Did we ever tell you we’re huge fans of Greta Gerwig’s. Oh we did? Well, let us tell you once more.
The buzz surrounding this multi-talented figure reached peak this year with the release of her endlessly brilliant Oscar-nominated Lady Bird, starring Saoirse Ronan (Hanna) as a teenager trying to navigate herself through kidulthood in the unglamorous setting of Sacramento, California.
It was an absolute cinematic feat from the evidently witty & charming director, which is why we’re delighted at the news Gerwig is planning a series of Sacramento-based spiritual sequels to the film, inspired by the mysterious works of author Elena Ferrante.
While this is all fabulous news, we’re here to celebrate the actor / writer / director’s brilliance before Lady Bird. After all, Gerwig’s talent has been dazzling us for years, from her roles as one of the preeminent actresses in “mumblecore” films to her writing collaborations with director Noah Baumbach. Here are ten of Gerwig’s greatest gifts of on-screen glee:
The Dish & the Spoon (2011)
In this exquisitely charming indie love flick, Gerwig stars as a woman reeling over her husband’s infidelity. As she embarks on a journey to find her spouse’s lover, she collides with an English boy (Olly Alexander), who travels with her out of infatuation. What’s great about Alison Bagnall’s flick is it avoids all the tropes of a cliche boy-meets-girl kind of movie, with Gerwig’s performance making the tender drama all the more convincing.
As always, Gerwig brings quirky comfort in another quirky film alongside Danny DeVito (Batman Returns), Kieran Culkin (Igby Goes Down), and Ellen Burstyn (Requiem for a Dream). The story centers around a dachshund taken in by a veterinary technician named Dawn Wiener (Gerwig), who soon sets off on a road trip with a guy who’s on a game to find crystal meth. What’s not to love?
The House of the Devil (2009)
Stepping out of her mumblecore pants and into her horror ones, Gerwig takes a different kinda role in Ti West’s The House of the Devil. Despite her relentlessly nonchalant vibe, Gerwig pulls off the performance as the protagonist and eventual victim’s (Jocelin Donahue) best friend with convincibility, even when she’s getting her face blown off.
Lola Versus (2012)
Gerwig has such a knack for depicting the charmingly human weaknesses we all secretly possess – in the case of Daryl Wein’s Lola Versus, she portrays the devastating aftermath of getting monumentally dumped. “My world is shattered and I’m eating.” Coming to terms with being single and nearly 30, Gerwig’s character Lola decides to embark on a series of adventures she hopes will help soothe that aching heart of hers.
Hannah Takes the Stairs (2007)
In her peak mumblecore role for the peak mumblecore director Joe Swanberg’s 2007 dramedy, Gerwig plays the neurotic, sweet, and mildly sarcastic Hannah. The movies sitting in this category are less known for their story and more for the low-fi production, improvised dialogue & plots, and fleeting conversations about huge epiphanies. Hence why this bathtub scene is the perfect example of both the mumblecore scene and Gerwig’s position in it.
In a film from mumblecore director brothers Mark & Jay Duplass, Gerwig stars as the kooky bombshell Michelle. Injecting new life into the horror genre, Baghead is a spin on the cabin-in-the-woods format, as four writers head into the woods to try and bang out a screenplay, only to discover their sinister plot starts to come true. The best moment has to be this cringe yet endearing scene in which a drunk Chad (Steve Zissis) hits on a drunk Michelle. Needless to say, hilarity ensues.
Damsels in Distress (2011)
This wonderfully surreal and stunningly unique offering from Whit Stillman (Metropolitan) follows a trio of girls – led by Gerwig’s character Violet – as they set out to change the male-dominated environment of their college campus while rescuing their fellow students from suicide and depression via the art of tap dancing. If your mind isn’t blown by the end of this movie, it certainly will be once you watch the final dance scene.
Gerwig performs alongside Ben Stiller (Zoolander) in Noah Baumbach’s dramedy that perfectly encapsulates the development of a romance between two flawed characters. Gerwig sets the dramatic tone while also bringing high levels of her usual LOL kookiness to the mix. We’re pretty sure Gerwig dancing to “Uncle Albert” around her room drinking champagne during a personal crisis is all of us at some point in our lives.
Mistress America (2015)
Baumbach & Gerwig teamed up to write the screenplay for this hectic comedy in which Gerwig’s character is a woman overflowing with charismatic energy so overpowering, it shadows her egocentric edge. It’s hard not to fall for her zest for life and the same can be said for her newly-adopted infatuated sidekick – student Tracy (Lola Kirke). This film is a stunning example of Baumbach & Gerwig’s uncanny ability to make audiences laugh out loud with glee and cry from the feels all at the same time.
Frances, Ha! (2012)
In number one spot has to be this monochrome triumph (also from the co-writing talents of Gerwig & Baumbach) about a 27-year-old New Yorker who is far from having her shit together. Despite her many flaws, Frances (Gerwig) somehow navigates through the tricky world of dancing and while she makes many mistakes along the way – including a savage BFF breakup and a pointlessly expensive trip to France – she works her way to the top, leading to a heartwarming ending that will make you sob with joy.
It’s been a strong year for the leading ladies of the silver screen, with three of the past year’s most major blockbuster hits – Wonder Woman, Star Wars: The Last Jedi, and Beauty and the Beast – featuring female actresses front and center. However, it’s also been quite a year for women behind the camera too – at least in terms of independent cinema. With some of the best films of the past 18 months having been directed by women, we can’t help but wonder what these magnificent talents could do if given a big budget movie to work with. Here are ten fierce female filmmakers who deserve to be given big-budget films to direct.
Ultimate funny girl and owner of our hearts, Alia Shawkat is having her moment following film festival success with her feature writing debut Duck Butter, about two women (Shawkat’s Naima and Laia Costa’s Sergio) who are dissatisfied with the dishonesty they see in dating and relationships and make a 24-hour sex pact, hoping to find a new way to create intimacy. Having shown her comedy chops in shows such as Arrested Development and Search Party, we would have the utmost confidence were she to helm a satirical feature flick.
Greta Gerwig has warmed our heart cockles and tickled our funny bones for years with her writing, particularly when collaborating with co-writer and director Noah Baumbach for films like Mistress America and Frances Ha. But it was her directorial debut Lady Bird that really blew the world away – a stunningly crafted coming-of-age film starring Saoirse Ronan (Hanna) as a teenager trying to navigate herself through kidulthood in the unglamorous setting of Sacramento, California.
We were lucky enough to speak to writer-director Natalia Leite about her 2017 revenge horror M.F.A., a film that follows Noelle (Francesca Eastwood) – an art student brutally raped by a potential love interest – who takes justice into her own hands after being failed by the system. Speaking on female directors in the horror genre, Leite explained, “I hope there are a lot more women who feel empowered to go into this genre. It’s a fact that there’s not a lot of us doing these types of films.” We have no doubt Leite would absolutely slay were she to direct a major horror blockbuster.
Another leader in the horror genre, Anna Biller directed The Love Witch, proving her oddball flair with a film about a beautiful young witch on her quest to find the perfect mate. With clear visual panache and styles echoing sexploitation films of the 60s and 70s, we’re hoping to see more kooky characters from this undeniable auteur in the years to come.
Writer for hit comedies such as Master of None and The Chi and an appearance in Steven Spielberg’s recently released Ready Player One, Lena Waithe is absolutely changing the game on screens both big and small. While enjoying her moment in Hollywood, Waithe’s breaking records while she’s at it, having become the first black woman to win an Emmy for comedy writing. More of this, please!
Alice Lowe has been making us laugh with her acting roles for years, from Sightseers to Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace to Hot Fuzz. But it was all about her writing & directing debut Prevenge, following a pregnant widow who finds herself at the whim of her murderous, demonic unborn child. Imagine Rosemary’s Baby as a comedy, throw in some sharp British humor, and you’re there. Lord only knows what Lowe would come up with were she in charge of a blockbuster budget – we can but dream.
Cathy Yan made her directorial debut Dead Pigs in the World Cinema Dramatic competition at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, focusing on a feisty salon owner, a sensitive busboy, an ambitious expat architect, and a disenchanted rich girl who collide when thousands of dead pigs float down the river towards a rapidly modernizing Shanghai. It’s a unique and quirky film, but we’re rooting for the director even more since she was pitched as the unexpected director of DC Comics’s unnamed Harley Quinn film. We’re keeping our fingers, toes, and eyes crossed this dream is made a reality!
Dee Rees made Oscar history this year after becoming the first black woman nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay for her breakout hit Mudbound. A masterpiece in its own right, the film is an epic story of two families pitted against a barbaric social hierarchy and an unrelenting landscape, portraying racial conflict in postwar Mississippi. With other hits such as the 2011 drama Pariah, the outlook is strong for this skilled and determined filmmaker.
Anyone who’s bingewatched the new Brit comedy Fleabag in one sitting will know that writer and actress Phoebe Waller-Bridge (Solo: A Star Wars Story) is one talented woman. As funny as it is dramatic, the show follows a self-confessed pervert as she comes to terms with her friend’s death while dealing with life in London. Perhaps a feature length writing debut is on the cards in the near future? We sure hope so.
Although she’s best known for her 2014 feature film debut Appropriate Behavior, Desiree Akhavan has been making waves with her coming-of-age drama The Miseducation of Cameron Post. Highly praised at this year’s Sundance, the narrative centers around a girl (Chloë Grace Moretz) who is sent to a conversion center after being caught hooking up with the prom queen. As Clare Binns suggested, let’s give Akhavan a blockbuster to direct. You know it makes sense!
In the wake of Hollywood’s sexual misconduct scandal, gender equality remains a central theme within the industry. While female filmmakers like Lady Bird’s Greta Gerwig, Wonder Woman’s Patty Jenkins, and A Wrinkle in Time’s Ava DuVernay may be recognized as some of the greatest talents working today, a study by San Diego State University’s Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film suggests Hollywood still has a long way to go.
The study discovered the jaw-dropping statistic that women held just 18% of behind-the-scenes film jobs including directors, writers, producers, executive producers, editors, and cinematographers in the top grossing movies of the past year. The figures have hardly budged since 1998. Out of the 250 top-grossing domestic films, just 1% employed 10 or more women, while 70% employed 10 or more men. Furthermore, 30% of the titles featured zero or one woman in behind-the-scenes jobs, while none of the films had fewer than one man.
Rather than simply sitting back and despairing at these dismal figures, a series of organizations and initiatives have launched to encourage gender parity both in front of and behind the lens.
Seeking to prove actions speak louder than words are the Film Fatales – a community of female feature film & TV directors who meet regularly to share resources, collaborate on projects, and discuss relevant topics in their careers. Currently there are over 500 members in Los Angeles and New York, and hundreds more across Europe, Australia, and Africa.
Film Fatales Founder Leah Meyerhoff thinks the statistics for female filmmakers are too low. “Half of our society is women. Half of the audiences are women. Half of the creative content needs to be made by women. The more that women and people of color can see reflections of themselves on screen, and the more that straight white men can learn to empathize with other subject positions through watching a variety of stories unfold, the healthier our society will be as a whole.”
That’s where Film Fatales comes in. So far the company has programmed over 250 films directed by women at 90 independent theaters and organized over 100 panel discussions, workshops, and networking events in partnership with festivals such as Sundance, SXSW, Tribeca, Toronto, and more. “By expanding the landscape of storytelling to include more underrepresented voices, Film Fatales continues to bring new and exciting films to the big screen.”
Meanwhile, the Alliance of Women Directors offers many programs to benefit its members. Chair of the organization, Jennifer Warren, claims that the non-profit’s primary goal is to achieve parity in the workplace for female directors. “As an organization, we are fighting for change in the hiring practices. One example would be our partnering with the ACLU in identifying discriminatory patterns within the studios.
“In addition, we have outreach to all the film festivals, which provides our members with various perks, including lower entry fees; we have affiliations with many of the professional organizations; we have educational programs and panels with high-visibility directors; and we have different kinds of shadowing programs all aimed at getting our members employment.”
Over in the UK, Women in Media provides networking opportunities and professional development for directors in the film and TV industries. Executive director Tema L. Staig outlined the company’s reason behind the launch of its female-focused IMDB-style list, the so-called WiMCrewList.
“For the longest time, we heard that people just couldn’t find women in the crew. For some reason, even though I knew tons of women, they were invisible to many decision makers. With the WiMCrewList, women can add their IMDB, resume, reels, SoundCloud, mini bio, if they are union / non union, and the rest. Our members can add all their credits, which is necessary when it comes to decision makers vetting new talent.”
The Director List is a hub for finding female directors and their work. As a filmmaker herself, founder and editor Destri Martino sought out the work of seasoned female directors to provide inspiration and guidance for her own projects, but was often disappointed by the low number of women she found.
“While doing research for a masters thesis back in 2005, I realized there were a lot more working directors than mainstream media coverage”. Out of this realization, The Director List was born. Since then, the list of female directors with demonstrable experience in features, TV, and/or large-scale commercials and music videos has jumped to 1,000 members and growing.
In addition to the database, the site provides news, photos, video, and a community focused on the film, TV, and video projects women are actively creating around the world.
Elsewhere, Reel Angels has been breaking boundaries as an agency that represents female technical crews for film, TV, and entertainment events. The company claims to promotes gender equality in technical departments by providing a credible and proven resource of top-end talent.
Lulu Elliott, founder of RA Agency, told Film Daily how the company exists at a time when there has never been a more opportune moment to employ female talent in film and TV. “By representing women, we see ourselves as leaders in the ongoing progress towards full gender parity across the industries.”
These organizations’ efforts haven’t been going unnoticed. Since 2016, Telefilm Canada, the powerful, well-funded film financing arm of the Canadian government, unveiled its ambitious drive to gender equality in the film sector by 2020. It seems the initiative is already having effect, as a 2017 study shows a 27% increase in agency-backed projects directed by women since 2015.
While gender counting in filmmaking crews & casts will undoubtedly remain a hot topic in 2018, it remains to be seen whether a world in which crews maintain 50% representation between genders across the entire industry is actually desirable, or even possible. And what about those who identify as something else entirely? Film Daily recommends the underrepresented feline contingent in entertainment production create a non-profit to promote human-cat parity by 2026.