Hollywood. I’ve been on both extreme sides of the spectrum: blessed and sawing away at my wrists with a plastic knife. Not blessed with an Oscar or damned with a serious thoughts of suicide, but just enough where Hollywood and I have a clear love/hate relationship.
About seven years ago I was told by a high powered executive that I would never ‘make it’ as a director. Why? His candor, though appreciated, heartbreaking, “Because you’re a woman.”
First, let’s break down the definition of the phrase ‘make it’. Anyone who has been in this town long enough knows that paying the bills and living in your own apartment is a pretty damned good form of ‘making it’. I’ve seen dozens come and go for not being able to find a job in their chosen career or the pressure/stresses of freelance living being too much. In my opinion, I’ve already ‘made it’. ‘Making it’ does not have to mean my face and private life plastered all over TMZ. Quite the opposite actually! I will have succeeded above all expectations if I can hold down a mansion in the hills, direct/produce all of my own work AND keep my face off of TMZ. Now that is the Hollywood dream.
Second, “Because you’re a woman”. This one is a little harder to fight. To be a director you have to have knowledge of how to tell a story visually. You have to have people skills in order to work with your actors; have a great story, have a great relationship with a cinematographer and – of course – a little bit of talent. Nowhere in my research did I find ‘having a penis’ as part of the director definition but you also cannot deny the statistics of the DGA. On March 2, 2013, the DGA released an article stating that only 13.5% of the guild members are female directors.
I am going to give you a minute to pick your jaw off the floor.
Yes, 13.5% of the DGA are female directors. In this town it’s a numbers game and the numbers are stacked against me. As a Line Producer by trade, I understand this only too well but as an Italian/Chicagoan by birth, I am too stubborn to give up. I directed my first short film shortly after the nay saying executive with a Best Comedy Short nomination in my first ever film festival. (Someone once told me that success is the best revenge, and it is sweet.) I’ve since directed two other short films and have been hired to direct music videos for the famed Michael Des Barres!
Michael Des Barres with Monkey during an edit session in my apartment.
Now, if that name doesn’t ring a bell, think of MacGyver and of his evil nemesis Murdoc… that’s him, the evil guy. He’s been in several bands including huge acts like “Detective”, “Power Station”, “Chequered Past” and now in his own solo act The Michael Des Barres Band. Speaking with Michael and working with him was all by happenstance. I was sitting at the same table with him at a film festival, which was honoring him with a lifetime achievement award. I volunteered to tape one of his concerts at the famed Viper Room in Hollywood and a beautiful friendship began.
Not once in all of our conversations on film or music videos did my sex become a topic or factor in our work. In fact, the more I worked with him the more I saw the other women that he hired. This man not only appreciates good talent but respects women for what they can do and lets them thrive at it! Sure, he and I have had our creative battles but in the end, it’s still hugs and kisses. The respect this man has given me only goes to show that that studio executive from so many years ago had no idea what he was speaking about.
Johnny Depp, Michael Des Barres with me on camera for the Annual Ramones Foundation fundraiser at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery screening of “Cry Baby”.
Michael is promoting a new album (brilliant, if I do say so myself) and his radio programs. He flies all over the world for commercial shoots and yet still finds the time to support and nurture this fledgling director and continues to hire me with even the smallest assignments, I am grateful. For the two years I have known him professionally, he doesn’t take to promoting other people/things lightly. His name has weight, and he knows it, but when I asked if he would sit down and do a video for my indiegogo campaign, he answered ‘yes’ before I could finish my sentence. Michael came over a couple of days later and all I did was simply hit the record button on the camera, he did the rest. To hear such kind and wonderful words about yourself without asking or prodding, “humbling” and a “wonderful feeling” does not begin to describe what I experienced.
I have made it in my own right in this town, even though I try to climb higher to reach the glass ceiling, there are people in our lives, male or female, who can honestly look beyond our sex, color or creed to see who we really are. This blog is for those people in our lives I would like to honor. Life is a balance in many ways, for one day you’ll meet someone who saying “you’ll never make it” but the next you’ll find someone who believes in you more than you believe in yourself. Those are the people who fill the creative soul and push me to keep going. You could become one of those people. Support one another and it is amazing what we all can achieve.
Special thanks to Michael Des Barres being my person cheerleader and letting me geek when he introduced me to Johnny Depp.