Today, Kitty Green is an acclaimed writer and director, having brought her first directorial feature film, “The Assistant,” to the 2020 Sundance Film Festival. But Green says that she’s still sometimes treated like an assistant, and still deals with other microaggressions aimed at women in the film industry.
“I’m a film director, but people assume I’m the assistant so I’m always handed a coat,” Green told TheWrap’s founder and CEO Sharon Waxman. “I have two male producers, James Schamus and Scott Macaulay, who are incredible, but when I meet someone, they say, so who gives you the ideas, is it Scott or James? There is this assumption that I’m not in charge or not in control. Those assumptions really rattle you as a filmmaker, you feel, no matter how much work I do, will anyone take me seriously? And then I thought, if I’m getting this and I’m a film director, what are people getting who are in lower positions, who don’t have as much power as I do, and how are they surviving all this?”
“The Assistant” chronicles the day in the life of a female assistant, the youngest employee working for a mean boss. Green said her goal was to show how toxic work environments can strip women of confidence to climb the ranks and be equal to their male coworkers.
“Everything I make is about women in the media,” Green added. “There was a lot of coverage about the predators and the men — if we get rid of Harvey Weinstein, the problem will go away. And I thought, no, it’s so much bigger than that… We need to strip the system down and rebuild it and make sure that things are fair and equitable for women. How do we examine the microaggressions that can strip a young woman of self confidence, that prevents her from climbing the ranks and do what the boys are doing?”
Julia Garner plays the role of the assistant in the film, which is timely given the current trial against Harvey Weinstein and how outspoken Hollywood assistants have been about their low compensations.
Garner says she hasn’t been exposed to toxic work environments, but said she placed a lot of focus on the juxtaposition of the quiet film against the hefty, loud subject that is harassment and male toxicity in the workplace.
“I’ve been very lucky that I’ve worked on really nice and not toxic sets and work environments but the thing that was really important when we were prepping, Kitty made it very clear in the beginning that she wanted the film to be a quiet film…. that’s what made it more tense because the subject is so loud,” Garner explained. “If the film is quiet but the subject and the situation going on in the film is loud, it makes it more eerie and uncomfortable.”
“The Assistant” premiered at Sundance on Jan. 24 and was released in theaters on Jan. 31.
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