SBIFF 2016: Women in the Business

Directors, Producers, and Cinematographer Talk Being Female in Hollywood

Moderator Madelyn Hammond, former Chief Marketing Officer for Variety, kicked off the “Creative Forces: Women in the Business (Women’s Panel)” at the Lobero Theatre with a few “inspirational” messages from an unlikely source: her cough drops. While Hammond tolerated “Flex your can-do muscle, ladies,” she was less accepting of “Inspire envy.”

“Inspire envy? said Hammond. “The hell? Some man did that one. No envy here today.” With that, Hammond began a lively, frank discussion with six women who have risen to positions of power in the entertainment industry: Directors Liz Garbus (What Happened, Miss Simone?) and Alison Eastwood (Battlecreek), producers Rosa Tran (Anomalisa), Susan Cartsonis (Storefront Pictures), and Shannon McIntosh (Hateful Eight), and cinematographer Svetlana Cvetko (The Architect). Hammond, a likable and capable moderator, touched on issues that were specific to powerful women in show business and dedicated time to discuss the careers of each panel member.

Academy-Award nominated documentary filmmaker Liz Garbus talked about her experience interviewing inmates for one of her early projects. Garbus was okay with interviewing murderers, but balked at interviewing inmates who were serving time for rape. As an artist, Garbus pushed herself to “relate and find humanity, even there.” “This person has been judged,” said Garbus. “[My] fear wasn’t the story. His story is the story.”

Susan Cartsonis, president of Storefront Pictures, shared the story of her first show business negotiation. After super-producer Scott Rudin begged her to move from New York to L.A. to work with him, Cartsonis — who worried that she’d work for Rudin as some sort of assistant, which would feel like a step backwards in her career — plainly told Rudin that “[she’d move] if you make me an executive. He said “Okay, you’ll be an executive.” Cartsonis eventually rose to the ranks of Senior Vice President at 20th Century Fox.

As the conversation moved to Shannon McIntosh’s corner, the slayage intensified. McIntosh noted that a large part of her success was due to her willingness to “get in and roll up [her] sleeves” when faced with a difficult problem. This trait probably came in handy when Quentin Tarantino decided that he wanted to film Hateful Eight on 65 mm film, and McIntosh had to procure “$250,000 worth of glass to get the lenses we needed.”

The audience burst into applause when, after Hammond posited that the Weinstein Brothers — the co-founders of Miramax —”taught you everything,” McIntosh calmly noted: “Well, I taught them a lot.”

Hammond wrapped up the discussion by asking the women to list their favorite movies. Both Rosa Tran and Cartsonis listed The Wizard of Oz as their favorite film. Tran admired Dorothy’s visually stunning transition from Kansas to Oz, while Cartsonis admired the feminist nature of L. Frank Baum’s classic story. “We need more protagonists like Dorothy in our business,” said Cartsonis.

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