Doctor Who and Tank Girl helmer Rachel Talalay encouraged women directors to “kick down that glass ceiling” in a rousing speech at the Egyptian Theatre in Los Angeles on Saturday night. Talalay made the comment in the course of accepting the 2018 Inspiration Award at Etheria Film Night, a showcase of short science-fiction, fantasy, action, thriller, and horror films by female directors. Many of the directors responsible for this year’s films were in the audience, and it was to them, and to the other women filmmakers present, that Talalay addressed her remarks.
“I am constantly exasperated that my gender is even a topic of discussion,” Talalay said, after being introduced by Tank Girl star Lori Petty. “But we’re on the cusp now, and I want you, all of you, to use genre as a voice to get under their skins, make your statements, tell your stories, break down their walls, and kick down that glass ceiling.”
She added, “It was [years ago] when the Dixie Chicks had their lives threatened for criticizing George W. Bush and they were told to ‘Shut up and sing.’ Now we are yelling back, ‘Shut up and listen.’ Our stories are part of our revolutions, shut up and listen.… As a post-punk feminist warrior, I can’t stop fighting, and none of you can either.”
Talalay also said she was inspired by the scripts of Doctor Who, and quoted a line of dialogue from the beloved time travel show, originally spoken by Matt Smith’s Eleventh Doctor.
“I want to end on a more positive note,” Talalay said. “I often find inspiration in the beautiful poetry in the writing on Doctor Who. In a revolutionary move, the doctor has — improbably — regenerated into a woman, against all past predictions. Hooray! In one of her male incarnations, she said, ‘I am and always will be the optimist, the hoper of far-flung hopes, and the dreamer of improbable dreams.’ These are no longer dreams, and they are no longer improbable. Our voices matter and will be heard.”
Talalay has previously spoken about Hollywood’s double standard with regard to female directors. In a speech the filmmaker gave in 2016 when she was honored as Woman of the Year by Women in Film + Television Vancouver, she recalled meeting with her agents to talk about future plans after she directed an episode of Sherlock. “They said, ‘Yes, you have done Sherlock,’” Talalay said. “‘Yeah, the other Sherlock directors have all been offered pilots and features off the back of it. But, remember, you are a woman.’”
Women “can do anything and everything,” Talalay told EW the same year. “It’s crazy that the statistics are so terrible.”
Talalay’s other directing credits include Supergirl, The Flash, Riverdale, and the 1991 Nightmare on Elm Street sequel Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare. In addition, she produced two films by director John Waters (1988’s Hairspray and 1990’s Cry-Baby), who paid tribute to Talalay in a video screened at the event Saturday.
Etheria Film Night also saw the 2018 Stephanie Rothman Fellowship Award being given to young filmmaker Lizz Marshall. This new award is for female film students interested in making genre movies and is named after the pioneering independent director of 1970’s The Student Nurses and Terminal Island.
Both the Etheria Jury Award and the Audience Award were won by Jocelyn Stamat’s sci-fi/horror short Laboratory Conditions, about a quest to locate the human soul. Marisa Tomei and Minnie Driver star.