Jodie Foster Talks Big-Budget Gambles, Directing and Women in Film At Cannes Festival

At the Women in Motion talk at the Cannes Film Festival, Jodie Foster highlighted issues female filmmakers face in Hollywood

Sony Pictures

Earlier today, at Variety and Kering’s Women in Motion talk at the Cannes Film Foster, Jodie Foster spoke about directing, the film industry’s fear-driven creative choices and the impact of women on filmmaking ahead of the premiere of Money Monster.

It’s been readily established that the film industry isn’t exactly a welcoming, supportive or equal-opportunity place for women. Directing, particularly in big-budget blockbuster films, remains largely a man’s game. Women just aren’t often invited to the table in order to helm tentpole projects like superhero movies or action films. Foster says that much of that comes down to fear in the industry.

Because these projects are so expensive, they’re big gambles and studio executives tend to fall back on what they believe are safe options — familiar options, directors who likely look and think like they do.

Foster talks about the differences that exist between male and female filmmakers, particularly when it comes to the complexity of female characters. She notes a disturbing trend coming from male filmmakers trying to add depth to characters: using rape as a motivator.

“The motivation was always rape,” she told Variety. “They were uninterested in complexity, they were unable to make the transition (get inside a female character’s head).”

She went on to highlight the difference in female filmmakers, saying, “I think it’s the male directors that have the problem. Women are used to putting themselves in other people’s bodies.”

Foster also acknowledges the strides women in film have made in the last few decades, though. Though she didn’t encounter many women in the industry, there was a shift when women started finding their way onto sets and into positives of creative leadership with increasing frequency.

“I saw the faces change as time went on,” she said. “Everything changed when women came onto sets…it felt more like a family…movie sets became healthier.”

Even so, Foster recognizes that there are still changes that need to come in the film industry.

The numbers are proof that she’s right. According to a study called The Celluloid Ceiling from San Diego State University, women comprised less a fifth of writers, directors producers, executive producers, editors and cinematographers on the top 250 highest grossing domestic films.

Not only do women get fewer opportunities to direct, they also make less than their male counterparts once they do get the job. The wage gap is a big problem in Hollywood, where women make less than men doing for doing the same job pretty much across the board.

The more we talk about and draw attention to issues of inequality in creative leadership in media, the more likely we are to eventually see change. Foster’s talk brings up some great points and here’s hoping we don’t stop talking until we see more meaningful movement towards inclusivity when it comes to the voices shaping our popular culture.

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