Moderator Madelyn Hammond, who served as the director of marketing at Variety before starting her own company, opened the tenth annual SBIFF Women’s Panel by quoting Anna Quindlen to the effect that women are most notably “outsiders with less allegiance to the status quo.” The very distinguished panel of three producers, one writer, and a self-described “suit” (Fox director of development Marisa Paiva, who graduated from UCSB’s Film Studies Department) might have agreed, though the tone of the one-hour discussion was decidedly pro-industry. And when it came to advice and inspiration, it was almost exclusively modeled on old-fashioned work ethics and self-reliance.
Two of the panelists have strong associations with prominent and prickly male auteurs; producer Allison Abbate works with Tim Burton and Pilar Safone with Quentin Tarantino. In the most unfortunate portion of the discussion, the moderator turned these women into glorified assistants suggesting their nearly marital relationships to their auteurs, which they reinforced with stories about finishing their directors’ sentences. And while these kookier symbiotic relationships might actually be cool and fun, the overall impression was somehow New School Male Patronage. Even first time screenwriter Lucy Alibar (Beasts of the Southern Wild) seemed to be happily at the whims of her male compatriots — radical rewrites that enabled it to be made.
Accommodation, compromise, and crazy attention to tasks were the lessons offered by the panelists, which may very well be the tools one needs to succeed. Though it’s not feeling very outsider-ish and some of the audience questions hit harder at feminine if not -ist issues. The lack of female directors barely warranted discussion — they seemed to think there already were strong women in the jobs. The panel agreed that one huge problem growing up female was learning to feel good about their selves.
The toughest question came when an audience member named Carol asked whether or not the industry could accept any responsibility for the country’s current epidemic of gun violence. Paiva actually said that there had been no official statement on the issue from her corporate commanders, unsurprisingly. The Pixar producer talked a little about how they excruciated over any kinds of violence, though all agreed that the “story told you” how much was needed. All the time, Quentin Tarantino’s sentence finisher Pilar Safone at the end of the table was looking glum and, let’s just say she didn’t jump up and offer an outsider opinion on violence, which Tarantino likes.
Suddenly Hammond ended the panel discussion, prompting an audience outsider to ask, “Wait, the Django person isn’t going to talk?”