Kyra Sedgwick, Kim Raver, Ashley Williams, Elisabeth Röhm, and Robin Givens all have something in common: they are actors who recently hopped into the director’s chair.
The five female filmmakers looked back on their journey to director at TheWrap’s annual Power Women Summit, speaking on a panel titled “Broader Focus: View from the Director’s Chair,” moderated by Tanya Lopez. Executive Vice President, Movies, Limited Series & Original Movie Acquisitions, Lifetime & Lifetime Movie. The panel was presented by Lifetime.
“I was the person who never had that voice — my voice was, ‘you will never direct,'” Sedgwick said. “I’ve been working professionally as an actor from the time I was 16 and I’d worked with a lot of legendary directors, all of whom were men… my loving husband kept saying to me, ‘you have such big opinions about the way things are directed… what about the concept of you directing one day?’ And I was very much like, ‘I don’t think so, not for me.'”
But things changed for Sedgwick when she walked into Lopez’s office at Lifetime one day to discuss a passion project she had had, of a novel she had bought in 2007 but had never been able to get the film made. And speaking to Lopez in 2017, it hit her that she wanted to direct the project, which would turn out to be “Story of a Girl,” as well.
Raver, who also currently stars on ABC’s hit show “Grey’s Anatomy,” credited Sedgwick’s move to directing as a reason for her to follow suit.
“I don’t think that it came to me first of like, ‘oh, I’m going to direct,” Raver said. “I think what came to me first was, ‘I really want to put together projects.’ Raver and her husband found Jane Green novels and pitched them to Lifetime, which would eventually turn into the release of Lifetime’s “Tempting Fate.”
Givens, who directed “Ann Rule’s A Murder to Remember,” had a similar “a-ha” moment to Sedgwick, who said her husband was a big driving factor in her decision to get into directing. And it was for a similar reason, too: because Givens had opinions on how projects should be run.
“Then you realize, well, I do have an opinion and I had been doing this for so long, so I don’t remember exactly when I said it out loud to myself, but I remember sitting at Lifetime taking my meeting, when I was kind of like pitching myself, and I remember before I got there thinking, ‘You can do this!'” she explained. “It just kind of gave me a brand new voice that I didn’t even know I had, and this courage, and that was fabulous for me.”
For Williams, who directed “Ann Rule’s Circle of Deception” for Lifetime, it was a little bit of a different story — she became interested in directing when she acting on a soap opera as a kid.
“There was this operator who was behind the camera and we were just rehearsing and I was waiting to go on and I just went up to him and I said, ‘Hey, can I get back there for a second?’ I just wanted to see what that felt like in my hands and look through the lens,” she recalled. “And he said to me, ‘why don’t you stick to wearing your bikini?'”
And his comment made her committed to learning the technical aspects of the job, and she became more interested in the camera and the lenses.
“This was a long time ago. In the ’90s, all directors were men. That was what I was working with and it honestly didn’t even occur to me that it was possible, you know?” she explained. “Then, a couple of years ago, I have a good friend who’s a very high-powered executive in a network and she was like, ‘So like, Why are you directing?’ And I was like, ‘Well, honestly, it kind of feels like it’s something boys do.’ And she said, ‘we do not have enough female directors.’ And that was sort of where things shifted for me.”
The first time Röhm, who just wrapped “Girl in the Basement” for the network, said out loud that she wanted to be a director, coincidentally, was to Raver, because she was starring in a movie for Raver (“Family Pictures”).
“Much like everybody here has expressed, all of the same stories of decades of working for strong male directors and thinking, you know, ‘Why not me? But it seems like that role is taken and this is my lane and I’m going to stay in my lane,'” she said. “Kim, maybe because you’re a woman, the way you would talk to me about wardrobe and character and you know, my character, there was such a level of intimacy that I just thought to myself, ‘What the world needs now is more of that.’ And if not us, then who? Because we’ve been waiting to do this for long enough.”
Watch excerpts from the Power Women Summit above.
The Power Women Summit, presented by the WrapWomen Foundation, is the largest annual gathering of the most influential women in entertainment, media and technology. The Summit aims to inspire and empower women across the landscape of their professional careers and personal lives. This year’s all-virtual PWS provides three days of education, mentorship, workshops and networking around the globe to promote “Inclusion 360,” this year’s theme.