CANNES: Jodie Foster, who is presenting her first mainstream film as a director in Cannes Thursday, said many studio bosses still mistrusted female directors as “too great a risk to take.”
The Oscar-winning actress, who began her career at the age of three and is one of a handful of females in Hollywood to carve out a successful directing career, highlighted the challenges women face in the industry at a conference on the sidelines of Cannes.
She noted “drastic changes” on film sets from her years as a child actor, when the only women on set were the person playing her mother or the make-up artist.
But “the one arena where it hasn’t really changed at all is directing for mainstream studio movies,” she observed.
In the United States, only nine percent of directors are women, according to a 2016 study from the San Diego university.
Another study released this month by the European Women’s Audiovisual Network found that only one film in five in Europe was made by a female director.
Foster said the turbulent economy and changing technologies had left studio bosses more risk-averse than ever.
“I think studio executives are scared, period, (and) for some reason women are lumped into that category of ‘too great a risk to take’.”
However Foster, who won Oscars for her roles in “Silence of the Lambs” and “The Accused”, admits that having grown up in the industry it was easier for her to become part of the boy’s club than for other women struggling to make it.
– Not ‘some big plot’ –
The 53-year-old is the first of a series of Hollywood stars, including Susan Sarandon and Geena Davis, who will be talking at the “Women in Motion” conference during Cannes.
Foster has directed several movies, as well as episodes of television series “Orange is the New Black” and “House of Cards”.
Her first mainstream genre film “Money Monster”, starring George Clooney and Julia Roberts, premiered in Cannes on Thursday.
She said she did not think there was “some big plot” by men trying to put women down in the film business, but it was more about being stuck in traditional models.
She described the difficulty in placing trust in a first-time director, and placing the vision of a multi-million-dollar film in their hands.
“Everyone, before they shake hands to bring a director on kind of quakes in their boots because they don’t know what is in front of them,” she said.
“I was once in a movie where a director — who was a really smart guy — spent the entire movie in his bathroom calling his wife.”
“You’re looking for the best bet and it is hard to look at a face that is 100 percent different to yours and that you carry traditional perceptions about and you worry you are going to make a bad choice.”
She said there were many scripts out there written for diverse women, they were just not getting financed.
– Half of the human race –
Foster was asked about the perception that audiences don’t want to see movies about women.
“I dont know who those people are. I want to look at human lives. I don’t know anyone who would be disinterested in half of the human race.”
Foster said that as a female director, she was able to see herself in all of her characters, even the men, something that was harder for male directors to do.
“One of my biggest pet peeves as an actor, whenever a male writer was searching for motivation for a women they would always just go to rape. It was ridiculous.
“They were uninterested in any kind of complex merging with the female character.”