Let's discuss the way men shoot women in movies — the way they objectify them or the way the camera lingers over them. When you're making your movies, is there something intentional about how you want women to be shot that is not the way they're typically shot?
Foner: I have in my movie a first sexual experience. And I from the beginning I wanted to do this — because it's iconic for everybody, male and female — from the point of view of the women to whom it was happening. I wanted to do it so we were inside her head when it was happening. And I showed it to the producers. And they were deeply offended by it. They said that it looked aggressive. And there was a struggle about how much of it is still in the movie. There is not as much of it in, because I didn't have the control to keep it all in.
Fidell: I made a short film that had an extended rape scene in it and shot it very close up on her face during it. And I think that was the longest take of the whole film.
What about you, Liz?
Garcia: Because I was depicting an underage kid, I was very conscious of how I shot the actor, Dave Lambert, who plays Kristen Bell's underage love interest. And he took off all of his clothes, and he's totally gorgeous. And so there was ample opportunity to kind of pick him apart. And I was like, "This isn't me. This isn't the film." And I had to take it out.
Dabis: I [cast] myself in the movie, [and] I notice that there's a lot of comments on the way I look on camera. And I just have to pose the question: If I were a male director writing, directing and acting in my own film — would people be commenting so much on the way I look on-screen?
Dabis: And I have to say, it has really, really bothered me. Because I end up feeling objectified.
Foner: Many years ago, my ex-husband [director Stephen Gyllenhaal] made a movie ["A Dangerous Woman"] in which Barbara Hershey appeared and had to pick a body double. At the time, she was getting close to 50. She picked a 23-year-old body double. And I was a producer of the movie. I had a conniption fit. I said, "This cannot happen. Women in America cannot believe that when an almost-50-year-old woman takes off her clothes, she looks like that." And it ended up that we used that body double.
Hannah, we didn't get to talk about how you shot "A Teacher."
Fidell: I wanted to flip that male gaze around and I very intentionally did that, by objectifying the young boy. For a lot of the young women that I was working with, we just grew up on the male gaze so it was so hard for us to disassociate ourselves from that. Men have a very hard time relating to my film, in the way that I had intended. But they still get something out of it because it speaks to their hot-for-teacher fantasy. They can get whatever they want out of it.
What makes you feel good about being a woman making movies in Hollywood right now?
Garcia: I feel very hopeful about women in the industry, because of Lena Dunham [in "Girls"]. She is an auteur. She is young. She does not fit in the Hollywood obsession with beauty. She's inspiring me, and I'm 10 years older. And she's therefore inspiring girls who are younger.
Cowperthwaite: I think it's just the conversations I've had since arriving here — the ones with women — are beyond my expectations, in terms of support. "Oh, my God, I can't wait to see your movie!" So supportive and collaborative.
Fidell: I just feel like the world is our oyster. I grew up knowing that my mother is a journalist and was one of the first bureau chiefs I think ever at the New York Times. Hearing these stories of how hard it was for her, and yet knowing how easy it is for me right now is just remarkable.
Foner: For me the hopefulness is to hear that you guys expect to have what you have. You don't for a minute think that there's any reason you shouldn't. So I feel like if my generation has done something, it's where you begin.