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5 reasons why women are better at filmmaking

Running the show
Nicole Kidman, Shailene Woodley and Reese Witherspoon in the award-winning Big Little Lies, which Kidman and Witherspoon also executive produce

If you’re an actress in Hollywood and don’t have your own production company, what are you waiting for? Women are not only working on the best material, they’ve long been pioneers in the field. AJESH PATALAY explains why


They know good roles for women

Stranger Things star Millie Bobbie Brown is the latest actress to turn producer (for the young adult Enola Holmes detective novels), joining the ranks of Rachel Weisz, Jessica Chastain, Viola Davis, Alicia Vikander and Drew Barrymore, among others, who are all busy developing their own material. Their reasons are obvious. Margot Robbie, who earned her first Best Actress Oscar nomination on the back of her production I, Tonya, spoke for many when she said: “I want to have a say when I read a script that I really love, like I, Tonya. I don’t want it to just be up to chance that it goes in the direction that I believe it should go.” Meanwhile Reese Witherspoon, whose roster boasts Wild, Gone Girl and Big Little Lies (and recently scored a massive coup in recruiting Meryl Streep to her cast), became a producer largely to develop complex roles for women, including herself, because no one else was: “I thought about my mom, who said, ‘If you want something done, do it yourself.’”

Behind the scenes
Margot Robbie had a starring role both in front of and behind the camera in I, Tonya

They can be strategic listeners

Kathleen Kennedy, the long-time collaborator of Steven Spielberg and George Lucas, commands respect for her attentiveness. Cate Blanchett, who worked with her on Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, noted: “She’s the most acute listener I’ve ever met. I’d sometimes catch her eye after a take, and she’d nod, almost imperceptibly. Her quiet vote of confidence spurred me on.” Perhaps more impressive is Kennedy’s ability to listen to the zeitgeist, particularly when it comes to character development. On the latest Star Wars instalments, that translated into a diversity of casting, including Daisy Ridley and John Boyega in the leads, which made the films feel excitingly relevant (and not culturally cloth-eared like their predecessors).

I thought about my mom, who said, ‘If you want something done, do it yourself’
Reese Witherspoon
Rita Wilson (left) helped turn Nia Vardalos’ one-woman play, My Big Fat Greek Wedding, into the highest-grossing romantic comedy of all time

They support other women

Before Reese Witherspoon and Nicole Kidman were creating great roles for their friends in Big Little Lies, there was Rita Wilson, actress wife of Tom Hanks, who went to see a one-woman stage show and loved it so much that she approached its comedienne star about turning it into a movie. The star was Nia Vardalos, and the show was My Big Fat Greek Wedding the 2002 movie version of which not only launched Vardalos onto the world stage, but was a huge commercial and critical success, landing an Oscar nomination for Best Original Screenplay. It was followed by a $90m-at-the-box-office sequel last year.

They know when to ask questions

Gale Anne Hurd, the veteran producer best known for horror and sci-fi (she produced The Terminator, Aliens and hit TV show The Walking Dead), regards her greatest on-the-job lesson as this: “If you don’t know what you’re being asked to do, make sure you clarify. I wasted a lot of time, early on, not understanding completely. I think people in every business are afraid to ask questions.”

I want to have a say when I read a script that I really love, like I, Tonya. I don’t want it to just be up to chance that it goes in the direction that I believe it should go
Margot Robbie

They nurture talent

The late producer Laura Ziskin was a legend in Hollywood for a roster that includes cult classics No Way Out and To Die For, as well as Pretty Woman and the hugely successful original Spider-Man franchise. But her great source of pride wasn’t necessarily box-office numbers: “I’m very proud of the talent that I nurtured: Kevin Costner, Tobey Maguire, Nicole Kidman and Julia Roberts,” she said. “I feel that I helped people early on.” A worthy legacy.

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