×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Movies About Women Nearly Impossible to Finance, Say Indie Producers

Tallulah,” the story of a homeless woman who steals a baby, reunites the “Juno” team of Allison Janney and Ellen Page, but despite the film’s star power, bringing the indie to the big screen was a decade-long struggle.

The reason? Producer Heather Rae pointed the finger squarely at Hollywood’s boy’s club mentality.

“At the time this film was deemed not commercially viable, because it was a woman’s story, and it wasn’t about getting the guy,” Rae said at a private screening on “Tallulah” in New York, noting that executives said as much to her face.

But despite profitability concerns, the film was snapped up by Netflix for $5 million, before it even premiered at Sundance last winter. “Tallulah” will be released on Netflix on July 29, and in select theaters.

Rae was joined at the panel on shifting roles for women in the entertainment industry by two prominent female producers,  Lydia Dean Pilcher (“The Namesake”) and Alix Madigan (“Winter’s Bone”). All three said that despite increased noise about the need for diversity, and even though female-driven films such as “Bridesmaids” and “The Hunger Games” have been financially successful, it is still hard to get pictures driven by, starring, and directed by women financed.

The panel was came on the heels of a report that 20th Century Fox and Paramount don’t have any female-directed movies on their slate until 2018.  The event was hosted by Variety, the Sundance Institute, and fashion company Kering. Variety Senior Film and Media Reporter Brent Lang moderated the discussion.

Alix Madigan, Lydia Dean Pilcher, Laurent Claquin, Heather Rae at the ‘Tallulah’ screening Andrew H. Walker/Variety/REX/Shutterstock

Progress is slow on the studio front, the producers said said, but the rise of new distributors is changing things for the better. Alternative platforms such as Netflix, have been more receptive to smaller films with female leads, and Rae’s team has felt supported by the company.

“They believe the audience is a wide audience, and this is not just a women’s film,” she said.

Madigan, now an executive at Broad Green Pictures, has the Keira Knightley comedy “Laggies” and the Shailene Woodley drama “White Bird in a Blizzard” on her CV, said she has also struggled to get backing.

“The past seven movies I’ve worked on, five of them were directed by women, and it is still a very daunting marketplace for women,” Madigan said. “I hope that our business can change, but our business is an economic one and we have to find ways to make female films be perceived as profitable.”

Madigan, in part, blames sexism in foreign sales markets.

“The foreign sales side is very, very male-driven,” Madigan said. “There are maybe one or two female film directors on lists we get back from our foreign sales, and a very small handful of women are seen as viable. Women’s films have an uphill battle.”

But Pilcher, who has worked on Mira Nair’s films, including the “Queen of Katwe,” starring Lupita Nyong’o says although systemic change is slow to come, she’s increasingly surprised by the awareness of these issues, even at a studio like Disney, which is releasing the picture.

“I was sitting in a meeting last week at Disney,” Pilcher said. “I was very proud of the African American marketing person that said authenticity is what is going to bring success to this film.”

“In the past we’ve seen these movies through the lens of white men, and to it is just revolutionary to be sitting in Burbank, hearing somebody say that,” she added.

Popular on Variety

More Film

  • Constance Wu and Jennifer Lopez star

    Jennifer Lopez's 'Criminal' Striptease: How 'Hustlers' Landed the Fiona Apple Hit

    Contrary to what you might be expecting, the number of songs by Jennifer Lopez, Lizzo and Cardi B in “Hustlers,” their newly released acting vehicle, adds up to … zero. Meanwhile, the standout music sync in a movie that’s full of them belongs to no less likely a choice than Fiona Apple. The scene in [...]

  • Game of Thrones Season 8

    'Game of Thrones,' 'Avengers' Win Big at 45th Annual Saturn Awards

    As Jamie Lee Curtis picked up her first trophy ever at the 45th Annual Saturn Awards Friday night, she had a good luck charm on her arm: former manager Chuck Binder, whom she said was the reason she became an actor. “I was in college and had no thought of being an actor,” Curtis told [...]

  • Jennifer Lopez and Constance Wu star

    Box Office: 'Hustlers' Dances Toward $32 Million Opening Weekend

    “Hustlers” is eyeing the biggest opening weekend ever for STXFilms, following a Friday domestic ticket haul of $13.1 million from 3,250 theaters. If estimates hold, the stripper saga could take home around $32 million come Sunday, marking the best live-action opening of Jennifer Lopez’s career. “Hustlers” follows a group of former strip club dancers, led [...]

  • Hustlers intimacy coordinator

    Meet the Stripper Consultant Who Gave 'Hustlers' Authenticity, Dignity and Sexual Freedom

    At last week’s Toronto Film Festival premiere of “Hustlers,” an audience of Hollywood heavyweights and Canadian locals applauded as a statuesque woman strutted on stage, rocking six-inch platform heels and a pastel tie-dye bodysuit. This adoration was not for stars Jennifer Lopez, Constance Wu or Keke Palmer, nor was it for the film’s acclaimed writer-director [...]

  • Kristen Stewart

    French Director Olivier Assayas Pays Tribute to Kristen Stewart at Deauville

    French director Olivier Assayas paid tribute to Kristen Stewart, whom he directed in “Clouds of Sils Maria” and “Personal Shopper,” at the Deauville American Film Festival on Friday evening. Stewart received a honorary award in Deauville before the French premiere of Benedict Andrews’s “Seberg” in which the actress stars as Jean Seberg, a French New [...]

  • Liam Gallagher: As It Was

    Film Review: 'Liam Gallagher: As It Was'

    Liam Gallagher is nearly as fascinating a rock ‘n’ roll figure as he thinks he is … which is saying a lot. After the breakup of Oasis, one of the most self-avowedly arrogant stars in pop culture found himself severely humbled, fighting to become relevant again without the help of Noel, his ex-bandmate and, for [...]

  • The Vast of Night

    Toronto Film Review: 'The Vast of Night'

    It’s the first high school basketball game of the season and all of Cayuga, N.M., population 492, is cheering on the Statesmen at the gym. Except for the town’s two brightest kids, Everett (Jake Horowitz) and Fay (Sierra McCormick), who are strolling through the empty darkness to their respective jobs as a radio DJ and [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content