Maria Giese’s first movie was shown at Cannes in 1995. She hasn’t been paid to write or direct in good ole Hollywood since. In this amazing article, the woman who helped launch the ACLU’s Hollywood anti-gender discrimination campaign talks about how it all came about:
by Maria Giese
Twenty years ago I was a director, part of the Hollywood gold rush culture, chasing my dream. I pursued that dream relentlessly. By 2011, I had failed — utterly. A few months ago, my picture appeared on the front page of the Los Angeles Times, then in Fortune with the headline: “Meet the Woman Who Started the EEOC Investigation Into Sexism in Hollywood.” How did it come to this?
When I enrolled in the graduate directing program at UCLA’s School of Theater, Film and Television, thanks to Title IX, my class was 50 percent women and 50 percent men. Still, I should have seen trouble ahead: There was only one female directing professor, and men had directed almost 100 percent of the films we studied.
Nevertheless, I was confident that, with talent and hard work, I would join the pantheon of auteur directors. My first short film, A Dry Heat, won a UCLA Spotlight Award and a CINE Golden Eagle and was a finalist for a Student Academy Award.
A few years and many awards later, I received my diploma, handed to me by Francis Ford Coppola. Shaking my hand, he said, “Good luck.” I was already green-lighted to direct a feature I had written, When Saturday Comes, produced by Capitol Films and starring Sean Bean, Pete Postlethwaite and Emily Lloyd.
The film screened at Cannes. I signed with the William Morris Agency. I was attached to several feature films and was observing on Dick Wolf shows in preparation to direct episodic TV. It was 1995. I was ready to launch.
Who could have guessed that 1995 would mark the year the number of female director hires hit its all-time peak? For the rest of my career, that number would decline and sink into stasis.
I would never work again as a paid feature director. I would never be entrusted with an episode of primetime TV. I would be dropped by my agency. I watched as my male peers became the cinematic voices of our time. I watched as men who hadn’t directed features and had half my training became wealthy and sought-after TV directors.
I became part of a lost generation of female voices in American cinema and television. Marginalized as a group, we blamed ourselves for our individual failures. Yet, deep down, we all knew that the industry had failed us. Finally, shut out no matter what I said or did, I lost all fear.
There were many triggers, but the strongest was my realization that the virtual absence of women directors in Hollywood was tantamount to the censoring and silencing of female voices in U.S. media — America’s most influential global export….
EDITOR’S NOTE: While we were researching the facts in this article we came across something that offers another explanation for the non-start of Maria Giese’s career – a review of WHEN SATURDAY COMES by a writer named Susie McBeth that asks the question, “Is this the worst soccer movie ever?” so, jeeze, gang, what the hell?