Amber Tamblyn: Women Supporting Women Is the Solution to Hollywood's Gender Problem (Guest Column)

Portrait by Zoe More O’Ferrall

The actress stresses the power of allies in an industry that "can marginalize us, behind the camera and in front."

Years ago, I was sitting across the table from a film director who was set to helm the screenplay I had adapted, Paint It Black. We had very strong yet different visions for the movie we hoped to make together, and after many creative discussions, the director told me they didn't feel they were the right director anymore. Because I was. After the director and I parted ways, my producer, Wren Arthur, called me to talk about the idea; I balked, saying I had no real experience. "Don't you, though?" she asked.

Did I? There were very few examples for comparison. I've been an actress since I was 11, and in over two decades of experience, I've only ever worked with two female directors. I did not know what the version of me — the one who would exist behind a camera, calling the shots —would look like. In almost every position in Hollywood — from the director's chair to the writers room to the A.D. department — women are grossly underrepresented.

As more allegations of sexual harassment and assault emerge daily, it's becoming increasing apparent to me that the abuse of women leads to the absence of women. Recently, a woman named Kater Gordon told a story publicly about being sexually harassed by Matthew Weiner while working as a writer on Mad Men. Mr. Weiner allegedly told her in his office that he felt he had earned the right to see her naked. She brushed off his advance, and the following season she was fired, even after winning an Emmy for the episode she had co-written with him.

I know plenty of women with similar stories. Think of those who have been harassed out of the industry or their jobs. Is it any wonder that women are so scarcely represented when men — who weild the majority of our industry's say-so — can easily humiliate us or shame us into such uncomfortable situations and still keep their jobs? When they behave as if they've earned the right to our bodies, or worse, just take what they want without even asking?

I believe that to end the era of such intimidations, we must turn to each other, that women must become allies like never before in the history of the entertainment business. We must demand widespread accountability and action from our unions, representatives and film and television sets. And we must hold each other up. If you see a woman struggling at work and you're in a position to say something, do it. If you can help get more women of color in positions to direct feature films, do it. If you hear of a queer woman being bullied at her job, reach out to her and ask what you can do to help.

Whatever it is, do it. When I told Wren I wanted to direct my film, what came next was a kind of support I'd never experienced before in my career. Wren sat me down and said, "Now listen to me, a lot of people are going to try and convince us that you shouldn't be doing this. That we should pick someone with more experienced. Fuck them. You are going to be brilliant. You have a vision and I believe in it whole-heartedly.” It's actions like these that exemplify the power of allies, in a business that can marginalize us, behind the camera and in front.

Tamblyn's directorial debut, Imagination Worldwide's Paint It Black, is currently available on VOD.

A version of this story first appeared in the 2017 Women in Entertainment Power 100 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.