Early in her career, director Catherine Hardwicke believed the way to get ahead in Hollywood was hard work.
"I thought it’s just a struggle for everybody. It’s just my own merit, if I can figure out how to get a movie made or not."
In 2003, she directed the critically acclaimed feature film "Thirteen."
In 2008, she directed "Twilight," which earned nearly $400 million and launched a multibillion-dollar franchise.
"I thought, "Now, it’s going to be a lot easier for me to make movies,'" she said. But that wasn't the case. "That’s when I started to understand the gender bias."
Hardwicke said after “Twilight, “ she tried to meet with studio executives about directing upcoming movies, "and they would literally tell my agent, 'oh, we want to hire a man for that job.'"
Hardwicke has a new movie coming out this November, "Miss You Already," starring Drew Barrymore and Toni Collette. She made that movie in London with British backing — not in Los Angeles.
Hollywood is not an easy place for a woman to get work as a director, especially on big-budget films.
That fact hasn’t been lost on the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which is looking into Hollywood’s hiring practices regarding female directors. After receiving a detailed letter from the ACLU, the Commission has reportedly begun interviewing women directors to understand why so few of them call the shots on big movies and television shows.
The EEOC refused to comment, but issued this statement:
"We have received the ACLU's letter which contained information documenting under representation of women directors in the film and television industry and have had further discussions with the ACLU about their data and conclusions. Federal law does not permit EEOC to confirm or deny the existence of a charge, and it would be inappropriate to comment on any potential or ongoing enforcement actions. EEOC will continue to vigorously enforce Title VII's nondiscrimination requirements. Title VII prohibits covered employers from discriminating on the basis of sex. Individuals who believe they have been discriminated against at work can file a charge of discrimination with EEOC. We also encourage the industry to publicly address the serious issues raised by the ACLU and to take proactive steps to address these issues."
"We are not uncovering a new problem," said ACLU attorney Melissa Goodman. “This is a problem that people have talked about for a long time."
And women in the entertainment industry aren't waiting for legal action. They are looking beyond legal remedies.
"We’re hearing an industry ready for change, with absolutely no idea how to make it," said Cathy Schulman, an Oscar winning producer and the president of Women in Film.
Schulman said last week a group of directors, creators, studio heads and agents got together to brainstorm to make that change happen.
"If we don’t take this moment and maximize this interest point, we run a very real risk of getting swept back under the rug," she said.
The group plans to send a handful of high profile ambassadors to networks, production companies and financiers around the city, encouraging them to choose to put more women in the director's chair.
"It is so strange that a business, this progressive, this liberal, this full of vision-makers and creatively energized people, could be so far behind other industries and the norm," Schulman said.
Correction: An earlier version of this story misspelled Hardwicke and Schulman. The text has been corrected.
Click the audio player below to hear Schulman speak about gender inequality in the film industry and the obstacles that exist for women filmmakers:
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