Hollywood Is The Most Successful Propaganda Machine Of All Time

Hollywood, women

Hollywood’s marketing campaign against women has worked

The dinosaurs are happily making movies and TV shows, seemingly unbothered by the shadow hurtling toward them.

The shadow is a meteor and the meteor is Bad Artists.

Bad Artists — the white men who have so successfully narrativized and marketed patriarchy and white supremacy and the women who act like them to get their jobs — have turned Hollywood into a massive scaled algorithmic propaganda machine that affects us so deeply we’re almost unable to see it.

* * *

Hollywood has run a massive advertising campaign at scale targeting almost every human in the developed and some of the developing world for the past one hundred years.
Hollywood has a feed through which it’s been disseminating fake news to every screen on earth — multiplex theaters and mobile phones, through massive tentpole movies and the tiniest web series and the advertising campaigns and the merchandizing and the PR tours and the talking points that accompany these money-making ventures — trying to reach as many eyeballs as possible and as repetitively as possible (franchises and long-running series) because this is where the real money is.

Fake news? But that’s not fair — they are making fiction.
They (we) are spreading fake news, just like the social networks, because we are making propaganda that presents a fake reality. We create a picture of reality as created by white men (almost exclusively) and in which patriarchal white experiences are the preferred experiences, the dominant experiences, the situation worth preserving, the good ole’ days, “traditional” values. And because this fake news is the way we zone out after work and entertain our children, this becomes our culture.
The people who get to create Hollywood’s fake news get to create our culture.

* * *

Empirical studies show that marketing doesn’t happen instantly and it doesn’t happen when you’re being told it’s happening. Any given marketing push might push your perception of a brand 1–2%, but that push can have profound effects at scale over populations. It can change the outcome of an election.
Hollywood’s hundred-year marketing campaign for misogyny, racism and the maintenance of white supremacy and patriarchy distributed to eyeballs worldwide could have moved perceptions at least 1–2% or far more in favor of white supremacy, patriarchy, and ultimately fascism.
Add the compounding effect of algorithms — the fact that an increasingly profit-driven corporate environment coupled with more sophisticated data science allows platform owners to show audiences more of what they think they already want to see (preferences) based on what they have been conditioned to like by those same platform owners. Hollywood’s algorithms are clumsy and old-fashioned, run by bloated expensive marketing departments who have rusty old prediction tools to go by (including their gut). Newer tech companies use real algorithms, which make their ability to serve you more of what you already like faster, more dangerous and more powerful. The effect of the old-fashioned marketing department’s gut instinct just compounds faster. Facebook learned that fake news out-performed real news for enagement and so was willing to continue knowingly serve fake news to users, primarily on the far right, compounding and distorting perceptions just to make money. They knew they were ginning up the fascism machine. For money.
You have a generation of tech bros who grew up on the first kind of algorithmic social feed showing them more of what they already knew and liked (Hollywood marketing patriarchy directly to them and their tastes) going on to create an even more dangerous and powerful version of what Hollywood taught them was ok — with everyone denying responsibility for their actions when their propaganda machine enabled the rise of fascism in America.

* * *
In the aftermath of November 8, 2016, people pointed to a lot of causes of the Trump victory, but I didn’t see very many people talking about gender.
One of the greatest lies we’ve witnessed lately is the collective delusion that Obama’s election and popular terms as President meant that white supremacy in America wasn’t as virulent as ever — and maybe even growing.
But 53% of white women voted for Trump!” people were saying, meaning, gender wasn’t a factor here.
There were certainly many factors, including voter suppression, DNC failure to appeal to struggling Americans, Russia interference, the media’s false equivalence between a qualified candidate and a dangerous one, Facebook and other monetizers of fake news, the FBI’s interference with Comey’s agenda-driven investigation into a fake email scandal, and mainstream media outlets’ willingness to allow themselves to become a “host body” for far-right disseminators (like Trump strategist Steve Bannon) of investigative attacks against Clinton that fanned the illusion of scandal using the trustworthiness of places like the New York Times as cover.
But if you take a higher level view, at least some of these causes were really about gender.
We are talking about a culture that despises women. A culture that wants women to stay in our places as the quiescent, submissive, underpaid or unpaid permanent underclass that serves men and allows men to continue staying in power. This culture gave Steve Bannon his huge ratings on his long-running Hillary Clinton “narratives” (a Hollywood word if I’ve ever heard one) in his early days at Breitbart News, eventually leading him to establish an entire institute funded with millions to scour the dark web for his “investigations” and plant the results in the New York Times and other legitimate news organizations.
Steve Bannon — the self-professed neo-nazi that Trump has made his chief strategist — is a bad artist.
This woman-hating culture enabled the media’s false equivalence between an accused sexual predator and someone accused of deleting emails — or at least helped perpetuate it. The media are bad artists.
Most people don’t know that they hate women. It’s just a low-level feeling that surrounds them. Men are good until proven otherwise, and women are only good if they stay in place. If they successfully perform roles that look and feel traditionally female. And if they don’t, time to jump on social media to share those feelings. Where we’ll be greeted with algorithms that aggregate other reactions that compound the gut feeling I already have from my misogynist culture. Yeah, it really does feel bad that she’s stepping out of line. She must be crooked and a liar, like the New York Times said.

Both men and women have these gut reactions. They are not limited to women they see in the news or above themselves. They feel that way toward people at work, people they’re considering for jobs. When women experience it, it’s called internalized misogyny.

* * *

Patriarchy is invested in women taking the women’s jobs. Because so long as men get to keep the men’s jobs and women stay in their assigned roles — the women’s jobs — everything looks and feels like it’s more or less the same. We get pats on the head and the women’s jobs and limited power that they dole out to us. But they won’t give us real power. What they won’t do is give us real platforms. They won’t let us do the important work, or be paid enough to be able to take risks required to do that work on our own. They won’t let us make or direct or write the prestige pictures or shows that people actually pay attention to.
It’s one thing to hire a woman in some woman job and it’s another thing to give a woman power. Give a woman a platform where she can shape a narrative directly and actually reach large numbers of people.
Women find it very difficult to get financing, in Hollywood, Silicon Valley, everywhere, for this reason.
I’ve been more and more outspoken about sexism in Hollywood over the past year or two. My agent told me that male writers had said to him “do you really represent Julie Bush?” and to me the unspoken piece was — are you sure? A threat. Consciously or unconsciously, the body politic working to remove a threat to the status quo.
I don’t know who these male writers were, but we can safely call them bad artists.
Artists aren’t threatened when other artists question authority structures. Artists don’t work to shore up the power structures that serve them personally when other artists speak about being oppressed by those power structures.

* * *

We may look back on this as the Troll Election. People online joked that the comments section is now establishing an authoritarian regime.
But what makes a troll? A troll is someone who feels so disempowered by those he perceives is usurping power or status he feels should rightfully be his that he relieves his anxiety by passive-aggressively attacking the perceived usurper online.
Women are the overwhelming targets of troll abuse. You could frame this entire election through the lens of an ambitious woman seeking a job and a psychopathic troll inflaming the gut-level fears of his followers, manipulating the media, engaging sock-puppets to do his dirty work, and launching “investigations” to stop her.
I have experienced all these kinds of troll attacks.
When I published my first Medium piece — Women in Hollywood: A Shitshow — a screenwriter I had considered a twitter friend for years declined to share it because he said he didn’t feel it was well-written. He said he’d share the next one, once I made my point more clearly, because he’s the biggest supporter of women there is. Within a year he was trolling me so hard I had to block him on twitter.
Everyone knows that Hitler was a bad artist as a young man — and the joke goes that maybe we could have prevented the Holocaust by buying some of his paintings. I have a joke that online trolls are bad artists — frustrated little Hitlers so stopped up by the emotional and spiritual demands of actually making something they turn instead to online authoritarian regimes where they police strangers’ behavior and punish them for not falling into line. Or they run for President and win.

* * *

People are saying great art will come out of this catastrophe.
Cuz you know what lead to this? Bad art.
If Hollywood hadn’t been so busy hiring bros just because they were white and male, we wouldn’t be in this position now.

We wouldn’t have been systematically conditioned by virtually every entertainment we experience to think that women are less than, white is better.
Bad art lead to this.

* * *

When we talk about what stars to attach to projects, we talk about how meaningful they are. How much they’re worth. How meaningful a star is usually has not that much to do with their actual acting ability and more to do with how well they’ve managed to game the system — how well they’ve chosen their projects, how well their reps have put them up for good work and steered them away from bad work, how much audiences like them. And how much the buyers like them, meaning the people who write the checks. It’s subjective filter on top of subjective filter, and women always come out “less meaningful” (women of color even “less meaningful”) even though box office studies show projects starring women bring in more money.
Screenwriters and directors go through a similar filtering process, and the results are every bit as subjective. A filter that’s the actual work itself (perhaps the least impactful filter). The ability to game the system filter. The hangability filter (how much do producers and executives wanna hang with this writer or director? This is a real criterion that hiring decisions are made on.) The previous projects filter (which depends on large part on what jobs the person had access to, via her reps putting her up or execs being willing to consider her for certain kinds of projects). The filters go on and on, and then people wring their hands about why and how 90% of studio movies are written by men and 96% of studio movies are directed by men.

* * *

Billy Ray, head of the negotiating committee for our union the WGA, made a joke on the Scriptnotes podcast to the effect of — I fantasize that in twenty years there will be a Nuremberg Trial for everyone in Hollywood responsible for destroying cinema. Something like that. I think his point was more about the corporatization of America’s homegrown art form, and the abandoning of art. But he’s a mensch and I think he would agree that part of the problem has been the powerful’s failure and unwillingness to diversify. Their products are actively falling behind the demographics of their audience, as they say to themselves — but there aren’t any women or people of color qualified to take the job (after they have systematically marketed against those people being interested for the past thirty years, as I was dissuaded as a child, or they rely on the reps to “educate” them on who to hire.
They treat Hollywood like an ATM that’s never gonna run out. We’ll keep handing out deals to the same bad artists cuz the scripts don’t matter, the content (barf) doesn’t matter … we know how to put the numbers together to squeeze profit out of garbage. We have the same contempt for our audience that we’ve taught them to have for us. This is gonna last forever! We’re not striking axe blows into the golden goose, one terrible movie at a time … right? Guys?
We make art but that memo hasn’t reached many of us.

* * *

I was bulimic as a teenager. I would vomit blood routinely.
Now I see that constant vomiting was the only rational, sensitive response to what I was experiencing.

If you weren’t regularly vomiting blood (or pick your pleasure) you were probably a bad artist. You grew up to be a bad artist.

* * *

I was exquisitely tuned to feel what was happening around me. I didn’t have the language then — I hadn’t yet been radicalized — but my body was tuned to my own oppression. And because I had neither the language to describe my experience nor the platform to be believed, I was vomiting multiple times a day.

Girls are socialized to relate to our emotions, boys are socialized to tune them out. (And this is its own tragedy — by all means boys deserve to be socialized to enjoy full access to their emotions and those of the people around them. This is an important goal of feminism.) Art, if it’s anything, is creating something that allows someone else to experience an emotion. Girls have been shut out from making art, from the earliest stages (by culture, marketing, by not being invited in at every stage of the process, by internalized misogyny, by non-stop messaging put out by the Hollywood propaganda machine and others telling them “great artists are white and male.”
Hiring and promoting only white men to be artists makes for bad art, inflates and feeds bad artists. I understand this is a radical statement.
Years ago I wrote a blog post called “You have become radicalized.” Becoming radicalized is the necessary precondition to becoming an artist. If you have not become radicalized, you have not yet become an artist.
You are making bad art. You are a corporate artist. You are serving the powerful. Consciously or unconsciously, you are serving what you perceive to be your good and selling out art, cinema, the rest of us, the whole damn thing.
You deserve to be standing up there at that Nuremberg Trial.

* * *

Know that every time you see a man win an Oscar, direct a huge movie, he should have an asterisk by his name. I got here by affirmative action. I am running in a rigged race where half my potential competitors are hamstrung into helping me fucking win.

* * *

The night of the election, I heard about a breakup on the street in NYC, where a girl said to her boyfriend who didn’t vote — sobbing — “You broke it.
You broke it, Hollywood.

So You’ve Decided To Contact Me: A Guide

advice, Hollywood

I am a filmmaker, so people contact me all the damn time. Emails. @’s on twitter. Phone calls. Texts. Blind intros. Approaching me at cafes or theaters. Calling my reps. Periscope comments. Comments beneath my articles. Trolling (which is the 2015 equivalent of taking out an ad in Variety and hoping the person may notice).

I’ve given a lot of thought to all the reasons people contact me – and what they seem to hope to get out of it. Below are many of the reasons people contact me. I will feel free to update this guide as I think more about this.

1. You don’t know why you are contacting me. Not really. Not deep down.

I suggest you retrace your steps. What is your goal in this interaction? Thousands of years of history have trained us to believe that women are supposed to help others. Women are supposed to hide their own light, helpfully answer questions, support and encourage, obey and respect. If you have decided to contact me for any of the following reasons below, chances are you unconsciously want me to do that for you. You perceive that I seem to be moving in a direction you want to go in, and by contacting me, you may draft off and even use and overtake my momentum for yourself. None of this is conscious. Culture teaches us this is how it’s supposed to go – like I should be happy that I can help you by subtly transferring my extremely hard-earned momentum to you in a culturally sick exchange that seems natural only because it is mostly unspoken and has taken place over the course of most of human history. So, even though you either don’t know why you’re contacting me or have mostly good reasons at heart for doing so, really think about how you got to this point. Think about the systemic transfers of power and visibility and wealth that continually happen from women toward men. Consider therapy. Group meetings. Workshops. I hear Esalen is good and offers a “shared sleeping bag space” for a very low fee. There are any number of resources that will help re-set your compass that don’t involve me transferring anything I have of value consciously or unconsciously to you.

2. I have signaled that I don’t know my place. You feel called to put me back in my place.  

You’re right. I don’t know my place. That’s why I’m good. Go back to step one.

3. I attacked a Great Man. 

Part of what filmmakers do is express their opinions about films in public. I have noticed that when my opinion appears to be attacking a Great Man – a well-regarded white male director or screenwriter – I get dressed down by well-meaning prominent members of the film community. As if, unconsciously, they sense a threat to the Natural Order in me, and they feel called to shut me down. But in doing so, they are not stopping to think about the fact that younger artists attacking those who came before is how art gets made. Diverse artists attacking the establishment is the nature of art. Their instinct to shut me down is born of the corporatism that has turned the film community conservative and establishment-preserving. It’s why these Great Men are making bad movies that need calling out. Go back to step one.

4. I remind you of your mom. 

I am an extremely loving, nurturing person, but not everyone had loving, nurturing moms the way I did. Some people’s moms were withholding, others manipulative, others controlling. The truth is moms and all women are allowed the full range of behaviors and personalities that men express. If you are reacting to a trait you perceive in me that reminds you of your mom, you are almost certainly projecting a deeply ingrained picture that you see everywhere you go. It’s not anything in me you’re reacting to, it’s in you. Go back to step one.

5. I made you feel rejected by ignoring you / canceling drinks / otherwise signaling that I’m busy. 

I am busy and getting busier. I am not intentionally blowing you or anyone off, and I’m really not interested in hurting feelings. I just don’t fuck with pointless drinks anymore. If we have business to conduct — aka you can hire me — great. Take me to lunch or dinner. I am always down for free food at one of LA’s many fine restaurants. Or if we are dating — same. Otherwise, I have movies to make. I didn’t reject you, I’m just busy. Go back to step one.

6. I make you feel like you can’t be yourself around me. 

This is a classic expression talked about in Gender Studies departments. People say this when women “don’t know their place” aka when women verbalize uncomfortable realities that keep us poor, unemployed, disliked and subservient but that we’re not supposed to discuss because it makes the dominant group “feel like I can’t be myself around her.” If being yourself includes enjoying the spoils of my subjugation, then yeah, you can’t “be yourself” around me. Go back to step one.

7. I make you uncomfortable. 

Openly discussing the realities that inordinately help one group while taking the energies, resources, ideas and culture of other groups is not supposed to make you feel comfortable. It’s not safe. It’s actually dangerous in a business climate that’s totally dominated by mega-corporations. But great art does not come from a safe space. If you got into art to feel safe, good luck to you and the art you make. Go back to step one.

8. I need to be corrected. 

Men love correcting women. It’s like a battery source inflating your sense of ego and entitlement. Even if I’m factually, provably, demonstrably wrong, and you could prove it in a reputable scientific journal, ask yourself this: would you correct a dude friend in the same way you’re about to correct me? Worse, are you about to correct me on a subject that is mostly a matter of opinion or an issue that is widely debated or hard to prove? Don’t correct me you fucking idiot. Go back to step one.

9. I am employed. 

This is a big contact interface for a lot of people. In a town where 96% of studio movies are directed by men, there still seems to be a lot of anger toward me over the simple fact that *I have a job.* Like, the feeling is – “96%? We can’t get that to 100% What are we doing wrong here? Are we not intimidating and harassing our Womens JV Team enough?” There is visceral anger toward the idea of a woman being in charge. A woman creating the entire world of a movie in a screenplay. A woman ordering crew and actors around on set. People don’t like it, and they can’t even articulate why. But they certainly seem to want to contact me and do a little spitballing about why. Go back to step one.

10. People want to hear what I have to say. 

This is one of the most dangerous items on this list. One of the most revelatory changes social media wrought is a whole crew of women and people of color who were historically shut out of establishment media who found it easy to build audiences of their own because their voices were interesting, valuable and compelling. Without oppressive structures keeping us out, the democratic nature of platform publishing showed that people want to hear what we have to say. Of course, with more people listening — aka increased visibility — came increased harassment. Because the idea of one of the Others getting listened to is just intolerable for some people. Go back to step one.

11. You want to tone police me. 

Tone policing is when – instead of apologizing for oppressing someone – you let the other person know they are overreacting or too angry or their tone has upset you in some way, so now you are the victim, and they (your victim) are now victimizing you. For reacting emotionally. To a legitimately bad thing. Pretty fucked up huh? Go back to step one.

12. I am emasculating you. 

Men are just as much the victims of toxic masculinity as women are. Whatever standards or strictures of masculinity you believe are inside you are actually imprisoning you, by our culture. You deserve as much gender freedom as I do. Nothing I say or do can take qualities away from you. You deserve to feel safe. You deserve to explore the full complement of who you are as a human. You deserve respect as a human. As I do. Me reaching beyond my culture-set limits as a woman is not emasculating, it’s pro-humaning. You may want to consider setting down some of those masculine limits you’re holding on to so tightly. Go back to step one.

13. I am embarrassing myself, women or the cause. 

That is something you are feeling. I feel fine. Go back to step one.

14. I am embarrassing you. 

You don’t represent me. Go back to step one.

15. I don’t show enough respect. 

Showing respect is not how you make art, and it’s not how you make change. Go back to step one.

16. I am not subservient in the manner you prefer. 

I am not subservient at all. Go back to step one.

17. You are a feminist and what I say makes you mad. 

This is a favorite charge that gets thrown my way. I think that people – especially men – think that saying they are a feminist automatically makes them experts on a controversial topic that’s been a moving target since the days it was invented. Even if you really are a feminist, which is often debatable, it doesn’t matter if what I say makes you mad. That doesn’t mean what I say is invalid. All it means is you personally, who are probably uninformed or don’t understand what I’m saying, don’t like it. Go back to step one.

18. You will allow me a certain amount of success, exposure, visibility, agency, self-esteem, but beyond a certain point is too much. 

For some reason, people who are not me seem to be self-appointed experts on where the limits should be placed for me. These people always bend over backwards to assure me they are feminists too. I do not accept your limits. Keep those for yourself. Go back to step one.

19. I am threatening and scary. 

Ideas that truly challenge the status quo – especially if the status quo is illegal and immoral – will always be threatening and scary. If it doesn’t make you feel unsafe, it’s probably not fresh and challenging enough. Go back to step one.

20. I don’t care about your feelings. 

You’re right. I don’t care about your feelings. Go back to step one.

21. Why me? 

I have deliberately put myself in the position to succeed through a long series of calculated risks, directed action, trusting intuition and creative leaps. All the moves I have made are available to you as well. The answer to “why me” is because I made them. You can too. Go back to step one.

22. Who do I think I am? 

I have a healthy amount of self-esteem, not too much and not too little. But I frequently get accused of being a narcissist, just like almost every whistleblower who has attempted to pull back the curtain on controversial, secret and wrongdoing subjects throughout history. It’s easier to attack and tear down the messenger who is speaking (“who does she think she is?”) than attack the huge benevolent corporations who give all of us jobs (or those of us who are white and male anyway). Go back to step one.

23. You are jealous of me. 

As someone who also experiences jealousy and envy, I know what a bitter and painful feeling it is. What’s great is it’s actually a sign you’re on the right track. You are waking up. If before you were so numb to your own feelings you had no idea what you wanted – your compass was just spinning – now at least the needle is pointing in a direction. You have someone to point to and say “her. I want what she has.” Especially if you are a woman, this couldn’t be more important. When you don’t see anyone doing what you want to do, you are not likely to take those first steps down the path. But when there’s someone out there and you can be *jealous* of her … well now you’ve got something to work with. But here’s the thing – I know the feeling can be overwhelming and scary. But you don’t have to let me know about it. If anything, letting me know will make you feel worse because it will then make you feel like I know a secret about you. Instead, check out Julia Cameron’s brilliant book The Artist’s Way. She talks about how to use jealousy as a map to show you your own desires. Go back to step one.

24. I don’t deserve my success. 

This is one of the stupidest of many stupid reasons to contact me. Some day I will publish my memoir Adventures In The Peen Trade, and y’all will all understand exactly how much I deserve my success. Go back to step one.

25. I don’t follow the rules. 

There are no rules. Anyone who wants you to believe there are rules in Hollywood is an idiot who probably won’t last in this business. This whole town is a long con and those who excel at it are those most skilled at getting loose, reading the lay of the land, judging just how much play there is in any boundary, being able to judge where the real boundaries lie. There are certainly norms that people follow, but sometimes it benefits you to not follow the norms. The only real rule is knowing who the players are at any given time, and where you are in the game. Go back to step one.

26. I slut-shame. 

Only people who believe in and endorse patriarchal notions of sexual shame try to hit me with this bullshit. I start talking about some gross, predatory and sexist behavior on the part of a group of Hollywood men, then instead of everyone being like “yeah, that’s a deeply rooted problem that’s keeping a large group of people from moving forward in this town” they come at me for “slut-shaming.” Morons. Go back to step one.

27. I am not a perfect feminist. 

There is no perfect way to practice or espouse feminism. Men who have colonized feminism as yet another site for their self-aggrandizement and gain want you to believe that Imperfect Feminism is a legit reason to take a woman down. Go back to step one you terrible humans.

28. I am not a perfect human. 

The more imperfect the human, the better the artist. Go back to step one.

29. I am sexual.

Part of the way an oppressive structure keeps minority groups oppressed is by restricting access to the full range of human qualities they are allowed to exhibit. So for instance, black women are not allowed to exhibit anger without suffering consequences. All women are socially prohibited from exhibiting sexual behavior. Adhering to these prohibitions is a silent handshake with the patriarchy – a dark agreement saying “no, you’re right to restrict my life and expression.” Resisting the limits they place on us is a political act. Me showing off about being sexual is me getting political AND me using their vulnerability against them. It’s like jujitsu. The more freedom you exercise, the more freedom you get. Do not attempt to restrict the freedom of others. Go back to step one.

30. I reveal secrets. 

The more secretive the landscape, the easier it is to discriminate. Think: country clubs, Ivy League, Hollywood. Revealing secrets helps those who are being discriminated against. There is power in revealing secrets. If y’all know anything about me, y’all know I love power. I know secrets, and I’m good at knowing which secrets I can reveal, and which secrets it does not behoove me to reveal. Yet. More will be revealed. Go back to step one.

31. You are projecting into what I’m saying. 

Projection is when you find qualities in yourself so intolerable that instead of acknowledging them in yourself, you see them in others around you. Go back to step one.

32. You don’t understand what I’m saying. 

This is the cause of many difficulties I experience. I truly think some of you just don’t understand me. Go back to step one.

33. You are twisting or mischaracterizing what I’m saying. 

This happens deliberately to make me look bad, and it happens when idiots don’t actually follow the thread but pick out what looks like it may be the most controversial little strand and then grab it and start crowing about what a monster I am because — “look! The permanent black light we have set up over her entire perimeter exposed this tiny radioactive thread that looks like it could be deadly if we drag it through something deadly, like at the CDC or something.” Go back to step one.

34. You are an untraveled rube who has never left the country. 

Leave the country. You will gain perspective that will show you how backwards American perspectives really are. Go back to step one.

35. I am thirsty. 

Have you heard of the attention economy? Go back to step one.

36. I post too many selfies / opinions / too much about politics / not enough about politics / too much about how rich I am / too much about how poor I am / too much

An attention economy that privileges men over women will always punish women for taking some of that precious attention for themselves. Go back to step one.

37. We matched on a dating site so you sent me a long email. 

I match with everyone because I don’t have time to sit there and waste my decision fatigue looking at each profile and deciding whether to like the photo or not. I just swipe right on everyone then filter out later. The appropriate response to me not writing you back is to move on and not think about it – not find my email address posted online and send me a long email asking me to nurture your stupid baby feelings. Thousands of years of history are wrong: I am not required to caretake your feelings in any way. I do not care about your stupid precious feelings. Go back to step one.

38. You don’t like me. 

The logical thing to do if you don’t like someone is contact them, post about them ad nauseum, follow them from multiple dummy accounts after they’ve blocked you, invent stories about their job in the hope that may scare them and they may give up screenwriting. Go back to step one fool.

39. You feel confused about me. 

Chances are you are a mostly decent person who has just begun stepping down the path toward waking up. I do understand that some of the ideas I espouse seem challenging, hostile or scary at first. The more you work with them, the more you will see they are actually logical and natural, and it’s thousands of years of stealing-culture that makes it seem like women shouldn’t rise up and overthrow. No need to let me know you feel confused however. I am not a teacher. I have a job. Let the ideas work on you, and soon you’ll be working them on someone else.

40. I seem to represent change and that scares you.

Perhaps if you stop me, you can stop the threat that change represents. But arguing with change doesn’t stop it from happening. It’s like arguing with time passing. Go back to step one.

41. It’s slowly dawning on you that I might actually be more talented than you.

That doesn’t seem possible. And yet … ? How can we make this problem go away? Bully her online till she gives up and leaves Hollywood? Go back to step one.

42. You don’t like what I said on my periscope. 

Stop watching. Go back to step one.

43. You’re concerned about me. 

The term “concern-troll” was coined to describe people who try to infiltrate causes posing as supporters who are concerned about the group’s activities, while in reality the concern-troll is trying to derail and subvert the group’s goals. People have concern-trolls too. Go back to step one.

44. You think you can help me. 

This is a form of well-meaning concern-trolling that I call “help-trolling.” I don’t think help-trolls think of themselves as trolls. I think they genuinely think they are offering assistance. But I’ve noticed that help-trolls love to get in touch when there’s an appearance that things aren’t going well for me — aka trolls are spreading stories about me they completely made up in their imaginations. And then the help-trolls are right there ready to help out in any way they can (when in reality nothing is wrong except that I have a bunch of trolls making up weird stories about me). They’re like help-vultures. The trolls are able to spread weird stories about me when I’m in a space where I can’t talk about anything (in the middle of a project). When I’m busy talking about a new job, all is silent out there on the savanna. I think this is also a form of White Knight Syndrome. Go back to step one.

45. You want to offer me a job or opportunity. 

I am represented at UTA. The front desk there can help you. “I don’t want to go through your agents.” Then your “opportunity” is almost certainly not something I would consider an “opportunity.” But feel free to send me an email about your movie that just needs my help [to completely re-create] before it gets set up that I will barely skim at the gym and wonder what people are thinking before I never respond. Go back to step one.

46. You want to hit on me. 

Look, if you think we are well-matched, and I am single, then I’m open. There are a thousand ways to contact me. Do it. IF you sincerely think we are well-matched. Big if.

47. You think I’m not a good representative of my category and you want me to shut up / back down / go away. 

Why do I have to be in a category? Why do I have to fit within my category and you don’t have to stay within yours? Fuck you you fucking idiot. Go back to step one.

48. You are an activist and you don’t like how I represent the cause / my experience / myself. 

Tough shit. The universal is found in the specific. You don’t get to control how I represent myself publicly. You represent yourself, I’ll represent myself, and together we’ll present a diverse portrait of what it’s like here on the ground. Go back to step one.

49. You feel like I’m ignoring you online even though we are friends in meatspace. 

This one’s actually real. If I have missed liking your shit online lately, that means nothing for our real relationship or how I feel about you. It either means I haven’t been on, or haven’t seen your specific stuff, or I’ve been distracted. It means nothing about how I feel about you, whom I probably adore.

50. You have a question you could easily google — or a question you would literally have to pay someone to answer. 




51. You have an extremely thin excuse for contacting me – apologizing for some imaginary wrong-doing, offering some tiny carrot of a favor that you know will be hard for me to ignore, etc. 

Sigh. I am busy and getting busier. Making movies is incredibly difficult. It’s complex. It’s draining. The process of actually making a movie is as difficult as the process of creating and working on the movie. Every time you contact me with some flimsy excuse, you are taking time and attention away from my movie. Does that make you feel good? Does that make you feel like we are becoming closer? Now, if you are contacting me for legitimate reasons, then I want to hear from you. If we are dating, all bets are off. If we are friends and making plans, great. Or if we are friends and haven’t connected in a while, glad to hear from you. If we are working together or may work together, then I probably always want to hear from you. Otherwise – my time and attention don’t belong to you. Despite what you may have heard, women aren’t obliged to caretake others’ needs all day. You are stealing my time and attention. Fuck off. Go back to step one.

52. You want to make my own joke back to me or explain it to me. 

This is a phenomenon all women online know about. Just assume that I do understand that I am making a joke – and that I got it when I wrote it. Go back to step one.

53. You assume that what I’m saying is about you. 

It almost never is. Usually, if I’m talking about you, you’ll know it. Especially if it’s good. Go back to step one.

54. You want to tell me someone’s saying terrible things about me. 

This one’s tough because on the one hand, I want my friends and periscope followers to know how much I love and appreciate them. I know y’all mean the best and are trying to help. But so often, I only hear about trolling from people close to me who mean the best. So it’s like “hey, thought you’d want this punch in the eye …”

55. I am not passive, submissive and demure. 

So many of the border clashes I experience online boil down to this fact. People have an unconscious expectation that women should submit to men. And when they experience behavior that flouts that expectation, they experience an urge to correct her. Go back to step one.

56. I take credit for my contributions, ideas and my work. 

Every person deserves credit for their contributions, ideas and work. Self-actualized people will stand up for themselves and take credit even if no one offers it to them. Our culture is so used to women giving credit to others, or hesitating to take credit for anything they accomplish, that seeing a woman unabashedly take credit for what she does makes people angry. Go back to step one.

57. I am comfortable taking attention in a climate that shits on women getting attention for anything other than sexual or gender-coded behavior. 

Part of how men have stayed dominant and in power all these years is by culturally enslaving women. Punishing them when they move outside submissive and supporting roles. Taking attention for themselves instead of passing it to others. Part of building a Hollywood career is building a network of fans of your work who will call you when they want to make a movie. When you see me taking attention for myself – and you have an urge to punish or shut me down for that – please know that urge comes from an overwhelming cultural history that needs women to be less so that men can be more. Go back to step one.

58. You want to tell me to be positive when I talk about marginalized, highly suppressed ideas. 

“Be positive” is code for “you are seriously bumming us out. Why can’t you just smile and be happy like the other girls? Life, as we dominant white men have enjoyed it for the past 10,000 years, is relatively easy. People constantly help you, so much that we internalize their help as a natural right and don’t even notice it happening. The help we receive is as natural to us as the air we breathe. So when the non-dominant groups around us complain they are not getting the same kind of help, and some are even getting policed, imprisoned and murdered … well that’s just a major bummer man. Can’t we all just get along? Be positive.” Go back to step one.

59. You want me to know that everyone has problems, not just women. 

There is no hierarchy of suffering. Me talking about the fact that 70% of the world’s poor are women doesn’t take away relevance from Great White Men dying of prostate cancer. You are unused to hearing a member of a marginalized group speak as if she were dominant. Get used to it, cuz this is gonna be happening to you more and more and more from here on in. Go back to step one.

60. You want my advice. 

This one’s tough because there is indeed a culture of advice-giving in Hollywood. I have certainly benefited from the advice of many more experienced filmmakers than me, and I am grateful to them. But sometimes people come to you asking for advice when really they want something else (see any number of the other points on this list). Or they may sincerely want advice, and if they are not far enough along on the journey, nothing I say will be particularly helpful. I get this sometimes in my periscope comments. I can be most useful with targeted questions from people making a sincere go at building a writing career in Hollywood. I’m not far enough along yet as a director to give advice, but I’ll certainly take some please.

61. You want us to collaborate.

I write alone. When you have an urge for us to collaborate, really you want me to do all the work (and most often I’m the one with the professional brand name too) and then you want to draft off that. No thanks. Go back to step one.

62. You want to work on one of my projects. 

I’ll call you. Go back to step one.

63. I am crazy.

Historically, men have called women crazy whenever they begin to gain visibility, power, voice. Whenever they start getting heard. It’s the most culturally powerful tool the patriarchy has to neutralize the threat we represent. Because how can you defend against people whispering behind your back that you’re crazy (so that no one will listen to or believe a thing you say)? You can’t exactly say “no I’m not!” If you care about resistance, if you care about suffering, if you care about seeing oppressed voices rise to be heard, please be skeptical whenever you hear an advocate called “crazy.” Go back to step one.

64. You want me to do the kind of unpaid, silent, invisible emotional labor that women have been trained to do for others for thousands of years. 

We are so conditioned to believe that it’s women’s nature to be better at feelings, to nurture others, to smooth over conflicts, to caretake, to do figurative and literal housekeeping, to serve and dote over — when in fact, studies have repeatedly found there is nothing in our nature to make us better at these jobs. Culture conditions us to think we have to do them, or we are consigned to keeping busy doing these roles when we are shut out of dominant roles. And the more we do them and see other women do them, the more we assume it’s our nature to do them. It’s not. Refusing to take on the emotional work people continually hand you will make people mad. People are used to people like you doing this kind of work for free and no credit! People getting mad is ok. Get used to it. That’s how you move forward in life. If you are coming to me hoping to conscript me in your personal army of admirers, supporters, caretakers, advice-givers, readers, nurturers, emotional housekeepers, well, think again pal. Go back to step one.

65. I am a hypocrite. 

Stupid people accuse you of being a hypocrite if you have ever showed signs of changing your mind, or if your position appears nuanced and grey in any way. “Hypocrite!” is also one of those Internet Debate tactics where it appears the other person is debating but really they’re just wearing you down by distracting you with some junk about debate they read on Reddit. Go back to step one.

66. I am difficult. 

It’s well known now that women filmmakers are called difficult just by doing their jobs. Most of the job of being a screenwriter and director (I am both) is having opinions, defending those opinions and asking others to execute those opinions. A woman defending and executing opinions – when millions are at stake – quickly gets perceived as “difficult” because humans have been socialized to believe that women should be obeying and respecting, not executing. This upset happens on a primal, visceral level. Then they call you “difficult.” Go back to step one.


67. You think I copied your idea. 

Filmmakers are always being accused of copying people’s ideas. Some are even sued for it. It’s well known in Hollywood that many ideas are just in the air at a certain time, meaning an idea whose time has come is usually being talked about in many different circles at once and reaches a tipping point or series of tipping points where it reaches the mainstream through a series of mediators who spread it to wider and wider audiences. It’s not the idea that matters, it’s the execution. Tarantino was a revelation when he brought his fresh vision to audiences in the 90’s (which recombined ideas of many other filmmakers), and then a slew of imitators followed. If your work is truly original, no one can copy you. No one can execute like you. No one remembers Tarantino’s imitators. No one will forget Tarantino.

68. You want to send me a pic of your dick. 

Your dick pics are always gross and laughable. Go back to step one.

69. You want to kiss me / fuck me / make me your phone girlfriend / fall in love with me even though you are not available to give me what I want.

You are stealing my soul. Fuck off. Go back to step one.

70. You must require that I not harass you further. 

This was the wording of a response to this original post. The person received it in her email and didn’t realize she had signed up for my email list and didn’t know this was a blog post. So she didn’t know why I was writing this to her. But I thought this phrase was perfect. This is how Hollywood feels toward outsiders, troublemakers, whistleblowers … anyone rocking the boat. They think they can just draw the curtain between First Class and Coach – say “we must require that you not harass us further” and speak of us no more. Too bad fuckos. It’s too late for that. Go back to step one.

71. I am over-dramatizing the story. 

People who are close to me IRL often accuse me of over-dramatizing the story. Like, if I told a story online and then they ask about it, I’m forced to admit “I may have oversold it a bit.” But did I really? I am a filmmaker. I am a compulsive storyteller. It’s what I do to pay the bills and it’s what I do to pay passage across this corrupt River Styx called life. If I convey information and provoke emotion or a reaction, have I really ever oversold a story? Is there such a thing as over-dramatizing? Or is there just dramatizing. And are we just numb to feeling. Go back to step one.



Women In Hollywood: A Shit Show

Hollywood, storytelling, women

The brilliant Danielle Henderson at Fusion asked me to participate in a comprehensive article she was writing about the shit show that is women working in Hollywood. The numbers are embarrassing if this were 1919 — oh but wait, women were doing much much better in Hollywood in 1919 than they are today in 2015.

Here is the full text of my interview.

Right now, I’m writing Robert Ludlum’s THE SIGMA PROTOCOL for Universal. It’s BOURNE meets THREE DAYS OF THE CONDOR or THE CONVERSATION. But a totally separate universe from BOURNE. I couldn’t be more in love with it.

In Hollywood, it’s rare to be told directly that you can’t get a job because you’re a woman (though that does happen). Studio execs will say amongst themselves “I don’t want a woman on this” and an exec who gives it to you straight will actually let you know that that’s what the consensus is, so you don’t have to wonder what the real deal is.

I wrote that blog post you referenced after a former boss said publicly that he doesn’t like hiring women writers because they don’t write men as well as men do. The numbers of who gets hired to work in rooms make it obvious that more showrunners than just him feel that way, but he said it publicly.

However, these are dramatic examples. The common, everyday experience for a woman in Hollywood is to be subtly, silently backed away from, shut out of networking, mentoring and socializing opportunities which for men, may lead to jobs months and years down the line. Or at the very least surrounds them with a culture of belonging that puts them in the right mindset and around the right people to keep moving up in their career. I continue to feel shut out of that system — which is vital in terms of career development in Hollywood — to this day.

Or — I’ve been offered the opportunity to direct my first feature film. Everything in me wants to direct. But there’s this awful knowledge, that there are virtually zero opportunities for women to direct studio movies. If I divert time and energy toward developing my directing career, am I facing a brick wall? Can I afford to move my career in a direction that is possibly a complete dead end for me, because of my gender?

So to go back to your question — it’s not like there’s always some big scary sexist going YOU CAN’T HAVE THE JOB BECAUSE YOU’RE A WOMAN! Most often it’s invisible, and it happens way behind closed doors. Or it’s silent and implicit and understood. And you have to really look and reflect to see it even happening at all. And most people working at the highest levels of the industry do not seem to care enough to do that.

Amy Pascal freely admitted to paying Jennifer Lawrence less than her male counterparts on AMERICAN HUSTLE, saying “I run a business. People want to work for less money, I pay them less money. … Women shouldn’t be so grateful. Know what you’re worth. Walk away.”

She thinks what she’s saying is “I can get away with paying you class of people less because you’re just bad negotiators. It’s your own fault for not manning up.”

There are many research studies that pertain to this, but here are three that spring to mind: In one study, the same exact play was given to readers to evaluate, but with male names on the cover or female names. The male names were given much higher ratings. In another study, elementary children’s tests were graded anonymously, and the girls outscored the boys. When the tests had names attached, the boys outscored the girls. And in another study, rats were put in cages with arbitrary labels attached to them — “smart” and “dumb.” The rats that had been placed in the cages labeled “smart” ran the maze almost twice as fast as the rats placed in the cage labeled “dumb.” The researchers theorized that their handlers unconsciously treated the “smart” rats differently — stood closer to them, talked to them differently, had higher expectations for them, thought about them differently.

In Hollywood, there are rats called actors, writers, directors. And we are all put in cages by our agents and managers, by our producers and our studios. Some of the labels on our cages say “action franchise” or “good writer.” Other labels say “black” or “white,” “female” or “male.” If you are the rat in the cage that says “white” and “male” on it, you better believe your handlers are standing closer to you, talking to you differently, having higher expectations for you, thinking about you differently.

Negotiating any job offer is a process of trying to act on imperfect information and trying as much as possible to perfect that imperfect information. How much does the other party have and how much do they want? But in Hollywood, it’s not like there’s a totally equal movie right down the street you can “walk away” to if you don’t like their offer. You may have another offer lined up, but is it as good a movie? Is it a project you’re as in love with? If you’re a writer or director, did you just spend months or even a year(s) doing free work for this studio on this project to get to the point where you’re negotiating? Pascal’s advice to “know your worth” and “walk away” is insulting because it both puts her negotiating partners in the “lose-lose” position (i.e. “I lose if I take the shitty deal and I lose if I walk away from the offer.”) and because her advice assumes absolutely no responsibility on her part or the part of her studio for dealing fairly in these matters.

In 2014, just 8% of the directors Pascal hired were women (and that number is inflated by indies her art-house divisions acquired at film festivals — without these, the number would be closer to the 4% studio average). How is a director supposed to know her worth in that climate? When she cannot get hired to begin with? And the picture isn’t much better for women screenwriters either. I’ve heard from studio execs that reps don’t even put their women clients up for jobs the execs would be willing to hire them for, or the reps don’t push them hard enough, or the reps might think their dude clients are more of a home run for tentpoles, etc ad nauseum. There are so many failure points in the process of a woman getting paid in Hollywood before the point where she is able to “walk away” from a deal.

Which brings us back to the rats in our cages. No talent (rat) is ever negotiating directly with studio heads. Our agents are talking to them, and if they’re any good they have deep relationships with these people that extend way past any one project or client. In a different kind of industry, your market value might be determined by years on the job or programming skills or whatever. But in Hollywood, what determines your market value? Yes, for actors there’s some highly dubious scoring about whether international likes them (and foreign sales agents’s and financiers’s personal opinions and biases come into this big time). And for writers and directors, there’s your quote, meaning what you made on your last movie. And there’s how your last movie performed. All that goes into the negotiation. But beyond that, it’s just how much they like and want you. And how much someone else likes and wants you. Like any market valuation. There’s no app to consult or fair practices guide. It’s all just movie magic. If your rat handlers (reps) believe enough themselves — and do a successful enough job convincing your studio bosses that you are worth more than what they are offering, you may get more. But both sides have to believe it and feel like they are winning in the deal. But there’s no logic determining who is worth what. Is that actress worth more than that actor? Shrug. Will that writer do such a better job than some other writer that they’re worth this amount more? Which brings us back to those studies with the men’s and women’s names on the scripts, or the kids tests with the names on them …. Your agent has to believe you’re worth this much more. And your studio boss has to believe it. And you have to believe it. All this before Pascal’s “know your worth, walk away” leverage point.

And here is the key to all this: once the reps come to the talent with a negotiated deal, it’s all but a done deal. Like I said, negotiating is about imperfect information. In this case, it’s about the client not being privy to all the different loyalties and conversations and other projects in the pipeline and other clients and other (possibly better) movies she might do that usually she doesn’t even know about, trade-offs, promises, and unconscious biases that might have made both the reps and the studio boss stand a little further back from you the rat, talk a little different about you the rat, lower expectations for your chances of running through the maze. A great rep will push hard to strike the very best deal they can (and I love my reps). But Hollywood deal-making is the most psychological game there is. Your reps usually present the deal to you as “this is the best we could get and this is it.” Very few women actors, writers and directors are going to navigate the months-long slalom of getting to that point and then walk away. Because who’s to say whether there’s a better deal elsewhere (your agency won’t tell you that) or whether the studio actually will pay more (is Pascal saying we’re supposed to walk to find out?)

So when I get the advice from one of the most successful women in Hollywood history — a woman who has run a major studio for the past six years and thus has had control over all this — if you “want to work for less, I’m going to pay you less” I have to say it’s devastating.

But your quote is one negotiating threshold that’s hard to argue with. It’s a number. (Although studios do sometimes try to bully you into accepting less than your quote, but that’s another story.) What drives your quote up is getting jobs. I am very happy with the job I have right now, and I am not out looking (today). But speaking for all women writers and directors — and women actors who don’t see any roles for them out there — we do know our worth. We are not walking away. We are ready to drive those quotes up. Help us do that Amy.


This is the amazing article Danielle Henderson originally interviewed me for, which resulted in this piece. In it, she contextualizes everything I say with recent statistics and in depth analysis. Go read it!

There Are No Rules

Hollywood, women

I was meeting with a high-level producer in December. We were talking about wealth inequality. He was saying how the 23-year-old inventor of Snapchat had been offered $4 billion for the company — and turned it down — and he couldn’t believe this. I can believe this. I’ve seen all the graphs that show the algebraic curves of audience attention moving to mobile. Snapchat IS more valuable than old world companies. It holds more attention. The producer couldn’t accept that emotionally. It doesn’t make sense according to how the world used to work, even a year ago (but how could Snapchat be more valuable than Instagram?).

The world doesn’t change linearly. It changes slow then fast.

I interrupted him as all this clicked together in my head — “There are no rules,” I said. “You know that from the way this town works.”

The idea that a company that makes nothing could be valued higher than companies that have actually made stuff and sold it for a hundred years is almost unimaginable. But it makes sense. Because we don’t value stuff anymore. We no longer value intellectual property. What we value is attention. Whoever marshals, aligns, focuses that attention – those people control value.

Rules informally and retroactively (and usually unspokenly) come to be understood by those who have come to dominate a given marketplace for their own benefit – so they may perpetuate the good thing they’ve got going. If you examine any set of unspoken rules that a community informally adheres to, you’ll find it helps keep dominant groups dominant and non-dominant groups out. In my own community, this looks like rules about what a director looks and sounds like – what a screenwriter is supposed to look and sound like and what they’re supposed to talk about (hint: pretty much the opposite of me – should be less female (and yes, I’ve gotten this note) should be less angry, less pointed, less sharp, less full of rage, less sad, less confused, less honest, you need to watch that edge Julie, less dwelling on thoughts of killing.

The point is – any group enjoying the benefits of the rules don’t want you to suddenly realize there are no rules – the panopticon doesn’t exist – the prison bars are in your mind – you were trained since birth to only go as far as your tether and now you never venture further. They don’t have a fucking tether and they like that you do. They enjoy countless benefits from that. Mental freedom. Emotional freedom. In a town like Hollywood – where the most ruthless and sociopathic, and less dramatically, those most willing to take risks and try new things and just ask for what they want and forge relationships with the cool people (white men) and keep testing and testing and finding some way outside-the-rules thing that just might work – those who recognize there are no rules fastest win. Rules are for white men and all others who enjoy the benefits of unconscious cognitive biases – the beautiful, the wealthy, the physically perfect. Everyone else needs to step outside that pack racing to the middle as fast as possible and instead race out to the far reaches and establish an entrenched position. And hold it with fire.

When I was home in Georgia for Christmas, I visited a 26-year-old woman in prison. She started having kids as a teenager. By her mid-twenties she had three children, received no help from their father and was basically homeless. She appealed to every social service agency for help and was denied for one reason or another. (The agency for homelessness said they didn’t see her being stable in three months so she wasn’t worth helping.) She found a job delivering sandwiches for a local sandwich shop – which is where she met her new boyfriend. When she got denied every other form of assistance – and against her own better judgment – she and her kids moved in with him. Her baby died shortly thereafter. There are conflicting autopsy reports – one says blunt force trauma to the head, the other says asphyxiation. The jury never thought she actually killed her baby – but they convicted her of failing to prevent her baby from being killed. She is now serving multiple life sentences in state prison. Her other kids have been taken away and adopted by strangers. The baby is dead. She’ll spend the rest of her life in prison – at the age of 26.

Do you think she believes there are rules? Would she have been better off with a larger perspective on the way things really work – the way rules cut in favor of dominant groups and against people like her – appearing to punish the guilty and reward the virtuous while in reality all these rules do is keep everyone in their place – the Dickensian impoverished mother of three punished for her poverty and the wealthy never ever punished for their crimes no matter what they do cuz that feels icky to us, as if we’re shitting on the American dream.

There are no rules. Nothing makes sense. Question what the world tells you – explicitly and implicitly. Jump outside the pack. Question everything.


This should go without saying but — there are no rules in screenwriting either. Great storytelling is all that matters.

What It Means When A Producer Says They Don’t Hire Women Writers

Hollywood, women


As a producer, the quality of your information is the only thing you have.


That’s all you do. You aggregate information. You find one piece of information and you pair it with another piece of information and then that becomes a movie. Or a TV show. Or a web series. Or a new network.


You find one piece of information (a premise you build a show around, a book, an article, an old movie to remake, a thin joke) and you pair it with another piece of information (a writers’ room full of writers, a director you’ve been watching grow her career with indies, another idea you think will give the first idea longer legs).


That’s what producers do.


And that’s what innovation is. It’s connecting disparate ideas. The further the distance between the connections, the more innovative. The better the art.


So when I hear a writer/producer come out in the press saying they don’t hire women writers – what they’re basically saying is – I don’t believe in bigger groups of connections. I don’t believe in innovation. I believe in limiting my group of ideas to the boundaries of what my assumptions can tolerate. I believe in smallness, exclusivity and fear.


That mentality might work in the short term. But it doesn’t produce great art that lasts.



If a group includes more women, its collective intelligence rises (Harvard Business Review).



New York Film Academy takes a look at gender inequality in film

She’s Not Just Some Secretary

features, screenwriting, storytelling, women

She’s not just some secretary.”


This is what one of the producers on my movie said about the female lead, three hours before we went in to do the studio pitch. We were arguing on the phone about the fact that I wanted her to have a certain job that would give her status more equal to the hero of the film – and he thought her having that job would be unrealistic considering everything she does in the movie and that it would take the audience out of the movie. So he gave her a job demotion right before the pitch, which I argued about – leading him to say “she’s not just some secretary.”


I spent the next couple hours timing myself reading the highlighted portions of my beat sheet – and eating anchovies (brain food) – (a fatal mistake as I would be self-conscious about my breath all afternoon) and turning over that sentence in the back of my head like a kid’s rock-tumbler –


She’s not just some secretary –


I got to the production office a half hour before the pitch. The exec who’s been working with me this whole time sat with me with our feet up on his coffee table and kept me calm. He had tried to demote the female lead for the same reason a month or two before – at 7 pm on a Friday – and I had launched into a histrionic speech that went something like “we are trying to attract both male and female audiences with this movie. And as a female audience member, I can tell you, we know when we are being patronized. We know what kind of movie this is going to be, when it’s being promoted. We see when the female lead has a lesser job and less status than the male lead – when the filmmakers and producers making it consider her less than – and we know what they think of her and us. And if this is going to be that kind of movie then I can’t be involved.”




In case you don’t know, those are the words of a crazy person.


But those are also the words of a person who is crazily dedicated. Crazily invested. Who believes in what she is doing. Who feels it. Who is leading, not following.


And at the time, this exec had said “Ok. I get it. I’m in.” (For what it’s worth, that’s the worst/craziest thing I’ve said to him or any exec. And it’s a sign of just how hard we’ve worked on this movie. And – he deserves hazard pay.)


So we’re in the production office, before the pitch. My exec friend is keeping me calm. He looks me straight in the eye and goes “I want you to know I was on your side. We didn’t even talk about it.” And I knew what he was talking about – and in fact, I never even questioned that he was on my side on that. So I proceeded to tell him why this thing about the male lead and the female lead being equal means so much to me.


“It’s not, like, some abstract feminism thing for me. I was raised by a single mother who had no education and worked full time as a secretary –


She’s not just some secretary –


— and all she wanted for us girls was to go to college and never have to work a desk job like her and have better lives than she did. And not only did I go to college but I went to Princeton and my first job out of college was [the same job we’ve now given the female lead in the movie]. And despite all that, I have felt marginalized my entire fucking life — growing up in a house of all women (already marginalized as a gender in this species) — abandoned by my father who went off and left us to sink from middle-class into poverty — abandoned by a culture that couldn’t care less about what it feels like to be less than, displaced, marginalized, disempowered always. This is real for me. Visceral –” 


She’s not just some secretary –


I didn’t know you grew up in a single-parent home,” he said. “I did too. That must be why we’re so …”


Sympatico?” I said.


We drove the golf cart over to the studio where I met another exec for the first time. (The producer was already inside.) The three of us stood around nervously chit-chatting before the pitch. Making conversation about our families. They asked about my sister, and I told them about how she’s never come to visit me in LA. How she disapproves of my risky choice to become a writer and how she’s basically waiting for me to fail and move back home. How up until recently, it’s been hard to argue with her.


The assistant called us in to the pitch.


Afterward, the producer, my exec friend and I drove the golf cart back to their bungalow. We were laughing cuz I thought the producer was mad at me cuz I kept stopping the pitch to make jokes (and once to accuse the studio exec of yawning — he wasn’t) cuz I was afraid the mood was getting too dour. The producer goes “you want the mood to be dour if your movie is dour!” Through the whole pitch he kept saying “keep going!” cuz I kept detouring.


But as we drove across the studio lot, the producer said “you did really really well” and I appreciated that as it was my first studio pitch ever and I was nervous as hell. And as the sun set over the soundstages and the balmy breeze blew my half-shaved hair back, I took a mental snapshot and said to myself in my head – remember this moment cuz your life is about to change.


And it did. We sold the movie the next day. My dream project. There’s nothing else I’d rather be working on right now.


But with dreams answered comes responsibility too. I just spent a week with my mom (I’m writing this on the airplane back to LA), and I was telling her about one of the many complicated aspects of studio filmmaking. I was uncertain about what to do.


I always err on the side of being vulnerable,” she said.


Mom, you’ve got to remember – screenwriting is heavily male dominated. Like 85%. Everyone already thinks I can’t do the job because I’m a woman. If I go around showing my belly, I’m going to look feminine and weak and lose all respect.”


Well then I guess your industry is just over my head.”


She’s not just some secretary.


No mom I think you understand it just fine.



Ask Forgiveness, Not Permission

advice, Hollywood

Internet thinking and money is infiltrating Hollywood.

I found Venture Hacks’s advice for startups applicable to filmmaking — particularly the idea of giving team members freedom and responsibility over what they make. The idea is to let every person ship their work as fast as possible, then figure out what’s wrong and how to fix it with the feedback of initial users. Instead of getting stuck in internal review processes that result in layers of overview and never sending anything to market.


  1. Ask forgiveness, not permission
  2. Do what you think is right (and be right)
  3. S/he who codes, rules


  1. You break it, you bought it
  2. Sweat the details and corner cases
  3. Be real
  4. Own the result

Replace “codes” for “writes” or “directs” above, and I think this is a pretty good prescription for filmmaking. In filmmaking, there are plenty of reasons why some people may not be given freedom and responsibility that does not reflect on them. But I believe if you hire the right people, give them freedom and responsibility (or let them take it), the greatest results are possible.

All of these dictums are variations on freedom and responsibility. Netflix has a great presentation on the topic. So does ValvePeter Drucker probably wrote about it 50 years ago. 

Increased Gender Equality Leads To Higher GDP


The World Economic Forum has released a new report on gender equality. What’s most interesting is the finding that increased gender equality leads to higher GDP:

According to a newly-released report from the World Economic Forum[pdf], Iceland is the #1 country in the world for gender equality, for the fifth year in a row. And that equality is helping propel Iceland and its fellow Nordic nations to new economic heights. Turns out, the smaller the gender gap, the more economically competitive the nation. Even when that nation is totally freezing.

The notion that gender equality drives development (rather than the other way round) has been so widely celebrated in recent years that it begins to seem trite. But as the newly released 2013 Global Gender Gap Index — which measures gender parity in 136 countries — reminds us, gender equity isn’t simply a matter of equal rights. It’s a matter of efficiency. Many countries have closed the gender gap in education, for example, but gender-based barriers to employment minimize their returns on that investment; Their highly educated women aren’t working. The highest ranking countries in the index have figured out how to maximize returns on their investment in women, and are consequently more economically competitive, have higher incomes, and higher rates of development.

The report notes a strong correlation between Global Gender Gap Index rankings (which measure health, education, labor political and participation) and measures of global competitiveness, as the graph below illustrates. The smaller the gender gap, the better off the economy. Perhaps it’s no surprise that less-developed nations lke Yemen and Pakistan are near the bottom of the Index. What’s more surprising is that relatively economic powerhouses like Turkey and Japan are right there in the basement with them.

Take the Philippines. It ranks #5 on the Global Gender Gap Index, higher than any other Asian nation. It’s the only country in Asia that has fully closed the education gender gap, and its labor force boasts growing ranks of women workers, especially professionals and managers. Not surprisingly, the Philippines is now the fastest growing economy in Asia, having recently edged out China (#69 on the index). There are many reasons for this, including macroeconomic policy reforms under Aquino, but the role of a large, educated and diverse work force shouldn’t be discounted; Indeed, gender parity in Filipino education and labor preceded recent economic growth.

Though not exactly analogous, something similar is playing out in the corporate world. A 2012 report by Credit Suisse found that companies with at least one woman on the board outperformed those without by about 26 percent. A 2012 report by McKinsey & Company similarly found that companies with more diverse boards boasted higher profit and higher returns on equity than others. It could be that better performing companies are in a better position to give women a chance, but the researchers at Credit Suisse suggest that simply diversifying the leadership pool can generate surprisingly positive results.

So, what are the highest ranking countries doing right, exactly?

One major factor, which the report notes every year, is that high ranking countries “have made it possible for parents to combine work and family, resulting in high female employment, more shared participation in childcare, more equitable distribution of labor at home [and] better work-life balance for both women and men.”

Meanwhile, in the United States, the notion that women could conceivably someday successfully combine work and family is still constantly under debate. Incidentally, the U.S. dropped one place in the rankings to #23 — below Burundi, Cuba and, god forbid, Canada.

This report reflects copious other research that finds that when women are included in groups at work, those groups perform better and make more money.

That the industry I work in (Hollywood) persists in keeping women out of the plum jobs of screenwriter, director, showrunner — whether through conscious or unconscious bias or a deeply systemic, old-fashioned boys’ club — whatever it is, it’s resulting in making worse product and artificially limiting our profits.

Great Ideas Look Like Bad Ideas

advice, screenwriting, T.V. writing

If you come up with a new idea and you tell your agents and managers about it, or some executives or producers you know, or your friends, and everyone loves it, that’s a bad sign. That means it’s not fresh enough. That means it’s sitting too close to the surface, too obvious, too similar to what’s already happening in the zeitgeist, in the culture.

Your reps’ jobs are to hate your really great ideas. Because they are focused on what’s selling right now and what they predict might sell tomorrow based on that — in other words, yesterday’s great ideas.

But if your ideas are really good, they’re not going to look good to anyone at first. And that’s the magic window where — if you have the courage to follow your instincts and your gut — you can capitalize on the lag time between the moment that you know it’s good and the day the rest of the world wakes up to it.

Your job isn’t to follow the zeitgeist, it’s to make it.


Peter Thiel basically says the same thing in his class on startups:

“3. Secrets exist.

People don’t really believe in secrets anymore. But secrets exist. It’s just a matter of learning how to find them.

Risk aversion and complacency discourage people from thinking about secrets. Existing conventions are much more comfortable. But secret truths can be incredibly valuable. Importantly, they are discoverable; by definition, any answers to the questions in Lesson 2 above are secrets. Perhaps the biggest secret of all is that there are many more secrets in the world that are waiting to be found. The question of how many secrets exist in our world is roughly equivalent to how many startups people should start. From a business perspective, then, there are many great companies that could still be—indeed,are waiting to be—started.”


Seth Godin says the same thing:

“All good ideas are terrible

Until people realize they are obvious.

If you’re not willing to live through the terrible stage, you’ll never get to the obvious part.”

London School of Economics Finds That Piracy Helps Hollywood’s Bottom Line


This new report from the London School of Economics does a great job of cutting through Hollywood’s lobbying bullshit and using numbers to make a case that piracy actually helps Hollywood’s bottom line.

Piracy Isn’t Killing The Entertainment Industry, Scholars Show

The London School of Economics and Political Science has released a new policy brief urging the UK Government to look beyond the lobbying efforts of the entertainment industry when it comes to future copyright policy. According to the report there is ample evidence that file-sharing is helping, rather than hurting the creative industries. The scholars call on the Government to look at more objective data when deciding on future copyright enforcement policies.


Over the past years there have been ample research reports showing that file-sharing can have positive effects on the entertainment industries.

Industry lobbyists are often quick to dismiss these findings as incidents or weak research, and counter them with expensive studies they have commissioned themselves.

The London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) jumps into the discussion this week with a media policy brief urging the UK Government to look beyond the reports lobbyists hand to them. Their report concludes that the entertainment industry isn’t devastated by piracy, and that sharing of culture has several benefits.

“Contrary to the industry claims, the music industry is not in terminal decline, but still holding ground and showing healthy profits. Revenues from digital sales, subscription services, streaming and live performances compensate for the decline in revenues from the sale of CDs or records,” says Bart Cammaerts, LSE Senior Lecturer and one of the report’s authors.

The report shows that the entertainment industries are actually doing quite well. The digital gaming industry is thriving, the publishing sector is stable, and the U.S. film industry is breaking record after record.

“Despite the Motion Picture Association of America’s (MPAA) claim that online piracy is devastating the movie industry, Hollywood achieved record-breaking global box office revenues of $35 billion in 2012, a 6% increase over 2011,” the report reads.

Even the music industry is doing relatively well. Revenue from concerts, publishing and digital sales has increased significantly since the early 2000s and while recorded music revenues show a decline, there is little evidence that piracy is the lead cause.

“The music industry may be stagnating, but the drastic decline in revenues warned of by the lobby associations of record labels is not in evidence,” the report concludes.

Music industry revenue


The authors further argue that file-sharing can actually benefit the creative industries in various ways.

The report mentions the success of the SoundCloud service where artists can share their work for free through Creative Commons licenses, the promotional effect of YouTube where copyrighted songs are shared to promote sales, and the fact that research shows that file-sharers actually spend more money on entertainment than those who don’t share.

“Within the creative industries there is a variety of views on the best way to benefit from online sharing practices, and how to innovate to generate revenue streams in ways that do not fit within the existing copyright enforcement regime,” the authors write.

Finally, the report shows that punitive enforcement strategies such as the three strikes law in France are not as effective as the entertainment industries claim.

The researchers hope that the U.K. Government will review the Digital Economy Act in this light, and make sure that it will take into account the interests of both the public and copyright holders.

This means expanding fair use and private copying exceptions for citizens, while targeting enforcement on businesses rather than individuals.

“We recommend a review of the DEA and related legislation that strikes a healthy balance among the interests of a range of stakeholders including those in the creative industries, Internet Service Providers and internet users.”

“When both [the creative industries and citizens] can exploit the full potential of the internet, this will maximize innovative content creation for the benefit of all stakeholders,” the authors write.


Now you may be asking yourself — why do you care so much? Why would you — a Hollywood screenwriter — not only be pro-piracy but feel so strongly about how important piracy is to keep the back channels of our social connections, our ability to share art and our political freedoms alive? Here is why:

Here’s the bad news: the World Wide Web Consortium is going ahead with its plan to add DRM to HTML5, setting the stage for browsers that are designed to disobey their owners and to keep secrets from them so they can’t be forced to do as they’re told. Here’s the (much) worse news: the decision to go forward with the project of standardizing DRM for the Web came from Tim Berners-Lee himself, who seems to have bought into the lie that Hollywood will abandon the Web and move somewhere else (AOL?) if they don’t get to redesign the open Internet to suit their latest profit-maximization scheme.

Danny O’Brien from the Electronic Frontier Foundation explains the wrangle at the W3C and predicts that, now that it’s kosher to contemplate locking up browsers against their owners, we’ll see every kind of control-freakery come out of the woodwork, from flags that prevent “View Source” to restricting embedded fonts to preventing image downloading to Javascript that you can’t save and run offline. Indeed, some of this stuff is already underway at W3C, spurred into existence by a huge shift in the Web from open platform to a place where DRM-hobbled browsers are “in-scope” for the WC3.


So what does this mean? It means that the folks in charge of the internet’s infrastructure are buying into the corporate propaganda put forward by Hollywood’s big money lobbyists who are promoting the idea that internet freedom is dangerous and bad. However, the research finds the opposite is true — internet freedom actually helps Hollywood’s bottom line. Not to mention the basic ethics of not letting corporations control the means we have to communicate with each other. Maintaining a free internet is vital to political discourse, to artistic exchange (and yes, there have been many times when I’ve been working on a Hollywood project and tried looking up a clip online to watch for professional reference, only to find those stupid take-down copyright violation notices) and to building audience for your Hollywood product. Don’t be short-sighted guys.