Upon arrival at the studio a security officer told her, “Honey, they’re expecting you,” and directed her to a room full of young women. Soon Boyle was ushered into an office and told to “take off your pants.”
It turned out to be a casting call for a beach movie. After Boyle explained her real purpose, she was sent across the lot. Boyle got the job, but this jarring introduction to sexism in Hollywood stuck with the young lawyer.
Boyle went on to a successful career as a studio executive and film producer who supervised such hits as “Desperately Seeking Susan,” “The Terminator,” “Platoon” and “Robocop.” Along the way, she fought to make room for women in the male-dominated entertainment industry. She’s now head of the Department of Film, Television and Digital Media at the School of Theater, Film and Television (TFT). And she has words of encouragment.
“This couldn’t be a better time for women in the industry,” said Boyle.
Last year in particular brought triumphs for women directors. Sofia Coppola (“Lost in Translation”) was the first American woman ever nominated for best director. “Thirteen,” the teen rebellion movie directed by TFT alumna Catherine Hardwicke and edited by production professor Nancy Richardson, won the coveted Director’s Award at the Sundance Film Festival and an Oscar nod for supporting actress Holly Hunter. Another TFT alumna, Audrey Wells, scored a box-office hit with her screen adaptation of Frances Mayes’ “Under the Tuscan Sun.”
But Hardwicke said women directors should not expect anything to come easily. “The fact that a lot of women made good films last year was no thanks to the studios, except for Sony with ‘Something’s Gotta Give,’ Hardwicke said. “Those other movies got made the old-fashioned way, by scraping and scrounging.”
Despite an impressive string of credits as a production designer (“Laurel Canyon,” “Three Kings,” “Vanilla Sky”), Hardwicke had a hard time securing financing for “Thirteen” — a low-budget indie and her first outing as a director. Determined to get the film made quickly and on her own terms, Hardwicke threw herself into the project. “I was just like a mad dog — I was going to make this no matter what it took,” said Hardwicke.
Through its efforts to train a diverse range of artists, UCLA has played an undeniable role in helping women gain access to the power corridors of Hollywood. “We’ve had to help redress the imbalances that have long characterized the entertainment industry,” said TFT Dean Robert Rosen.
Today, there’s no shortage of female role models in the executive suite. Among the most prominent trailblazers is Sherry Lansing, who is now chair of Paramount Pictures’ Motion Picture Group, a UC regent and a member of TFT’s Dean’s Advisory Board. Women are television network chiefs at ABC and Fox and are calling the shots as directors. Becky Smith, a professor in the production/directing program, is a director on the hit show, “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy.”
To help gain a competitive edge in a tough job market, women — and men — at UCLA undergo exhaustive training in the technical aspects of the industry, including sound, design, lighting, production design and camera operation. This well-rounded teaching method makes UCLA grads “extremely qualified to pursue careers in the film industry,” Smith said. “They are encouraged to master both technical and creative issues of film production.”
Professor Linda Voorhees urges women filmmakers to take risks. “Don’t chase the marketplace or what has been. Go with your voice and your vision. Hollywood needs to be shaken up.”