Top female filmmakers, whose projects premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival, gathered in Variety’s Virtual Studio at TIFF presented by Canada Goose for a candid discussion about getting their movies made and the market for female-driven content. The panel included veteran director Mira Nair (“A Suitable Boy”), first-time feature filmmaker Emma Seligman (“Shiva Baby”), documentarian Dawn Porter (“The Way I See It”) and producers Shivani Rawat (“The Water Man”) and Riva Marker (“Good Joe Bell”).
Porter recalled the technical struggles of getting her documentary, centered on Pete Souza (President Obama’s former chief official White House photographer), completed just as the coronavirus pandemic started to unfold.
“We were only three quarters of the way finished filming when everything shut down, and our main protagonist [went] into a very strict quarantine. And we had not yet done our master main interview yet,” she recalled. Porter said her team quickly pivoted, shipping a camera kit out to Souza and completing interviews remotely.
Tackling the post-production process, though, was yet another hurdle. “It’s a lot harder when you’re not in the room with your colorist… I don’t have a calibrated monitor, how am I supposed to evaluate color?” said Porter, adding, “Everything took 25% more time in this period, and we didn’t have that.”
For Nair, whose career has spanned decades and includes films like “The Namesake” and “Monsoon Wedding,” the sudden perceived interest in female-led content is one she is embracing cautiously.
“I’ve been, you know, definitely feeling like the flavor of the month and the year. I’m getting a lot of offers, whether I want them or not, of things that are very massive and also female and about women, and so on,” she said. “And I see, I appreciate and I regard that very very seriously. But it is like a bandwagon, in terms of what is wanting to be made, and is being made, and who they want to make it with.”
She adds that it’s a welcome change from her earlier career. “I do see the world is almost just really wanting this to happen — female-driven subjects, made a lot by women, or certainly by a diverse leadership. So, I see that. I smile because I’ve done it for my whole life, and it was much lonelier before,” Nair observed. “But what I still think is it’s all about excellence. It’s all about craft. It’s all about how we tell that story and just tell it the best it can be told, in our way.”
Watch the full panel above.