A big thing happened on Friday night - we changed from Badass Digest to BIRTH.MOVIES.DEATH. Oh, and Josh Trank left the Star Wars Anthology film he was set to direct. The official statement is that he left to pursue other things, the scuttlebutt is that he was fired, and Trank himself told me that he left because he has an original idea he has been wanting to do since he was a kid and that now is the time to strike. The history books will tell us the full behind-the-scenes story of what happened here, but the upside is that there's a Star Wars movie that is happening that needs a director.
That director should be a woman.
When we saw the first cast photo for Star Wars: The Force Awakens we noted how white male it all seemed. We were wrong, thankfully, and The Force Awakens is the most diverse blockbuster outside of the Fast and Furious series - the lead is a woman, and her co-leads are a black man and a Guatemalan/Cuban man. The main bad guy is a white man, but he's working with a badass woman. It's really important to note how wonderfully progressive JJ Abrams and Lucasfilm are being here, and to also note that this cast looks awesome, not like a bunch of PC hires intended to mollify the left. These are just good choices.
While things are very diverse in front of the camera, the director's chair is still occupied by the same standard type of Star Wars director. From George Lucas to Irvin Kershner to Richard Marquand to JJ Abrams to Rian Johnson to Gareth Edwards, it's all been white men. And Josh Trank was another white man. It's time to shake that up.
I think Lucasfilm might just be ready to do that. The company already has strong diversity behind the scenes - Kathleen Kennedy is running it all, and Kiri Hart of the Lucasfilm Story Group is, according to insiders, the brilliant driving force behind the new world of Star Wars, so there's certainly representation at different levels. I think that Lucasfilm is really a beacon for how to move into a diverse future. Now they have an opportunity to make that future even more diverse by giving a woman a shot at the biggest franchise going.
Right now only 18% of narrative features are directed by women. A recent study found that female-directed indie films tend to get smaller distribution deals than male-directed films. There's this weird belief that there are no qualified female filmmakers out there but nobody bats an eye when male indie directors like Colin Treverrow or Jordan Vogt-Roberts get the ability to jump right from low budget films to blockbusters like Jurassic World and Kong: Skull Island. It's a small, likely unconscious bias that makes us see these male indie directors as 'appropriate' to take the leap while it seems weird to have an indie female director like Gillian Robespierre or Lynn Shelton make a similar jump to blockbusters.
Part of that unconcscious bias comes from the people making decisions. Vulture's Kyle Buchanan nailed it with these tweets:
Brad Bird got Colin Trevorrow that JURASSIC WORLD gig by saying, "There is this guy that reminds me of me" http://t.co/RYJSTS0X9r— Kyle Buchanan (@kylebuchanan) April 28, 2015
…which may inadvertently reveal why women and minority filmmakers have such a hard time: White guys hire guys who remind them of themselves— Kyle Buchanan (@kylebuchanan) April 28, 2015
It's such an obvious thing, but seeing it expressed like that makes so much sense. Because men run the system they tend to gravitate to people who remind them of themselves at a younger age - ie, other men.
Which is where I hope Kathleen Kennedy steps in and finds a director who reminds her of herself.
One of the great things about a Star Wars movie a year is that now we can get different perspectives. The films aren't just telling the story that Lucas started, they're branching off all over the place. It's time for the storytellers to be coming from different perspectives as well. And none of this means we need to change whatever Trank's movie was going to be - a female director doesn't mean the second Star Wars Anthology installment has to suddenly become a romcom. A female director can make a movie just as visceral and exciting and fun and action-packed as any man. If the guy who made Safety Not Guaranteed can make Jurassic World than the woman who made Obvious Child could make Star Wars Anthology: Young Han Solo or whatever that film is going to be.
Lucasfilm can really make a difference by hiring women and minorities to make their films. They're in a position where they need a lot of product, and that means they need a lot of filmmakers. They can change the entire conversation about woman in filmmaking by simply bucking the white male trend when replacing their latest white male. I think the tenth Star Wars movie is as good a place as any to make some changes.