This year at Los Angeles Film Festival, a handful of Hollywood’s elite female directors and showrunners offered insight into their careers and attributes that helped them along the way.
Marta Kauffman (pictured top left), who has received enormous success as the co-creator and showrunner of Friends talked about inspiration striking in a very early place. She mentioned that her friend has a theory that what a person does with their Barbie dolls as a kid determines what they will end up doing in life. “I don’t know if it’s true for everybody,” Kauffman said, “but I do know that when I was a little girl and my parents were doing whatever they were doing or my sister was busy not talking to me, I would put on shows for God. So maybe there’s truth in that.”
Now Kauffman is working on a Netflix series with Lily Tomlin and Jane Fonda, which is a different experience. “When I started doing television, you did a pilot, and then if you were lucky you did nine more, and then if you were lucky you got an additional order, and this is zero to sixty in no time at all because you have to go straight to thirteen.”
For Nicole Holofcener (pictured top right), writer-director of Enough Said, “just writing, even if nobody was thinking that [she] was a good writer” was crucial to her success. Though she didn’t originally plan on directing, film school served as a safe place to make mistakes and push herself to learn more, “not so much in [her] career, but getting to practice directing, and feeling free to make a lot of mistakes.”
Gina Prince-Bythewood (pictured bottom left), whose film Beyond the Light previewed at LAFF, said that one her main challenges was being able to tell the story the way she wanted to tell it. Prince-Blythewood, who won spots at both a film school and a job she had been rejected by through persistent calls and letter writing, says that she struggled to get on board with Sony’s vision for her film. “They wanted a certain cast,” Prince-Bythewood said. “Their choice would have been Beyoncé.” But Prince-Bythewood wanted to work with Gugu Mbatha-Raw of Belle and Sony didn’t believe she was a big enough, so Prince-Bythewood left Sony.
Winter’s Bone director Debra Granik (pictured bottom right) was often inspired by real life and frequently calls upon a decade of going to a lot of weddings where she had the opportunity to people watch and enjoyed the “glimpses into variety on the spectrum of humanity, just being able to go places that [she wasn’t] normally destined to go…in a town that [she] never would have gone to normally.”
When the conversation turned to women breaking through Hollywood, all of the women on the panel had a strong opinion. “It makes no sense at all,” Prince-Bythewood said, “talent has no gender.”