Director Patty Jenkins has two reasons why she does or doesn’t select a job: One she says is “great,” and one she admits “isn’t.” Jenkins, whose latest film “Wonder Woman” was an instant smash at the box office and praised by critics, shared these reasons at the Women in Entertainment Summit on Thursday.
“The one that’s great is that, like I said, the way that I got here was because I really love the movies that I want to make,” she explained. “So if it’s something that I don’t think is going to be good, I’m not interested.”
Her “not that great” reason combines her selectiveness and sensitivity to the trajectory of a woman director’s career.
“I do think that I was aware with a couple projects that I met on that it was ‘you would be the first woman to take on something,'” she explained. “And I was like, it’s more sensitive than ever that I believe this could be successful. Because if I take it on, and it’s not successful, that’s going to be really bad and that’s going to get a lot of attention.”
To put it bluntly, she didn’t want to “end up in a debacle” when she knew at the offset that she could be walking into one.
Despite this added sensitivity, Jenkins has found that — leaning on gendered attributes — directing is quite natural to her as a woman. “It is a very caretaking job that has a lot to do with other jobs that women are known to be great at,” she explained. “Where you’re really, you know, encouraging people’s best and finding the right artist and all of these things that are often synonymous with a job that a woman would be great at.”
Greta Gerwig, who also spoke at the summit, shared a similar feeling about being a female director. Her directorial debut “Lady Bird” is in theaters in Los Angeles and New York on Friday. She too found that directing suited who she was as a woman, as it is a very collaborative atmosphere, but she also shared some minor frustrations with the process of funding her project.
“Being an independent filmmaker, no matter who you are, it’s always a challenge in some ways because films are risky,” she said. “They are just a risky proposition.”
In Gerwig’s case, she and her manager, who she asked to produce the film, went around to mostly male financiers attempting to get funding. (They eventually landed in the hands of well-known producer Scott Rudin.)
“Lady Bird” is, in Gerwig’s words, “a love story between a mother and her daughter, and it’s not a love story without conflict.”
“So one thing I discovered was that in talking to financiers, if they had daughters they understood it and they were like, ‘That’s my wife and my daughter,’ or if they had been raised with sisters,” Gerwig explained of the process of pitching the story. “But if they hadn’t, they had a sort of like, ‘Do women fight like this?’ I couldn’t believe that they didn’t know.”
Another place that both Jenkins and Gerwig agreed was that it’s just good business sense to fund diverse projects. Jenkins lamented that filmmakers are constantly competing for the same market while ignoring others, saying that 70% of TV watchers are female.
Gerwig called out the notion that seeing a woman-created film was considered “charity.”
“And the truth is that it’s not out of charity!” she said of seeing female-directed films. “It’s a huge market! If you look at ‘Wonder Woman,’ which is, like, the highest-grossing movie of the year, this isn’t a charitable thing.” [Editor’s note: It’s not the highest-grossing movie of the year, but it is the highest-grossing superhero film of 2017 so far.]
Gerwig went on, “I want to produce women’s films, because I think women want to see films made by people who know what they’re talking about, what the experience is. It’s a capitalist move.”
(Pictured: Patty Jenkins on the “Wonder Woman” set with star Gal Gadot.)