It can be hard to say what you want. Women especially struggle with voicing their ambitions when they don’t fit the image of a leader in their professions or aren’t sure they have the experience to pull off a leadership role.
Then, as the years slip by, it can feel as though opportunity has passed you up. But according to women who have made it, that’s not the case.
“Nora Ephron was 51 when she directed her 1st movie. Nancy Meyers was 49. Their kids were grown … I was 47. Tell the people you work with your dream. Put your hand up. Men ask. Ask,” tweeted Aline Brosh McKenna, co-creator, showrunner and head writer of “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend.”
Nora Ephron was 51 when she directed her 1st movie. Nancy Meyers was 49. Their kids were grown. If you're a women who writes, acts, edits, ADs, etc and you're ready to direct, you're not too old. I was 47. Tell the people you work with your dream. Put your hand up. Men ask. Ask.
— Aline Brosh McKenna (@alinebmckenna) October 22, 2018
After McKenna’s tweet, Bustle spoke with Hollywood directors who are either women or non-binary about how they got the confidence to voice what they wanted, and what happened from there. Here’s some of their best advice. Though it’s targeting women who want to be directors in film or TV, it touches on the experiences of women in almost every field where men tend to dominate.
Tasha Smith, star of “Empire,” on deciding if your interest is lasting
“Create a mood board, create a tone board, just do your own homework. Go through the process of [asking yourself], ‘How would I develop this if I had the money?’ … figure it out and see if it feeds you.”
Krista Vernoff, showrunner, writer and producer of “Grey’s Anatomy,” on dealing with self-confidence issues
“I thought, I am qualified, I have been at this for nearly 20 years, and I keep writing my stories and handing them off to other people, oftentimes men, to realize. I stand there on the set the whole time as a showrunner and as a creator and whisper my notes to the director, often a male director. What do I have in me that is hiding from taking that leap myself to actualizing my own story?”
Lisa France, director, writer, and producer, on naysayers
“My own father said, ‘You’re not a filmmaker,’ because I hadn’t made a movie yet. And I think at the end of the day I said, ‘OK, I got it, I see why you think that.’ Because I hadn’t proven myself yet.”
Constance Zimmer, actor, on getting asked the question
“What inspired me was being given the opportunity. I had never been given the opportunity … When Lifetime and the producers of UnREAL came to me and said, ‘Do you want to direct an episode?’ I didn’t even falter; I said, ‘Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes.'”
Lisa France on supporting other women
“I think one of the things that happens with women is that we get a little ahead, and we’re terrified of losing that lead that we might have, or the wave that we’re on. And so we’re like, ‘Oh, I better not help any more women, because there’s only room for me.’ And I think it’s really important to know that is just baloney, just baloney. We can continue to help more women, we can continue to help more people of color, we can continue to help anybody, really. So we don’t have to be afraid of that.”
Aline Brosh McKenna on bolstering diversity
“What I do with women with great competence in any area of filmmaking, I now make it a practice to ask, ‘Do you want to direct?’ And to encourage them to put their names forward.”
Krista Vernoff on raising your hand
“Recently, I overheard that a woman on our crew hopes to direct. And I said to Debbie [Allen], ‘I heard this, should we reach out to her?’ And she said, ‘No, she has to come to us.’ When you’re ready, when you have the drive, when you put it out there that you’re ready, we will rise up to meet you, but you can’t be a whisper campaign. If you want to direct, you gotta have the drive to put your hand up.”