On Friday evening Jill Soloway — creator of the acclaimed gender-bending Amazon series Transparent — gave a keynote address to the American Film Institute Conservatory Directing Workshop for Women in which she gave some killer advice to female filmmakers and other marginalized artists.
You should really read the entire thing (it’s pretty badass and not too long). But for you lazy folks out there, the TL;DR version is basically tear down the patriarchy and make your own stories, no matter how wonderfully weird they are.
During the speech, Soloway pulled out a copy of the The Rules — the 1995 book of strict dating advice that suggests women be “easy to be with but hard to get” — and gave her own version of the rules.
Here’s the two gems we found most useful:
Just do me a favor and FUCK SOME SHIT UP. Surprise yourself, wake up your actors, get wild with your performances, try shit, put in that funky dialogue you’re embarrassed of, in fact, rub your fucked-up-ness all over your scripts, add some shame and embarrassment and glee, and then dare yourself to shoot it, SERIOUSLY, go big or go home—be a creature unlike any other.
Here’s another one from the book: “Don’t Expect a Man to Change.”
I’d reinvent that one to DON’T EXPECT THE INDUSTRY TO CHANGE. Guys are holding on so tightly to male protaganism because it perpetuates male privilege. From their subject seats they can POINT—“She’s old, SHE’S hot, she’s not, she’s old, she’s fat, she’s someone I want to bone, she’s past her prime, that person’s black, queer, fat.” (I’m not pointing to you guys.)
That pointer is a powerful thing. That white cis male gaze is like a lifeguard chair, it’s a watchtower — I’m way up here naming things. And they are NOT GIVING UP THOSE LOOKOUT SPOTS EASILY, in fact they won’t even cop to the fact that they have that privilege. Wait what? We’ve had the voice too long? We’re not doing it on purpose… So yeah, instead of waiting for these guys to change, instead STORM the gates, grab hands with each other, RUN like red rovers at the lifeguard chairs, snarl at the bases like wild starving beast dogs, boost each other up those watch towers and pull those motherfuckers down.
She’s totally right, by the way. While there are some exceptions to the axiom “Power is always taken, it is never given,” one should also remember the proverb, “Well-behaved women seldom make history.”
Indeed, Soloway’s own story illustrates this point. After working for a series of crappy shows, she gained a devoted web-following and came to the attention of Six Feet Under creator Alan Ball by publishing a short story entitled “Courteney Cox’s Asshole” about a fictional personal assistant who has to field calls about Cox’s rumored anal bleaching.
She has since become a celebrated TV creator, and although Transparent isn’t perfect, it’s still groundbreaking television that, according to Soloway, “wants to invent worlds that bridge the (gender) binary: Genderqueer, Boygirl, Girlboy, Macho Princess, and Officer Sweet Slutty Bear Captain are just a few incredibly confusing, gender-fucking concepts that come to mind.”
She added in her speech that her advice doesn’t only apply to society’s rigid concept of women, but reminded her listeners, “As a newly politicized member of the genderfluid revolution I’ll remind you that you don’t need a female body, you can also bring your spiritual womb, your conceptual pussy if need be.”