Women in Film Put Major Studios on Blast

“This is a misogynistic industry,” Tessa Bell, program chair of annual event for female filmmakers, says

Last Updated: April 22, 2016 @ 7:37 AM

Change is hopefully coming, said women filmmakers and other attendees at a Women In Film event on Thursday night in Los Angeles.

Everyone was there to celebrate the work of women in the industry who seek to gain hands-on filming and production experience provided by the PSA Production Program. The program allows women to produce TV and Internet media campaigns for under-funded, non-profit organizations that serve women and children.

And while the night was a boon to women seeking to gain a foothold in the industry, TheWrap wanted to know what they thought of the recent news that Fox and Paramount haven’t hired any female directors for their future big-budget lineups.

“This is a misogynistic industry,” said Tessa Bell, program chair of the annual PSA project and an industry veteran who has worked as a film and television producer for more than 30 years. “Nothing has changed. It’s really a disgrace,” she added. Bell argued that change needs to happen at the top levels of management, and cited how General Motors execs were trained on gender bias. “Hollywood is missing opportunities for great stories because they’re only creating a market for testosterone-driven movies.”

Bell, however, added that she is hopeful that change is coming. WIF senior director of education Gayle Nachlis, who was also an agent at William Morris for three decades, echoed the sentiment. “Though I wish I could have seen more women directors announced, these films have already been in the pipeline,” noted Nachlis of both Fox and Paramount’s upcoming theatrical slates. “The intention among studios is to hire a lot more women directors going forward. We should see the result of this with next year’s lineup.”

The women directors in the room also weighed in: “This is not a men-versus-women issue,” said Celine Tricart, who helmed a PSA for River LA. She also worked on “Transformers: Age of Extinction” as a 3D rig technician — yes, a Paramount movie. “Paramount has about the most high-level women executives in the business and they didn’t hire a single woman director,” she added.

Ora Yashar, who directed a PSA for the ALS Association — and who also works at Paramount’s licensing division — spoke candidly about trying to make it as a writer-director. “It’s frustrating. You’re caught in this dilemma of just not being worried about it, but then it does start to feel like the odds are stacked against you.”

“You can’t get a job in this town without a reel,” noted Bell, pointing out the vital opportunity for aspiring female filmmakers her organization provides. The program allots a $7,500 budget and free top-of-the-line cameras to women filmmakers working on the PSAs. Bell knows the experience is crucial to any filmmaker trying to break into the business. “Ava DuVernay and Michael Bay came out of commercials,” she said.

This year marks the 23rd for the PSA Production Program.