Power of Women
Though diversity and representation in Hollywood’s executive ranks have been on a slow but steady incline, Tanya Lopez, executive VP of scripted content for Lifetime, explains that the roles of
Though diversity and representation in Hollywood’s executive ranks have been on a slow but steady incline, Tanya Lopez, executive VP of scripted content for Lifetime, explains that the roles of director and executive producer are not just handed out. They are earned.
“It doesn’t happen because someone opens a door and says, ‘Oh, you know what? You should go direct.’ It doesn’t happen like that. You have to work at it,” Lopez said at the Variety Power of Women Summit presented by Lifetime. “I think the common denominator between all these women is passion, commitment and an unbelievable work ethic.”
On the panel, Lopez was joined by Jill Scott, executive producer of “Highway to Heaven”; Elisabeth Röhm, director of “Girl in the Basement” and “Switched Before Birth”; Shiri Appleby, a director on “Unreal” and “New Amsterdam”; and Kelly Rowland, executive producer of the “Merry Liddle Christmas” films. The discussion was moderated by Variety co-editor-in-chief Cynthia Littleton.
“I started acting when I was three years old, and I didn’t see a woman directing until I was in my 30s,” Appleby said. “So it was never really an image that I saw that I thought I could be that, although I’d always had an interest behind the camera. So when I met Liz Allen on the set of ‘Life Unexpected,’ and I saw a female really directing for the first time, that was really the thing that pushed me forward.”
As a multimedia artist, Scott spoke about her own mission to branch out in the industry and take risks, as long as the roles felt wholly her.
“I just don’t want to limit myself to anyone’s boxes. So if anybody has a problem with that, then I don’t know how to help them because in this life, this one that I have, that I love so much, I’m going to be all of myself,” Scott said. “I’m going to do it all.”
Destiny Child’s alumna Kelly Rowland got her entrée to producing through working on Lifetime’s “Merry Liddle Christmas” movie franchise, which was partly inspired by her own family. She credits Lopez with giving her the push to take on producing as well as acting. Rowland said she had a steep learning curve, but her natural curiosity took over from there.
“The most important thing is being humble enough to ask questions. It doesn’t matter what question it is. I didn’t care what question it was. I wanted to know everything. I asked people instead about their job, how much they loved it. What do you think you’re going to bring different to this space and you know, what do you want to bring different to this space?” Rowland said. “I want my sets to feel like we’re all doing this together. I’m only one person. I can’t do it by myself.”