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Discussing “The Director List” with Creator Destri Martino

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DM-WithCamThere is no mistaking the fact that women in Hollywood are under-represented. This is old news, and women have been making strides by supporting each other and creating awesome communities like this one: the awesome ladies at Ms In the Biz. Destri Martino, the founder of The Director List, decided to create a database of female directors so that the excuse, “there are no female directors” would be unfounded.

Currently at 850 directors and climbing every day, The Director List is a beacon for the change that is occurring in Hollywood. I sat down with Destri to learn more about her background as a director, her aspirations for the future, and her inspiration for this incredible resource.

Where does this journey start for you? With directing and the website? I worked in production for years, but then I got to a point where I didn’t want to be working freelance and there was an opening at a law firm my friend worked for and so what was supposed to be a temporary job turned into a 3 year career as a recruiter for the firm. I took a year off to go to grad school and then my old boss called me and asked me if I would come back to the firm for a video job. They knew that I had a background in directing and I had an amazing boss who pushed me and encouraged me to try new things. I was able to explore my artistic side and create impactful videos for the firm.

Do you think that working in the firm was important to your development?
I think that was key for me. I come from a family of small business owners and it was important for me to experience the professional world and also learn how to present myself. Those are the people running the world and so it is important to understand what makes them tick and also know that they are human and generally kind individuals.

What did you learn from working professionally in a male dominated world?
I always tried to hire female assistants where I could, but I did have a few male assistants and I always learn so much from them. They are very direct and don’t make apologies for their work or for what they want. I think it is important to find a balance and not be self-centered all the time, but I think that we need to give ourselves more credit as women. Because we do know what we are doing!

Going back to your work in production, where did you experience lie?
I worked up from PA to Production Manager but I always wanted to be a director. I also worked as a director’s assistant on two features and that was a great way to observe a director at work and make some producer friends. I graduated from college at the start of the digital revolution and so the equipment was still a bit rudimentary and required a large crew to shoot anything. I tried to get a few projects off the ground, but nothing really took.

What is your dream film as far as directing?
I love the independent film world and so I want to continue to thrive in that world. And I love television so I would love to focus on television and the indie film world.

Moving on to women in the industry. How are you helping to foster change?
I have done that with this site. For years I have felt that this industry is not healthy for women. I want to help create an industry that is kinder and gentler for women. I realized that one way I could do that is to create a way for people to easily find a female director. Remove the excuses for why people don’t hire women. Instead of waiting for someone else to make it, I made it myself.

How did this idea propagate?
I always wanted to be a director and I remember trying to find female directors I could look up to and I found it really hard, especially pre-internet. When I was working on my dissertation, which was about the lack of women directing studio films, I started to discover all these amazing female directors who weren’t working.

In 2012 I was at the Cannes Film Festival with one of my films, and I was looking through the market catalogue and I saw that there were so many different films directed by women but I had never heard of them before. So I went home and started pinning them to a Pinterest board. My board slowly grew and people started taking notice and started asking me about who I would recommend for different directing styles. I developed an excel document with information about these female directors but I realized that it needed to be a searchable database.

Do you see more opportunities being created yet for women?
I have been around for a while so I have a few friends who have made the job to television and are doing very well. But that number is small and the change is happening very slowly, but I am seeing more women direct indie films which is encouraging. I think resources like my Director’s List will help create more opportunities for women.

As an ending question, what is your favorite quote?
My longtime quote since I was just out of college was “keep a green tree in your heart, and the singing bird will come.” I think that has been my mantra for life, because it is about being positive and good things will come your way.

By the way, did you know that Ms. In the Biz has its own growing database that features women in all areas of production/post-production/and crew? If you are looking for a female choreographer, DP, gaffer, etc be sure to check out our database here!

Deborah Lee Smith

About Deborah Lee Smith

Deborah Lee Smith is an actress and producer whose love of performing, storytelling, and new experiences has led to filming projects around the world. Originally from LA, she studied Theater and English Lit at UC Berkeley before moving to Australia to pursue her master’s degree in Film Production. She started acting in the Australian film industry before returning to LA and diving head first into acting and discovered a love of producing. Currently, she has two films in post-production that she has starred in, and has received several awards for her acting and producing work. Additionally, she has partnered with another incredible female producer to create Deep Sea Pictures, a full-service production company that has several projects in various stages of development. She believes in working hard, playing hard, exploring the world, and supporting others to tell stories that expand our understanding of the world and the people, places, and things that reside within it!