Although the top spots at major film studios are predominantly filled by men, several industry heavyweights — all of them women — assured female biz hopefuls at a Saturday morning panel discussion that their future is still bright.
But the panelists, gathered at Santa Monica’s old Bergamot train station for the session “Women in the Studio World,” agreed that their journey to executive power was a bumpy ride.
“I started as a creative assistant at Warner Bros., which was essentially indentured servitude,” said Courtenay Valenti, now senior veep of theatrical production at Warner Bros. “But even with those ups and downs, 10 years later I still love what I do.”
United Artists’ prexy and chief operating officer Lindsay Doran added, “Hey, everywhere I started, I started as a secretary … but I would just start developing scripts, and during one job, I got three pictures done.”
But even with these words of encouragement, someone in the audience asked, “If all these opportunities exist for women, then why not create a Joan Claude Van Damme picture?”
Valenti offered, “When studios invest $20 million-$30 million in a film, they want to make sure it’s directed toward the audience that wants to see it … and the audience for opening day tends to be young male.”
But Columbia Pictures veep of production Lori Goldklang-Furie pointed out that her studio’s upcoming film “Charlie’s Angels” has three action leads that are women (Drew Barrymore and Cameron Diaz have been cast so far) — “And these girls can really kick some ass.”
Another in the audience wondered about the lack of women directors.
Nina Jacobson, exec veep of production at Walt Disney, admitted that “in the case of women directors, it’s difficult to get your foot in the door. With crews 70% to 80% male, we’re not part of the club that’s given the opportunities.”
But overall, “I think the system works,” Jacobson said. “There are very few out there that are very talented and never find their way.”
The panel, which included Bel Air Entertainment exec veep of production Alex Schwartz, was sponsored by the Women’s Entertainment Network and the Writers Boot Camp.