Jessica Chastain Pens Essay On The Importance Of More Women In The Film Industry

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When women are inspired and emboldened, they change the world. From the set of her latest movie ‘The Zookeeper’s Wife’ in Prague, actress Jessica Chastain wrote an essay for The Hollywood Reporter about the need for more women in all aspects of Hollywood and on film sets, after being inspired by the amount of women she has been working with.

Although she has appeared in many films, this current one (due out in 2016) is apparently staffed by more female crew member than any of her previous projects. In her essay she says it is by no means an equal representation of men and women, and estimates the percentage of women to be closer to 20% (image below), but having a female in some of the most important roles on set has made her see a new perspective on why gender equality in the film industry is vital.

“There are female producers (Diane Levin, Kim Zubick and Katie McNeill), a female screenwriter (Angela Workman), a female novelist (Diane Ackerman), a female protagonist [Chastain] and a female director [Niki Caro]. I’ve never seen a female camera operator like Rachael Levine on one of my films. And I’ve never, ever seen a female stunt coordinator like Antje ‘Angie’ Rau,” she writes.

Honing in on one of the most popular excuses that women don’t direct action films or that there aren’t enough female directors to begin with (anyone who thinks that should do themselves a favor and familiarize themselves with the 1000+ females in The Director List database), Jessica gives some compelling reasons why this is just BS.

“Look at Kathryn Bigelow: She can do incredible action films. Or Anthony Minghella, who directed the most beautiful, sensitive romances,” she said, completely obliterating the argument that gender is a determining factor in what type of film someone should direct.

“When you have a set with predominantly one gender, whether it be all men or all women, it’s not going to be a healthy place. I imagine it’s the same thing in the workforce or other environments: When you have both genders represented, then you have a healthier point of view. The energy is great, you all are working together as a community, and everyone is participating in the exchange of ideas. You don’t feel a hierarchy; you don’t have anyone feeling like they are being left out or bullied or humiliated. Sometimes being the only girl on a set, you can feel like a sexual object,” continues Jessica in her essay.

She goes on to explain the mood on set with such a large amount of women, saying it was an incredibly collaborative experience with no egos or bullies to deal with. It’s as if because the sight of so many women is such a rare occurrence in Hollywood, all of them were “giddy with happiness” to see each other.

But aside from her own experience filming ‘The Zookeeper’s Wife’, Jessica wants more than ever to see this momentum continue, and to see more women giving opportunities to each as she believes this is kinda what we are good at.

“If you look at the people who put the film together, it’s a lot of women who have had a difficult time in the industry, so of course they are going to want to be on a set where they aren’t the token woman, where there are more voices. And I’m positive that just comes from the women in the power positions making room for other women. Of course, Niki and producers Diane and Kim are not going to think it would be strange to hire a woman,” she said.

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The red-headed award-nominated actress has previously spoken about certain aspects of Hollywood that she would like to see changed, including more female superhero-driven movies, and the gender pay gap gone. In an interview with Fusion alongside director Guillermo del Toro to promote their horror flick ‘Crimson Peak’, the Mexican director admitted it took a whopping 9 years to finally make this film because he fought for his lead actors to all get equal pay.

As she spoke, Jessica seemed very apologetic about even mentioning how wrong it was that she had been paid less than male co-stars in previous films, which in itself is a problem. When women fear speaking out about inequality, things will never change. Thankfully her perspective certainly has, and she is using her voice to advocate for the need for more women in film.

“I don’t want to be part of the statistics when only about 4 percent of Hollywood studio movies are directed by women. I don’t want my percentages to be the same as the status quo. It’s like Viola Davis said in her Emmy speech: The only thing that separates women of color from anyone else is opportunity. It’s the same situation with female directors versus male directors — they are not given the same opportunity,” said Jessica.

While she makes sure to point out how much she also enjoys working with male directors, a lot of times in Hollywood the men tend to favor each other which makes it hard for women to break through.

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“There are so many men out there who are the most sensitive, beautiful and supportive people ever. But I’ve been on sets a couple of times where I’ve noticed that if I have an idea about a scene, I have to go through the male actors to be heard. It’s really annoying. The male actor will have a better relationship with the male director, so I have to get the actor on my side,” she says. That should not be happening, which is why she emphasizes the need for women to help each other when they do get into those power positions.

In her drive to see equality in the film industry, Jessica believes there are wider opportunities for change that extend beyond the starring role or director’s chair. A need for more female film critics is vital also, because although films may test well in front of women, they are inevitably going to be critiqued predominantly by the men who dominate this job.

Although there is huge room for change, you can tell by reading her words the actress is positive about the progress being made so far.

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“I do think things are changing. The reason I think they are changing is because whenever I talk about these issues with men I know in the industry there’s this embarrassment. They say, ‘I don’t understand how it got to be like this.’ And I think that is what will help things change because it takes the group that is the majority in the industry to say, ‘Wait a minute: Maybe it’s more interesting to have more female voices in the executive suite and not just a token woman’,” she said.

And thankfully there are men speaking up in favor of the scales balancing out. The aforementioned Guillermo del Toro, Bradley Cooper, and director Paul Feig are a few who are leading the discussion among the men.

“I don’t think the problem is women; it’s the representation. It goes to the agents. It has to change. This is 2015,” she concluded.

Yep, indeed it is! Given that she has had the privilege of working with a small number of badass female directors, including one who is the only woman to ever win the Best Director award at the Oscars (Kathryn Bigelow), it’s easy to see why she is keep for the needle to move a lot quicker.

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