and visual effects are seen as male realms,” she continues. “But so much has been done between the Bournes and the Bonds that people are struggling to find something fresh. The idea of reaching out to people that haven’t been working in that arena is exciting. It could be seen as a cool possibility. Women that haven’t already done 10 action movies are going to bring something new and wonderful to it.”
Until female helmers are given the opportunity to blow up cars and houses with the best of them, Crystal + Lucy chair Iris Grossman points to success for women in the executive ranks. “But the numbers still need to come up for women writers and directors, women below the line. But people like Holly Hunter have made it easier for everyone else,” Grossman says.
Hunter, who headlines and exec produces “Saving Grace,” remains upbeat: “Television has transformed itself, particularly with the advent of cable. The opportunities are all there for women.”
For cinematographer Petra Korner, getting through the door was just a question of working random jobs on the side while shooting short films, spec commercials and musicvideos — for free — so she could build a reel.
Although this d.p. started shooting at a very young age, she had to fight several preconceived notions. “There were a lot of people that I had to prove wrong. I come from Vienna, and I didn’t know anyone in film here. Nothing ever came easy — from getting a working visa to getting an agent to believe in a girl in her mid-20s; the challenges were manifold. I just powered through.”
Fortunately, Korner learned quickly. “You have to make up for your lack of gray beard by having twice the technical knowledge than the guys around you. And you have to work twice as hard and you may have to get used to some raised eyebrows.”