'Frozen' Director: Here's How Having Women in the Story Room Changes Everything

Illustration by: Alexandra Compain-Tissier
Jennifer Lee

In THR's Women in Entertainment issue, Oscar winner Jennifer Lee says that just eight years ago, "there was this feeling that if you didn’t speak to men in the audience, people wouldn’t come"

This story first appeared in the 2014 Women in Entertainment issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.

Films like Frozen, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire and Gravity did extra­ordinarily well, so there's clearly no argument to suggest that female protagonists can't carry films.

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But when I started in the industry just out of film school eight years ago, it was very common to hear, "Male leads drive the box office." There was this feeling that if you didn't speak to men in the audience, people wouldn't come. Female characters have, thankfully, gotten more three-dimensional since then. But this trend has to continue and be pushed further.

At Disney, we have more and more women working in the story rooms and as heads of animation — add to that a female director, and we start pushing for authenticity. That's saying: "She wouldn't do that. That's a generalization," or, "That's a stereotype," or, "That kind of dialogue isn't real." And that kind of push toward authentic characters will create female leads who are just as believable and dynamic as their male counterparts.

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Actresses talk about there not being enough parts and projects they can sink their teeth into. We have to keep talking about it and pushing. The box office is supporting it! Things are shifting. I know it feels like molasses, but it's a shift worth fighting for.