‘The Handmaid’s Tale’s’ Reed Morano on ‘Widening the Pool’ of Female Directors

Reed Morano shot by Celeste Sloman
Celeste SLOMAN for Variety

“The Handmaid’s Tale” Emmy sweep is one of the greater success stories of this year’s nominations — and so is Reed Morano, who directed the first three episodes of Hulu’s breakout hit. Morano, a relatively new director with 50 cinematography credits to her name, generated early industry buzz for her work on the dystopian drama, and now has cemented herself as a first-time Emmy nominee with not just one, but two noms for her work behind the camera.  

You are nominated for directing “The Handmaid’s Tale” and for cinematography on HBO’s “Divorce.” What does the awards recognition mean to you?

I can’t really put into words what it feels like because it’s a rarity when people come out of the gate and everything happens all at once for them — those are special, amazing Hollywood stories. I’ve just been working at this for so long, and I have shot a lot of TV shows so it’s kind of ironic for “Divorce” to get the nomination, which I had no idea it was being submitted, so it was just a very welcome surprise. You’re always like, “Ah, I hope one day that that happens,” but you never really know if it’s going to. I feel really, really lucky.

“The Handmaid’s Tale” was nominated for 13 Emmys. How does that help the show?

I think it legitimizes the show, but also, if people aren’t already watching it, they’ll watch it now. I wasn’t really looking at it this way, but there was a lot of pressure for this show. Everybody was saying this was the show that would make or break Hulu, and to have it do what everybody needed it to do is super gratifying because this was my first time directing a pilot and the first three episodes of anything.

What is the message you hope viewers take away from “The Handmaid’s Tale?”

In America we tend to be very sheltered, and I’m speaking from personal experience because I feel sheltered. When we’re exposed to the ways of life in other places where they don’t have the same freedoms we have — for example, Muslim countries — that is everything that’s happening in “Handmaid’s Tale.” When I first started making the show my hope was that this might open up people’s eyes to what life is like for other people and how good we have it. I think we can’t forget that while we’re relating this show to our current political situation within the United States, it’s just generally a really not great state of affairs in the world right now politically — not just our own.

There are three female directors nominated in your category. Is that a sign of progress for the industry?

I feel like directing is more about who the individual is rather than if they’re a man or a woman. It’s kind of hard to generalize and group all of us female filmmakers into one group like we’re all going provide you with the same thing, because we’re not. We’re all individuals. There’s a lot of pressure being put on the gender aspect, but I think that’s because of how things started out in Hollywood, because it was always a male-dominated industry. So, it takes a lot longer for everyone to get on board with the fact that hiring a woman is not going to handicap you necessarily. You just need to hire the right person, whether they’re a man or a woman. It’s about widening the pool.

Why do you think it’s taking the industry so long to widen that pool?

I think there’s a tendency of thinking you’re safer in the hands of a man when you’re making such a huge product, but it really has nothing to do with gender. It has to do about an individual person’s creativity and ability to collaborate and ability to run a crew and communicate with everyone. I think it’s a common misconception that because you’re a woman, you can’t command a set and have people respect you and for some reason, Hollywood is really far behind every other industry. It’s getting better, it’s just slow. I can’t stress enough that there is an attitude too that women can’t do action movies or superhero films or whatever. I think if they do them, you might actually get something that isn’t a cookie-cutter product like every other thing we’ve ever seen for the past however many years. You might get something new and fresh.

 

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  1. Alia Baker says:

    I’m disappointed at Reed’s generalization about Muslim countries. Not all Muslim countries are alike, and there are plenty of non-Muslim countries which are much more restrictive than the monolith of countries Reed has created. This just feeds into the hateful narrative already circulating. Please qualify your comments, and be educated about the statements you make.

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