Panelists from left: Eva Mendes, Julie Delpy, Julia Stiles, Rosario Dawson, Mary Stuart Masterson and moderator, Jacob Weisberg.
This year's Tribeca Film Festival welcomes many famous faces who are moving behind the camera. Yesterday evening, five incredible actors gathered to talk about their roles behind the lens. Yes, they're all women. And yes, they are defying the industry's odds of working as directors and producers (and in the case of Julie Delpy: editor, composer and writer), but these inspiring ladies will soon stop being an exception. Talented and brilliant, these five women settle for nothing less than being recognized for their craft, first and gender, second.
But if you think these female hyphenates now have it easy, think again.
As the cliché goes, every actor really wants to direct but for Julie Delpy, there was just no other way than to take over as leading EVERYTHING in 2 Days in Paris. "I'm a control freak. I have OCD- so this is perfect" she began. She used the metaphor of re-modeling an apartment: If you leave the workers to themselves, the toilet will end up in the living room.
Julie explained that she got funding for this project because she pitched it is a romantic comedy. But trying to finance a war movie is impossible. Being able to relate to a soldier in World War II is not an inherently male trait. "Directors of war movies are pussies" joked Julie. "I'm getting calls from people looking for female directors, what does that mean? Is there breastfeeding in the movie?"
She goes on to quote a French female parliamentary official who predicts that we will know men and women are equal when mediocre women have important jobs. "I'm a feminist!" she shouted.
Rosario Dawson fell in love with the script of Descent because it's real- not happy or uplifting. In the film, a victim of rape and abuse seeks revenge on her attacker and Rosario remains fascinated by how audiences can normalize the character's violent revenge. It was tough for her and her production partner to find financing: It's a film about a woman who is raped and then she herself becomes a rapist. While it doesn't scream mass appeal, they completed it without compromising any aspect of their artistic vision. (And in case you are wondering, the film will be distributed unrated.)
Eva Mendes' executive produced Live! because it was the only way to get the film off the shelf and into production. She was drawn to film and role because "her character could have been a man." After we watched a short clip, Eva remarked, "I'm an awful blond."
Mary Stuart Masterson said directing The Cake Eaters was the most comfortable she has ever felt on a project. So why the dearth of female directors? They all agreed women can't escape the stereotypes of not being tough enough, authoritative or remaining calm under fire. Mary explained that a great director brings out the the best out of everybody but this isn't a particularly male or female quality. Everyone thinks women want to be liked all of the time but females can certainly run "benign dictatorships."
Juggling acting, directing, producing is no simple feat but all of the sudden you wake up and ask"what happened to the baby?" quipped Mary. Well, these films are their babies and these leading ladies are eager to move forward and continue birthing more amazing projects.
For more HuffPost coverage of the 2007 Tribeca Film Festival, go here.
- by Wendy Cohen
Photos courtesy of Getty Images