By Rebecca Keegan
Los Angeles Times.
When a U.S. senator praises a movie studio for hiring two women, a Hollywood issue has officially entered the wider conversation.
Sen. Barbara Boxer sent a note to Warner Bros. CEO Kevin Tsujihara recently, commending the studio on its selection of women to direct the films “Wonder Woman” and “Unforgettable.”
In the letter, Boxer, whose daughter, Nicole Boxer, is a documentary filmmaker, also pointed out the industry’s poor track record of hiring female directors over time and said she will “continue to follow the issue of women directors and your studio’s efforts to expand diversity at all levels.”
Less than 5 percent of major studio movies were directed by women last year, according to a Times analysis. Boxer’s letter comes two months after the American Civil Liberties Union asked three government agencies to look into Hollywood hiring practices with a specific eye toward possible gender discrimination.
At the same time that movie studios are coming under fire for their failure to hire women, women are working in greater numbers in independent film. In June, the Los Angeles Film Festival scheduled a slate with 40 percent of its films directed by women.
During the festival, The Times invited five of those directors and the head of the festival, Stephanie Allain, to our newsroom to discuss the broad issue. They are Zoe Cassavetes, whose “Day Out of Days” is a sadly comic chronicle of the humiliations of being an actress; Marya Cohn, whose “The Girl in the Book” is a drama about a young assistant book editor forced to promote a male author with whom she has a disturbing personal history; Daphne McWilliams, whose documentary “In a Perfect World” confronts the challenges of boys raised by single moms; Renee Tajima-Pena, whose documentary “No Mas Bebes” tells the story of the forced sterilization of Mexican immigrant mothers at a Los Angeles hospital during the 1970s; and Delila Vallot, whose documentary “Can You Dig This” profiles urban gardeners in South Los Angeles. (The interviews were conducted individually and have been edited for clarity.)