Laurine Garaude, Director of the Television Division for Reed MIDEM opened the luncheon and introduced Amanda Hill, Chief Marketing Officer for A&E Networks (above). Hill started the luncheon off with a discussion of possibility for changing the views of women in the industry. She spoke about this generation of women that “refuses to be boxed in, who refuse to be bound”. Hill then went to say as storytellers, we have the opportunity to “repaint the picture of the possible…and break the stereotypes of women.”
After showing clips of the groundbreaking work that was being done by women at Lifetime and A&E, Hill sat down with the two stars of Lifetime’s television show, UnREAL. The actresses, Shiri Appleby and Emmy award nominated Constance Zimmer discussed how the show UnREAL was about the unlikely aspect of friendship of their two characters. Zimmer commented how friendships were often portrayed as being between two people at the best, but ended up being about the friendship between two people at their worst. “Real friendships are the ones that are completely complicated. You know all of the person’s faults and you still love them despite those faults,” said Zimmer. This aspect of the shows characters interaction helps the characters connect with the audience.
The next panel was moderated by Melissa Guthrie, Television Editor, East Coast for the Hollywood Reporter. The panelists included Betsy Beers, partner in Shondaland, whose hit credits as a producer include Grey’s Anatomy; and Euzhan Palcy, director of a Dry White Season. The audience was treated with a clip from Palcy’s interview with Nelson Mandela from May 8, 1995 about The Role of Women. Women have been “accepted as equals. The principal has been accepted, but the implementation leaves much to be desired,” Mandela stated in the interview. Beers commented that the television industry has made more advances than the film industry in placing women in key-decision making roles.
Guthrie then went back to Palcy’s experience in working with Marlon Brando on Dry White Season. The audience seemed fascinated to hear the tales of the only woman to direct the great Marlon Brando. Palcy also recalled how she had to sneak into South Africa as a music producer and singer to do research for the film. She also smuggled out interviews of the actual survivors of the apartheid regime, at great personal risk.
The discussion then changed to how things have seemed to improve recently compared to the past. Guthrie asked, “Is this the tipping point moment?” Beers then retorted: “the thing that irritates me the most about periods of time like this is that it’s considered to be sort of a fad. It’s like ‘oooh this could be the year of the woman’. Why is there a year, you guys? What’s happening right now should be happening forever, and always“.
The panel concluded with Palcy sharing how it was her grandmother who inspired her to go out and tell the stories that otherwise would not have been told. Beers cited her working mother and father as her inspiration. As the speakers left the stage, the audience at the table seemed to gravitate toward a discussion of story and character.
After today, there seemed to be a sentiment at least from the women in the room, that we have reached the “tipping point”; that the cause of women in entertainment not just a fad and the discussion will continue for many years to come.