How Reese and Eva Are Shaking Up Hollywood
You know what's not smart job. It overwhelming with tons of the wrong resumes at ZipRecruiter dot com. Slash tilted, you'll find a better way. ZipRecruiter doesn't depend on candidates finding you if find them for you. So you get qualified candidate and you get them fast right now. 'til delicious can try ZipRecruiter for free at ZipRecruiter dot com. Slash tilted that's ZipRecruiter dot com. Slash tilted ZipRecruiter the smartest way to hire. Backgrounds and action. Welcome to tilt. It Alina m- podcast each week will explore the unease in Plainfield the gender bias at lurked and unexpected places. The impact it has on our everyday lives. And what happens when women lean in and start driving change? I'm your host Rachel Thomas for years. We've all heard how represented women are in Hollywood both onscreen and behind the camera. But recently it's felt like things might be changing my kids and I cheered on the math whizzes in Hidden Figures. And then we did it again and again, wonder woman directed by the amazing Patty Jenkins killed at the box office and big little lies. What a my personal favorites became a cultural sensation a show about women in our lives and our struggles, our friendships. All of this got me thinking, are these one offs or is this a wave a real change in Hollywood one that is terribly overdue. So I did what any new podcast or does, and I headed to l. a. to get the answer and I even ended up on the set of evil longoria, his new show. Grand Hotel, but more on that in a minute. My first conversation was with Stacy Smith. She's the founder of the Annenberg inclusion initiative at USC, and she studied the lack of diversity in films and TV. Stacey started by walking me through the numbers. Basically, there has been no progress when it comes to gender equality, onscreen across almost fifty thousand speaking characters. Females are less than a third of all speaking parts onscreen. This is a very low bar that has to be crossed in our study. A character only has to say one word, so we're really seeing still an inclusion crisis on screen. And that wasn't even the worst of it. A few of the stats she shared with really just shocking in twenty seventeen out of one hundred films roughly a third featured a girl or woman driving the action. But if we were to think about women of color, only four films out of one hundred had a woman of color at the lead, but we're just. Gene erasure across groups, whether it's people with disabilities, LGBT people of color, or girls and women. Well, I knew it was bad, but I had no idea. It was that bad, but it turns out the signs of progress. I saw as a TV and movie lover. Myself were real. In fact, the more we spoke, I really realized ABC's optimistic. In fact, she's more optimistic than she's ever been. Let's take a look at the top three movies of last year at the US box office wonder, woman beauty in the beast in Star Wars. All three have something in common. They have a female character really at the heart of the entire story and stays even more optimistic about what's happening on the small screen woods really fantastic with the explosion of streaming services. There are so many more opportunities the so I think most folks are looking to television particularly in this time of of renaissance for storytelling on the small screen, and and that's really. I think we're the future is headed. I think there's a lot to be hopeful for and look to, and a new day may just be around the corner, which it's even odd for me to say that out loud. But all of these factors are lining up in. It may just be enough to create a sea change, and I was thrilled to hear that Stacy thinks women are a big part of this change. When you have a female director, you're more likely to have girls and women onscreen. You're more likely to have girls and women at the center of a story. You're more likely to have racial and ethnic diversity on screen. One of the quickest ways to change in the entertainment industry is to simply hire more female directors, but we need more female show runners right from a variety of different backgrounds, telling stories. My next stop was Reese Witherspoon production company where I sat down with the women, creating shows with women at the center of the action. We are here today in the beautiful offices of Hello sunshine in his warm and sunny outside. So I definitely feel like I'm in a today. I'm chatting with Lauren Levy, new Stadler head of film and TV at Hello sunshine high, Liz Taylor, the show of casual on Hulu and of the upcoming miniseries little fires everywhere which everyone in my office can't wait for and she's previously written for shows like Nashville, revenge, and brothers and sisters, so so excited to have you. Thank you and last, but certainly not lease. We're also joined by Michele tramples Spelman the show one of are you sleeping, which is now in production will air on apple TV and shells also well known for producing the hit show. One of my favorites, the good wife. Yes, one of my favorites too. So thank you all so much for being here ladies. Thank you. Thank you so I don't know a lot about Hollywood and I don't know how much our listeners know, but I know a lot of your projects are based on books with. Do you look for in the story? Like, how do you know. Got a winner. Well, you feel for our company. We have specific things that we look for right for Reese. It has always been a woman at the center of every story, creating these extraordinary characters for women to bring to life and representing women in ways that they have not yet been represented on screen. So there's that with Hello sunshine. We got a little bit clearer in terms of what makes it Hello of sunshine, right? So one of the things is we want these women to be heroes of their own stories in unconventional ways. So that is something that we always look for. Another thing that we really want is an element of hope. So even if it isn't a bright, shiny piece, where's the hope this content it shouldn't just be for women. It should speak to women, but it should speak to everyone. What is this show? Loaner while I kind of think of it as a. General, it's just the person at the top of the chain. That's marshalling all the troops. You're kinda surprised by how many troops there are. And then how much do you shape the vision of the show completely she has of the show, and of course, that's your job. And I can remember the first time I did it after having been on staff being up at the board looking around and having no idea. That's actually a moment. I think that almost everybody have I remember sitting with Lauren and are the partner Kristen, and we were talking with the line producer for the show, and he asked a question there was silence. And then I looked up and Kristin and Laura, and we're looking at me and I looked Hymie and I was thinking, well, who's going to answer it? And Lauren wit. Chester like it's you and I was like yet is, and it was just like this moment of like panic and then elation. So before you were show runners, I know you were both writers as well. Can you talk a little bit about what it was like as a woman may be Nichelle in your case as a woman of color in the writer's room? Well, I started off on a show that was at four female leads call women's murder club, and my first bosses were Liz craft and Sarah Fain who are still really good friends and mentors. And so it was the perfect entry into this business, frankly. And I went to other rooms that had female show runners. When I went to good wife, it was Robert and Michelle king. So I had an experience of having shows that had female leads really strong women in the room. So I didn't have that really bumpy entry point. You know, there have been points here and there where you kind of have to remind people well, the the women on the show have a point of view. Can we talk about that kid? She not just be the wife, wringing her hands at home. Wondering what. Her guys out doing. They're out in the big bad world, but I think that it wasn't up for debate in the room, and then I made a decision early on to not go to shows where I thought that that was a problem, and it was a bold choice in a certainly a crazy choice sometimes when I was broken needed to go on the show. But if the offer was coming from a place where it was known to not be that friendly or to be combative or just to be an awful room, then I turned it down. So I think I entered a little later than most people. So I came to the decision making with a little bit of life's too short. And did you think that's a pretty rare experience that you had? Yes, my agents were furious. Yes. When I said no to a couple of things with the Sunday afternoon call which you rarely get, and they're like, walk me through your thought process. And I was like, he's a jerk. I'm not gonna go work for them. I entered the business in my early twenties and definitely had a lot less choice. So I kind of lucked out with a great first experience that was that encompassed everything that a writer's room is, you know, it was fun. It was dark people laughed. People really cried, including me. It was. There was a lot of drama. And as I progressed in my career, I have moved into a lot of rooms that have been all women or mostly women. But I do have to say as I've moved into rooms that have had a lot of women might experience has been really different and positive. So just because I think it's a really interesting thing to explore because you've. Both staff your rooms. And so if you guys could speak about what it was when you had a blank slate and you could hire anyone, how did you assemble that team? What? What were you looking for? What was most important to you? The first thing that was important to me was talent on the page. I need it to read writing samples at spoke to me in some way. So it was like talent, reputation, and then a chemistry test. And then from there it was like a move in pieces on chessboard to try to symbol the group that will work really well together up until recently. I don't think I had been in a room or staff to room that I could say was truly diverse in all ways. And having been in a room that was even for a short time, the impact of being in that room was so dramatic and the value was like nothing I had experienced and it completely changed my approach to staffing. And I mean, it's a naive thing to say because, of course, that's obvious. But when you haven't been sitting in a room like that for all these years, you, you don't know. So one of the things is someone who's coming from outside the industry, what does it feel like? How is it different when you get this beautifully, diverse and inclusive writing room with what happens? How is it different? How are the decisions made and what I'm Mike most interested in, how do you think it changes what like we're watching at home in our living rooms? I would say, I think little fires everywhere. I mean, just the way you put that room together and the fact that for us always this was a show. It was a book that inspired conversations about race and class. You were unbelievably intentional in terms of staffing that room with a goal toward a goal of having people come to the same conversation from very different places. Absolutely. Part of the reason that little fires expanded was because I've noticed a tendency in the room that you get this writer to be this voice. Your gay writer is going to be your gave voice in your black writer is going to be your black voice, and your Asian writers can be your Asian voice in your whatever else. And when I met people for the show, everybody had such a vast -ness of things that they could bring to it. And I didn't want any one person to feel like they were the one thing on this show. I wanted each person to feel like they had three or four or five or twenty things that only they could bring to this show. And yes, a lot of those things will overlap suit. So that was very intentional. It's incredibly inspiring to hear about your experiences, your all. Clearly like amazing it, strong talented, collaborative women. I worry a little that people listening might beginning to bit rosier sense of kind of what it is really like here in Hollywood. So I mean, I can tell you lots of. Ginny Dame's. Listen to buy. It's wonderful. This is happening, but house special or unique is the experiences you're describing versus kind of what's typical? Yeah, it's it's interesting. It was funny because in in preparation for doing this, I was trying to kind of remember some things and think about things. And I was actually thinking about two pilots that I did. I was thinking about conversations I had with men in either executive roles or produce Oriole roles who kind of came to me at various times and said, you know, you just don't seem happy that type of thing. You know. And on the first pilot, it was a situation where I had created the show, all these people kind of gotten put. They were all in deal. So it was like, hey, this director as deal at CBS. He's got a direct something. How about putting him on this or this person has this, and it wasn't necessarily a match of like passion for the. Project, and I remember feeling very much like, you know what? I'm not happy like I've kind of take. I was in my twenties. I kind of taken the attitude of like, I'm just so happy to be here like, I'm so grateful that this is happening and I'm feel so young and in my eyes are so big and I'm in Vancouver and I'm in my mom the set of my show, but it doesn't feel like my show and all these decisions are being made by all these men that are thirty years older than me, and nobody's asking me, and then when I'm confused or I'm questioning it, I'm not happy or I'm a problem, and it was really, really upsetting. I hate that. It seems like it's all rosy because it's not, but I'm very, very, very, very clear about what a tolerate and what I don't. And I'm very clear about what situations I want to be in. So you know, being younger and starting this business as an assistant at one of the big agencies that's that's a different this shell. Like, you know, there was crying in coming home at eleven o'clock at night and really crazy things being said, all the time that I had to ignore whether it was sexist or racist or this or that. And you know, just having these conversations about how do I deal with this and not being in an environment where the generation of women who were there at that time because of what they had dealt with were not as here. Let me give you a leg up lemme help you with this. Let me tell you how to navigate it. They were all dealing with the fact that there was room for one. So if there was room for one woman, there was half a room for black woman. So that was a very tricky situation and got the best of me to be quite Frank. I worked here for about four years and couldn't take it anymore. Went back to the bay area where I'm from and went back to writing books. And then I lived in New York for a while. Got a little older and was like, okay, I could handle move Eddie go now, but it was like it. It did it absolutely took me out of the game. It just made me feel like a don't know what I'm doing. I don't know who I am more importantly. I don't like who I feel like I have to be to be in this business, so I need to go home. So you mentioned in that one of the things it's so important to Reese is having a woman at the center of the story in a strong woman. So you were on the Mindy project that a lot of this has to have started there for you. Can you tell me about that experience? I have to say, and I try not to get emotional when I say it really changed my life. I mean I- Mindy Kaeling is the most tremendous woman. She created a show with her name in the title that was so near and dear to her heart. And she worked so hard as a writer as a producer of the show as the star of the show. I mean, talk about like show running. I mean, she. Every little casting decision that was made, how everything looked the costumes. It was all coming through her prison. I mean, obviously she had an extrordinary team around her and truly the best in the business in terms of the people working on that show. But it was her vision and she was so fearless. She was confident and collaborative, but always sure of where she was going. You now the women running the show. So what difference do you think it makes having a woman in charge? I mean, it's everything. I mean, first of all, women get shit done, and if you add mom on top of women, Amen might get shit done. I mean, nothing is worse than some dude who doesn't want to go home versus women. Women want to get in there. They want to get it done and they want to go home and they want to do the other things that they do in life that are equally if not even way more important who have been mentors for you mail or. Email mentors, just weird. You learn how to do this. I just collected mentors along the way Michelle king who I worked with on good wife gave me this really, really great piece of advice that I took into starting the show where she said, when you start to do interviews, always make sure there's a man in the room, and I thought that was really odd. And she said, because if the person comes in to interview with you and they never look at you and they only talk to the men in the room that's going to tell you a lot about what the relationship and what it's going to be like going forward. And it was the best piece of advice ever and Lawrence set in on quite a few meetings that I did for the show. And there were a few moments where we saw it and Shannon, I just melted across the table like, okay, this is happening right? And it would just look at each and it was like, okay, yeah. And it was just like, okay, you know, polite. If my mother's daughter kept dig moving and then they were gone. And it was like John. That it was like, I just sort of collect them if I loved you once I love you always. So even if it's from twenty years ago, you may hear from me and I'm like, hey, let me take you to lunch because you did this this and this for me. And it's helped me in this way. So awhile moment for me in in, it's a movie Bowman, but wonder, woman did so well, commercially had a female director like it just felt like again as a consumer that that was like a wow moment because for so long, I think we've been told women can't carry movies, women directors, they shouldn't have the big budgets, etc. Etc. What if some mount while moments been for you guys recently where you like the damn really is cracking? We'll crazy rich, Asian. Yeah, actually, an amazing example because I was so excited about the movie, obviously for macro reasons. And then for micro reasons, just in that my friend was a co writer of it, and I was just so thrilled for her and it's shot in in her hometown where she grew up in Malaysia and it was it was just exciting. And so my wife and I played hooky from work one day to go. Oh, see it. And we were so excited and just watching it. I mean, I just saw it at the end. So you want to support something like that because it feels weighty and important and timely and lake you must, but watching it, I was like, this is a fucking amazing movie is like, this isn't a movie just to support because you should write. This is a movie that is at and it was. It was just such a wonderful romantic comedy that felt like it had an amazing message. It was so well written, well acted well directed, and it just felt I loved it last year. Black Panther came out, and that felt wonderful to see this big superhero movie wonder woman. And then in TV, it was the shows that delve into specificity of different worlds that had not been opened before, whether that was master of none, which I loved Atlanta, which is just brilliant, insecure where you see. All these Lou windows opening up and you couldn't have told those stories five years ago. I also think if it's less about the specific content and more about the moment, I think time's up in me to our. It has been a paradigm shift because what we have seen is women coming together to support one another and really doing so in a very public way. And I think it's been an ongoing conversation and a lot of what I have observed in terms of this sisterhood is that women are walking the walk and that they are standing up for one another in standing beside one another in a really gorgeous way, and that there is strength in numbers and accountability. And I think it's just it feels like all of these films and these shows are so tremendous. And I think big little lies actually goes in the category with them lily. But I think that it's also just what's going on behind the scenes. That is really revolutionizing the industry in. Really in an exciting way. What does it look like in twenty years? I guess what I hope in twenty years is that people are are continuing to stretch themselves in expand themselves in challenge themselves and and prioritize everyone's stories, not because it's a the the cool thing to do or the thing everyone's doing, but because it's so fundamentally important and I'm hoping that that movies and TV continue to steer the conversation with content in a way that it forces people to continue to have conversations with each other even when they're on different sides of a point of view, different sides of the fence and not just have a conversation about it, but actually listen to each other. If twenty years from now, the Hollywood helped steer everybody back to a more sane place. I'd love that might be I'd Listrik, but I'd love them. I think that what is most important is to be representing all types of characters. To be telling all types of stories. It's really about telling stories that will connect with people. And then as a show, said, inspire conversation. I mean, I think that is so much of what we aspire to do. And as you said, speaking and listening and that we're creating great content as a result in all forms. Awesome. Thank you. Thank you. If you want more from Hello sunshine, check out their podcast, how it is the new season just came out and his focus on values, the value of time, the value of money and how we value ourselves with some incredible guests like Roxane gay, Maria, menounos, and Abby wombat check it out at apple podcasts dot com forward slash. Hello. Sunshine, we're gonna take a quick break to hear from her sponsor, and then we'll be right back to your more from the women's shaking up Hollywood. 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Slash tilted ZipRecruiter the smartest way to hire. Hey, here we go within the top. From the top background, does the exact same thing we've been doing here following morning, I've found my way to the set of Eva longoria new show grant hotel there. Chad with even her team between takes, literally between takes in addition to his voice, you'll hear the voices of Alison Kelly director of photography, Michelle brewery, first assistant director, and Ben specter, EVA's business partner and background and action. So the one thing that looking around, there's a lot of women working off behind the camera with you. It's more than usual. Typical. This is with couple unicorns on our set Allison's, a unicorn wehrley female DP DP director of photography. She's a DP DP. Is. She goes, what's the DVD. Was very important for me to have a women by the camera. We have Michelle's our assistant director. I'm directors a lot of women with female stunt coordinator, which is also pretty rare. So it's been fun crewing up with that perspective in that lens because that never happens when somebody goes women and what people of color. Background action. There are three women standing behind, kind of controlling all the action, which is so amazing. Just to see three women huddled over the screens, watching all the action kind of calling all the shots directing everybody around is just really exciting. So it feels really different than I've only been on one other set and it feels incredibly different than that. So how does it feel to have a female director producer about him camera. It's amazing. We developed the show for two and a half year, so she knew the show from from the DNA of it, and she sort of rushed back from maternity leave. You'll see the baby coming in and out. Social media. So she knows she's, she's doing it all right now she's breastfeeding onset and in between takes and but she's like one of the most prepared directors I've ever seen. She comes in every day with every shot planned out. You know, we had one day last week was a on a location, and we did ninety five different setups, which is like unheard of the vibe on set different because there's so many women here behind the camera we made. It was really important us when we put together the show that we had women at the top of every department. So you know, female DP is almost like a unicorn, the really hard to find the good ones are always working with two female. I Davies Michelle's worked with EVA's and she was on desperate housewives. So those really important ASTA where people can trust it in women because that's, that's that's different town. It's a better working environment for us. So we talk a lot more women behind the camera. Why do you think that makes a difference in terms of what we see at home? I think that you know the lens in which you view life should be the lens in which we create entertainment. If we only have male directors, there's such a male perspective on on how you would walk upstairs, how you would deliver the scene, how you would give birth. If the women's directing. She's a very different perspective as to what is important in the scene to show to shoot to here to feel. And I think that's why you want women behind the camera because it does make a difference of what goes on screen, which makes a difference in what people see, which makes a difference in how people consume media, which makes a difference on how people perceive women's the it is a chain reaction saying that what people color same thing with like, you know, as a Latino when all you see on the news is immigration and the vilifying of Latinos, people automatically assume Latino is. Honest with immigrants or Latino synonymous would be legal, and that's not the case, but that's because that's all we see. Then that's what people believe. We have very big responsibility in the media to reflect society in its truth. I think. All right. Right. Could we hurry right. Notice as an actor have for said, like full number hind camera. I wouldn't be asked to do this or won't be happening this way. Oh my God. No, no, he's a person of color. I've had somebody tell me, could you be more Latino? Say I don't know what that looks like because I am. So what do you mean? Do you want to angrier? Do you want it happy like that's not a an emotional direction for me to be keeping more sexy, Lima yourself? Yeah. Allison gyp to something to say the Leinen folks described as a unicorn twice. So why is it so rare to have women in your role. It's traditionally a men's roles, but they're more and more of us. Women do peas and. It's just it's, I think it took a long time for people to believe that women could run a set because when I run the crib, like forty people in my crew, a may just would always ask me, what can you do it? Can you bus everybody around. Technical. It's like women doing any technical job that likes, of course of women can't do technical job. Yeah, so and some of it was camera operating. But now I've operators where it was always like, I would get asked interviews, can you? Can you hold that camera? Who was who women tours to you then? Did you have mostly male mentors? Was there a female mentor that kind of came up in New York, and I used to work with a Deke named Ellen curse who shot eternal sunshine of the spotless mind a bunch of stuff, and she's great. Yeah. Get out of your hair because I know you're super busy, but I'm also curious like you were an app in our an actor and a really successful one. Was there an aha moment? We like I gotta get buying the camera. People always say that I was an actor turned director. I've always been in director turned actor. Predicting producer. I've always loved the business side of the business, and I felt like when I was acting it wasn't using my full potential and I was like, I could be doing so much more. And then I wanted to have final control the product or control of the final product. Like it just I didn't want to stand there and say my lines and not have a choice of what take they chose or who they cast as my husband and what music they lay under here. So it was mostly because I wanted to control my own destiny in this industry. I think also, dick y, y become a director. I love creating content, but I love greeting opportunities. I remember when I thought of telenovela the shows just in my head, we hired a writer, they executed it amazing and the sets were going up and I was walking the sets with a friend of our Shaun Cassidy and the the all the construction people were working in painting and building, and and Sean goes in this great. You had an idea. Now, three hundred people have a job, and I was like, oh my God. I never thought of it that way. And same thing with this, we're trying to get the set finished by today. It was sixty crew people here over the weekend hammering and painting and and it's cool to see people have jobs. Cbs up. I was saying, I was kind of paint a picture that there's three women kind of huddled around, but like it should be that that's extraordinarily right. I shouldn't have to be surprised by that. It's the first show is ever worked ton, and he's worked on for like thirty years on chose, but as a woman director and women DP I show. Yeah, that's so that's why I wanted to thinking. Daily. The flash from the under it's life. I told her female stunt coordinator to it's kind of sad that it's not the norm yet in two thousand eighteen. But it's still a special. I mean, it is special that like that. It isn't just like, oh, of course. As we were walking out, I got to spend a few minutes chatting back and forth with eve is fearless assistant, Brenda surface. So Brenda, I know you're just getting started in entertainment. Your eve is assistant, which is an amazing way to get started. Of course, you're a woman in a woman who Kelly yourself as you look to the future, how do you feel about where we are right now? I do feel very hopeful and it's very exciting to be working in a year where all this change is occurring and it's really exciting to be working for someone who is a prominent figure that movement to change that for more positive step towards diversity. So it's really great feel like a tipping point. It really does. He really does. So I'm very excited to see how far we can get and see how far we've come from that class. Light bread. I think we may finally be at a tipping point in Hollywood. I know it's not a sure thing and wowed. We have a long way to go to get to a quality on an offscreen, but I can't help, but feel excited growing up my favorite action hero as we're Luke Skywalker and Indiana Jones. My son, Gavin is thirteen. He is favorites too, but their cabinets and Ray in Black Panther the movies and shows we watch shape how we see the world, how we see each other and even what we think is possible. This is not just about entertainment. The work Hollywood does reflects in shades or culture, and the people I met really understand this and they're passionate about it. They are the heroes of this story. Thank you for listening and join us next week when we sit down with our own Sheryl Sandberg Joanna Coles, Phoebe Robinson and Sean fantasy from the ring to answer men's questions about work sex and everything in between. This has been tilted a Leinen podcast, and I'm your host Rachel. Thomas, please subscribe to us an apple podcasts, Stitcher, Spotify, Google play over ever. You get your podcasts are produces, are Jordan balance, Sharon Morris, and special. Thanks to Katie Missouri ni alley bore and Meghan Rooney from the Leinen team and Laura merit Stitcher. Our engineers for this episode or Mike dodge Weiskopf, and rob Huffman, and our music was composed by Casey Holford. You know, it doesn't make sense jobsites it overwhelming with tons of the wrong resumes, but you know, what does ZipRecruiter dot com? Slash tilted. It's powerful matching technology scans, thousands of resumes identifies the right people for your job and actively invites them to apply. See you get the right candidates and you get them fast right now till the listeners can try ZipRecruiter for free at ZipRecruiter dot com. Slash tilted that ZipRecruiter dot com. Slash tilted ZipRecruiter the smartest way to hire.