It’s February. I don’t know about y’all, but I’m pretty glad that January is over. Every December, when I’m planning for a new year, I get really excited for the calendar to switch over to a fresh beginning. I always think I am going to accomplish a million things and be a brand new person!! And then every January I hit a huge, huge slump. I get very little done, and I just want to stay in bed and read. And I’ll be honest right now – my dad died in January. Seven years ago now. So, you know, I won’t go there – it’s just a bad month.
But because it was quiet month, that also means I did a lot of thinking. Starting a new script to be set in Wisconsin. And I should probably say right now – this is going to be a bit of a darker movie. (I know, because June is all light and fluffy, riiiiight?) Listening to music – Jason Isbell especially. Something about his storytelling in his lyrics. He’s so specific, he writes about such dark, small town characters, people I feel like I grew up around. Like this song. I can’t stop listening to that song.
I think about where I’m from a lot (ps. it’s not Door County, though I like to call that a second home). I guess that comes from leaving. You realize just how much of your identity is wrapped up in your upbringing, in that place and the people you knew, even those on the periphery. And also, for me, just how much of who I am is about resistance to that place. I wanted to get out of that area so badly when I was a teenager. Go to New York (more specifically Andy Warhol’s Factory back when I was listening to The Velvet Underground and Bowie a lot). Go to Europe. Anywhere.
And of course, obviously, if you’ve been paying attention to any of this June business, I love Wisconsin. I love that I went to elementary school directly next to a dairy farm and how when the ball went over the fence at recess we’d yell at the cows and they’d just chew and stare. I love the combination of sweet and tough in the people of the Midwest. And I love that I cut off my hair and dyed it black and felt super cool when I was 16 (I mean, I was super cool?). I love that I had something to push against. And now I can’t stop coming home. And making movies there.
I started thinking about that recently – having something to fight against – in a conversation with my neighbor out here in LA. Mind you, I’m not even going to sugar coat it – we live in a pretty sad apartment out here. No details, it’s just not great. (again, something to fight against, eh?) And we have this neighbor who I avoid like the plague. He just talks and talks and talks and talks. And he (late 50s?) gives me advice regularly on the film industry (mind you, he lives in the same complex as me – so things are goin’ great for him!). He calls me “kid” a lot. Most of his advice includes references to how Hollywood was in the 80s. He’s got stories where he got really close to various deals, but no cigar. He’s got these stories really really polished at this point.
Anyway, on my birthday in December I walked into the post office and right in front of me, at the end of the long line, was my neighbor. Sigh.
So we get to talking. I told him the plot of June (mind you, this is two years after we started making this movie – I’ve avoided the topic for a while now), and he says, oh, that’s a good topic for a female film director, because, you know, it’s more emotional and relationships based. (stab me in the head right now) And he further goes on to say how “men and women are different, you know? Most people don’t talk about that but I differentiate, you know? Cause, like, women, they’re sensitive and they’re better at getting the emotional stuff, like A League of Their Own (hold me back). But, like, I’m not gonna see a war movie directed by a woman.”
Me: “What?!? What about The Hurt Locker? Are you kidding me?”
(note: lame and obvious example, but it was a quick and easy answer and, herlooo, The Hurt Locker)
Him: “Oh please. I couldn’t watch more than ten minutes of that movie.”
Sigh. Okay. Gritted teeth. I wish I’d come up with something better after that than, “You have to finish that movie. That’s an amazing movie.”
But you know what, unlike June, I, Rebecca, am awful at confrontation. Rage, I know. I wish I’d come up with something better. About how the world was moving on without him and there are more and more female filmmakers all the time, and how little a chance we’ve been given, etc., etc. Even about how no one would ever say that Steven Spielberg was not good at directing emotional movies.
Because, here is something to fight against. To rage against. It’s something to speak up about.
And it’s definitely driven me in the past.
But this conversation, in the end, is just fine by me. Because you know what? The world is passing him by (and has done so already). Things are changing so rapidly right now in terms of female filmmakers and the roles women play in movies. I have faith in this change.
And because he’s an older guy who lives in the same awful complex as me and because he probably has no idea how many chances he’s ruined based on his chauvinism. And, well, karma. Ya know? The world will put him in his place. Because that conversation is so laughable. (And I realize I’m lucky to live in this time period and know that the conversation is ridiculous)
Now, this is a can of worms I’m not ready to open right now, women in film and all that. But I think about it all the time.
And the conclusion I’ve come to is that I just want to be a director or writer – not a female director or a female writer. I’d rather be a Wisconsin-raised filmmaker than a female filmmaker. Because that’s specific. Being female is not specific – it’s half the globe.
But I’m glad that there are things to fight back against in this world, things that keep us going. Rage of all sizes. Rage against losing my dad that drove the character of June. Rage against sexist assholes (or more like a sour kind of pity in this case). Rage against home and then coming right back and celebrating it. Rage and sorrow and love and hope.
Just don’t tell me that relationships and emotions are primarily for female filmmakers or female audiences. Or you’re telling me something about yourself.
Whew. Enough said there.
But it can be so helpful, in this winter slump, to find something to fight against.