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Why Is It So Hard for Women to Have a Career in TV and Film? Diablo Cody Has the Answer…

Diablo Cody at the Paley Center for a special screening of the hit TV show "90210"

Talking to Women And Hollywood, having wrapped her directorial debut Paradise, screenwriter and director Diablo Cody discussed the issues surrounding being a woman in Hollywood.

She was pregnant with her second child when she spent 26 days directing the film. But what shocked her wasn’t the daunting task of shooting her first-ever film, but the fact she almost wasn’t able to make the film at all.

“Like it was almost impossible for me to get insured. I thought that was shocking. Because they’ll insure an overweight 70-year-old man who is a heart attack risk no problem. But, a healthy, 33-year-old pregnant woman is ‘super high risk’ and that was strange to me. So that surprised me. I didn’t think it would be treated as that big of a deal.”

She went on to say why she thinks there are so few women directors. (Bear in mind, only four women have ever been nominated for Best Director: Lena Wertmuller for Seven Beauties (1976), Jane Campion for The Piano (1993), Sofia Coppola for Lost in Translation (2003), and Kathryn Bigelow for The Hurt Locker (2009). Bigelow was the first, and to date the only, female director to win the Academy Award for Best Director.)

“I don’t think you can generalize it completely, but motherhood has to have some kind of something to do with it. Because like it or not, even when women are the primary breadwinners, even when we work full time, we’re still expected in a lot of ways to be the primary parent. And we often want to be the primary parent as well. I had never really made that connection before, I used to say, ‘Oh, it’s so mysterious why there aren’t more female directors, I don’t get it.’ I had all these wild theories and now I think that’s got to be it. I have a feeling it’ll be different when my kids are older. Nancy Meyers told me she felt that directing was a great job for a mom. I think that’d be the case with older kids. But with little ones? That’s day in and day out. It’s relentless. I’m not comfortable having somebody else raise my kid completely. I need to be there.”

Do male directors feel the separation from their kids so acutely? Not according to Cody.

“I don’t know any male directors who have kids who feel guilt about it. Not a single one. Why should I feel guilty about making a movie that’s going to last forever? And yet I do. I have tremendous guilt about the whole thing.”

What is interesting about the points Cody raised — and I am a HUGE fan of her work — is they are not just applicable to movie making. I have encountered the EXACT same issues when working in TV. I currently work on a soap, but I am not required to be there during filming hours, or I simply wouldn’t be able to do the job. Who can be at work on shooting days that last from 7am until midnight? Not people who have kids to get to school, homework to sort, school clubs to facilitate, etc. It has upset me greatly that I’m unable to move to other script editing jobs, because nearly all would involve me being on set. And unlike a movie, which takes a relatively short amount of time to film, dramas and serials can take 3-6 months. I can’t just up and leave home and move to the north of England or Scotland to be on a TV/film set for 3 months, nor would I want to leave my kids for even a few weeks, let alone months.

Why is it so difficult for women to stay in their chosen careers once they have a family? Why are employers not more aware that a parent working for 3 days will put in 5 days worth of effort, as is the case for those who value their part-time hours? Or even make possible the flexible working hours so mums can work around school hours? Most nurseries/daycare centres in my area shut at 5:30 pm, which means anyone working in London has to be on a 4:30 pm train to be home in time to collect their kids. This makes working even in London (40 minutes on the train from my village) an impossibility.

We have all done degrees, studied, worked hard at exams, etc. to get earn our careers. Why does motherhood have to ruin this? All we want is to find some kind of compromise that works for everyone.

No wonder there are so few female directors, because at an age where they should be at the peak of their careers, they have to make a choice — motherhood or career. My point is, why can’t we have both?

Photo credit: Pacific Coast News

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