Wilde at SXSW: I want to see more movies that will inspire my daughter Daisy

“I love acting and am proud to be an actress,” Olivia Wilde told the SXSW crowd during her film keynote earlier today. “But that’s what all girls had to look up to…and that’s why it’s so thrilling for my daughter Daisy to see a movie like Booksmart directed, produced, written and edited by women.”

Wilde is in Austin to premiere, Booksmart,  a coming of age story about two academic superstars and best friends who, on the eve of their high school graduation, realize they should have worked less and played more. They are both young women. Booksmart is made possible because of the four women who wrote it: Sarah Haskins, Susanna Fogel, Katherine Silberman, and Emily Halpern. Half of its producers are women.

It is Wilde’s feature-length directorial debut. And something she has wanted to do for some time. “I wanted to make a movie like the movies that inspired me when I was young,” she told the audience. “A woman is more likely to have a relationship with a fish than have a conversation with another woman about something other than a man.”

Over the weekend Captain Marvel, Marvel Studio’s first female solo superhero movie took in a monstrous $455 Million from the international box office, beating projections. It stars Brie Larson as the title character. Captain Marvel’s big open should encourage Hollywood’s decision makers, who skew male and white, to greenlight more movies featuring women in roles that traditionally are not available to them. Like superheroes. It should also encourage them to give women writers and directors a chance.

In 2017 we saw the success of Wonder Woman, the first superhero film directed by a woman, Patty Jenkins. Wonder Woman brought in $821.8 Million at the box office. It also received rave review from critics. Wonder Woman 2 comes out next summer.  The audience is there to watch films with female protagonists, yet Hollywood has resisted for so long. The reason Hollywood has resisted so long has to do with the decision makers. Women do not have the same seats at the table as their male counterparts.

According to Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film, of the top 100 grossing films of 2018 women represent only 4% directors, 15% of writers, 3% of cinematographers, 18% of producers and executive producers and 14% of editors. However, women represented 50% of moviegoers. Women also represent over 50% of the the world population. When women aren’t in the writing rooms or in the director chairs, they end up on film, as Olivia notes, having conversations with one another about a man. Although surprising to some, not every conversation women have with one another is about men. When women are in the writers’ room and directors chairs we get Women Woman. We get Captain Marvel. We get Olivia Wilde’s Booksmart.

When women are at the table, young girls are able to see themselves represented. This shapes the way they think of themselves.  It will increase their confidence. Young boys are able to see strong women on film. They will learn to respect women and not objectify or sexualize them. They are able to understand that women can do everything a man can. Their will be more understanding. We can begin to see more equality and that will lead to the necessary systemic change that needs to occur.

Photo Credit: Sonic Highlark

Wilde got into directing to inspire girls. The best way for her to do that is to grab a seat at the the table. Wilde said the problem is that too often people look to hire those with experience, and because of systemic sexism, racism and so forth that those with experience tend to be white men. If you keep hiring only white men, they will be the only ones with experience. She concluded that we need a “paradigm shift.”

As her keynote wrapped up, an audience member asked how best he can raise his daughters to be like her, a strong woman who works hard to get that seat at the table, and has the respect from men. She quickly and so eloquently responded, “the fact that you asked that question means you’re already doing it.”

Keep asking the questions and keep trying to get a seat at the table. Take your daughters and your sons to Captain Marvel. Participate in that much needed paradigm shift.