Several of TV’s top female directors and producers spoke to TheWrap’s Sharon Waxman about overcoming imposter syndrome and the potential risks that come with success at the 2021 BE Conference on Wednesday.
“I know that I have been a victim of my own imposter syndrome, and I feel like that is something that needs to be overcome,” said “Grace and Frankie” creator Marta Kauffman, whose credits also includes co-creating the hit sitcom “Friends.” “Even though we feel like we are not ‘as good as’ or ‘as much as,’ you know, we have all these passions, these these things we want to do. But there’s this — I certainly feel — imposter syndrome.”
The other panelists — “Pose” executive producer and director Janet Mock, “The Undoing” director Susanne Bier and “The Great” director Geeta V. Patel — all agreed that imposter syndrome is a common experience, even among men.
“I see men being incredibly vulnerable. I think they’re just not as open with it,” Patel said. “I actually don’t think there’s much of a difference between women and men in that way. There are other things, but men are insecure in their own way. I’ve seen it on set, I’ve seen it with my co-workers. People are different.”
The panelists offered a few paths through acute levels of self-doubt, including simple perseverance and effective mentorship. Mock noted that “Pose” co-creator was the one who brought her into the industry, providing her with her first TV writing and directing jobs on Season 1 of the FX drama and pushing her to advance her career even in moments when she questioned her ability early on. But impostor syndrome never entirely goes away.
“It’s something that still sticks with me, because of the fact that I didn’t go to film school and all these things that you can tell yourself,” she said. “And so, anyone that’s listening to us, there is no clear path to this, you can make your own lane. F—ing go through and you just hit the wilderness. You just go and you do your work.”
“We have to continually prove ourselves, at least that’s how it feels to me.” Kauffman said. “Continually prove ourselves. One show or one movie isn’t enough. You have to constantly reinvent.”
But there is an upside to constant reinvention, Bier said.
“In a way, success is really dangerous,” she explained. “It messes with you in a potentially really, really bad way. … I mean, failure is a disaster and it makes you super upset and depressed and everything. But success potentially makes you into an evil human being. Not necessarily, but the potential is really there. You really have to kind of you have to navigate it not yourself not being a complete a-hole, – sorry for my language – but also in a different way that also makes you want to repeat yourself.”
“Artistically, it’s a real problem, because you have to filter out that thing, which is, ‘I’m going to do this thing that worked, again.’ You have to filter that out,” she said. “And then you’re going to go, ‘What am I really curious about artistically? What I’m really interested in? What is a real challenge, what actually scares me? Because those things are things which is gonna make your next piece interesting and exciting. And there’s got to be that sense of danger in it.”
The BE Conference is comprised of three days of mentorship, education and career-building workshops by the most influential women in media and entertainment, WrapWomen. For more information visit: https://www.thewrap.com/be-conference-2021/