Reese Witherspoon is speaking out against the mistreatment of female directors in Hollywood, telling EW during a recent Beyond Beautiful roundtable that the film industry is reluctant to give women a fair shake in the director’s chair.
“As a male director, if your first movie out of the gate is not very good, you’re definitely going to get a second movie and a third movie — now you have a reel,” the actress says. “If you’re a woman and you direct your first movie and it’s not very good, it’s terrifying because you might not work again, and we don’t get that second, third, fourth, and fifth chance to make it right. [Studios are] not plucking women from Sundance and saying, ‘Hey, direct Jurassic [World].”
Witherspoon’s comments recall a recent two-year DGA diversity study, released in December 2015, which found that of the 347 feature films released in the U.S. between 2013 and 2014, only 6.4 percent were directed by women — 5.1 percent caucasian females and 1.3 percent minority females. The grosses of the films surveyed represented 97 percent of the total domestic box-office grosses for both years. In terms of films distributed by major studios during that time period, the slates of both 20th Century Fox and Universal featured the highest percentage of female-directed films at 6 percent, while 9 percent of films from smaller distributors Lionsgate and Summit Entertainment were directed by women.
“I feel like there’s a lack of opportunity at a very ground level — interns, getting girls from different walks of life to tell their stories, to write their stories,” she continues. “Part of it is they’re not on sets. They can’t see the majority of screenwriters are male. I feel like we need to have more opportunities for young women to see what we do.”
Fellow Beyond Beautiful panelist, Desperate Housewives star Eva Longoria, further stressed Witherspoon’s sentiments, emphasizing the importance of creating more opportunities for young women to build a foundation in the entertainment industry from the bottom to the top.
“The pipeline is dry. If you don’t touch every rung of the ladder in this industry — if you weren’t on a set, if you weren’t an extra, if you’re not a PA — it’s hard to say, ‘I’m going to be a director!'” she adds. “You’ve got to know how a crew works. That’s what we’re lacking with females is a pipeline [in which] they have that first step, where can they become a writing intern, where can they be on a set.”
Both Witherspoon and Longoria have founded companies focused on producing stories by and about women; Witherspoon’s Pacific Standard backed 2014’s Wild, which Witherspoon produced and starred in, while Longoria’s UnbeliEVAble Entertainment is currently producing her comeback television series, NBC’s Telenovela.
Watch Witherspoon speak more about women behind the camera in the video above.