‘Jurassic World’ Director Colin Trevorrow Addresses the Lack of Women Directing Blockbusters
When Colin Trevorrow was confirmed to direct Star Wars: Episode 9, there were some divisive reactions to that news. Although Jurassic World quickly became one of the highest-grossing films of all time, many felt as though Trevorrow’s blockbuster sequel was deeply flawed — why should he get the Star Wars gig? And better yet: why are only men directing these films, or just blockbusters in general? Trevorrow himself has some thoughts about the lack of women directing blockbusters, and while he means well, he’s a bit off.
It all started yesterday, when Trevorrow was asked by a fan if he would have had the chance to direct Jurassic World if he were a woman. Here’s his response:
Trevorrow is right about one thing: it is a complex issue, but I have a hard time believing that women simply don’t want to direct blockbusters. The problem, as has been pointed out many times since Trevorrow’s tweet, is that it doesn’t seem like women are being asked, at all. As Angie Han notes in her great response to the director’s statement, we rarely — if ever — see women’s names on all those rumored director shortlists for major blockbuster projects.
It’s not that women are never offered these jobs — they are, sometimes. Ava DuVernay notably turned down Black Panther after realizing that it wouldn’t entirely be her film or vision. The parting of ways with Marvel was amicable, and it’s understandable that some directors, regardless of gender, wouldn’t want to work in such a hands-on studio environment. Then there’s the case of Michelle MacLaren, who was hired and quickly dismissed from the solo Wonder Woman film, with WB giving the classic “creative differences” excuse.
So often we hear of these “creative differences” when a woman director leaves a project. It happened with Lynne Ramsay on Jane Got a Gun, with Patty Jenkins on Thor: The Dark World (Jenkins is now directing Wonder Woman), and again with MacLaren on Wonder Woman. From the outside, it seems that women with strong ideas aren’t as respected as their male peers…
If they’re given the chance at all. Trevorrow landed the Jurassic World gig because Steven Spielberg liked his indie feature debut, Safety Not Guaranteed. Over the last few years, studios have turned more and more to indie filmmakers to helm their upcoming blockbusters. Jordan Vogt-Roberts (Kings of Summer) is directing Kong: Skull Island, David Lowery (Ain’t Them Bodies Saints) is directing Pete’s Dragon, Alex Ross Perry (Listen Up, Philip) is scripting the Winnie the Pooh movie, Jon Watts (Cop Car) is directing the Spider-Man reboot, and Marc Webb (500 Days of Summer) directed the Amazing Spider-Man movies — to name a few.
These men are all given a chance to parlay their indie successes into major studio filmmaking with potential summer blockbusters — sometimes the gamble pays off (Jurassic World), and sometimes it doesn’t (Amazing Spider-Man). When it does, the studios can pat themselves on the back for mining new talent, and when it doesn’t, they have an easy scapegoat: the inexperienced director with an indie background.
But where are all the women? Several women have helmed successful, effective indies like Marielle Heller (Diary of a Teenage Girl), Hannah Fidell (A Teacher), Ana Lily Amirpour (A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night), Desiree Akhavan (Appropriate Behavior), Gina Prince-Bythewood (Beyond the Lights), Eliza Hittman (It Felt Like Love), Gillian Robespierre (Obvious Child), and Leslye Headland (Bachelorette, Sleeping With Other People) — to name just a handful.
These women are not offered major blockbuster directing gigs, as far as we know. Every time a trade reports on the director shortlist for a new Marvel or WB or big Universal project, there are no women on these lists. There are more women directing indie films than there are directing studio films — that’s not speculation, it’s a fact based on research, the results of which were revealed in June by the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film.
It’s nice of Trevorrow to presume that women are somehow more sophisticated than blockbuster filmmaking — that we’re more artistically inclined. But he can’t presume that women don’t want these jobs. Who wouldn’t want a major blockbuster and the exposure that comes with it?
Trevorrow released a statement further expanding his thoughts on the subject, and while he doesn’t address his initial comments about the lack of “desire” on the part of women directors, he does hope that this dialogue continues:
The last thing I’d want to communicate is that I don’t acknowledge this problem exists. I think the problem is glaring and obvious. And while it does make me a little uncomfortable to be held up as an example of everything that’s wrong, this is an important dialogue to have, so let’s have it.
Would I have been chosen to direct Jurassic World if I was a female filmmaker who had made one small film? I have no idea. I’d like to think that choice was based on the kind of story I told and the way I chose to tell it. But of course it’s not that simple. There are centuries-old biases at work at every level, within all of us. And yes, it makes me feel shitty to be perceived as part of this problem, because it’s an issue that matters so much to me. If I didn’t care, I wouldn’t talk about it in the first place.
I do stand by the idea that a great many people in the film industry want this to change. I have made attempts at every turn to help turn the tide, and I will continue to do it. When I got the script for “Lucky Them,” released last year, I advocated hard for my friend Megan Griffiths to direct. She did, and she made a wonderful film (see it please). On my next project, “Book of Henry,” nearly all of my department heads and producers are women. Will I give a female filmmaker the same chance Steven Spielberg gave me someday? Let’s hope that when I do, it won’t even be noteworthy. It will be the status quo.
I came home from New York tonight and saw my daughter again after a week away. This had come up earlier in the day, so it was on my mind. I did think a lot about how vital it is for me to empower her now, even at age 3. To encourage her to go out and grab whatever it is she wants in life, to lead. It starts with the constant, steady assurance that the top job is attainable.
Becoming a filmmaker is not easy. It’s years of rejection and disappointment and it’s very hard, often grueling work. The job takes insane levels of endurance and sometimes delusional amounts of self-confidence. All I can do is raise one girl with that kind of fearlessness, then let her choose her path. That’s my contribution. The rest is up to her.
Talking about it is just one step. The next step is actually doing something about it. And we’ve been talking about it for far too long already.