Sue Kroll, Catherine Hardwicke Among Industry Leaders Who Met Secretly to Discuss Hollywood's Gender Bias

Courtesy of Air Philosophy
Sue Kroll and Catherine Hardwicke

Other participants in the two-day Los Angeles gathering included Jenji Kohan, Mike De Luca, Nina Jacobson and Glen Mazzara.

Hollywood’s top decision-makers convened for a secret meeting in October aimed at tackling the industry’s gender bias.

A total of 44 high-ranking entertainment leaders, both male and female, participated in the two-day seminar hosted by the Sundance Institute and Women in Film. Among the execs, agents, producers, writers and directors who turned out: Lionsgate’s Erik Feig, HBO’s Len Amato, The Walking Dead producer Glen Mazzara, Twilight director Catherine Hardwicke, The Hunger Games producer Nina Jacobson, Orange Is the New Black showrunner Jenji Kohan, Tristar’s Hannah Minghella and actress Maria Bello.

The gathering came on the heels of a smaller confab with 10 key organizers earlier this summer. It was that group — WME's Adriana Alberghetti, Beyond the Lights producer Stephanie Allain, CAA's Chris Andrews and Micah Green, Fifty Shades of Grey producer Mike De Luca, The Butler producer Cassian Elwes, The Black List founder Franklin Leonard, BET's Zola Mashariki, Pacific Standard co-founder Bruna Papandrea, UTA's Rena Ronson, former WME agent and Macro founder Charles King — that decided whom to invite to the October think tank. 

The larger meeting, which was held at the Pacific Design Center in West Hollywood, was designed not only as a way to explore the systemic causes of gender bias plaguing studios, networks and agencies, but also as an opportunity to develop tangible steps for solving the issue, which has come to a head recently thanks to Patricia Arquette's 2014 Oscar's speech, Jennifer Lawrence's Lenny Letter essay on pay inequality and the EEOC's investigation into the severe lack of female directors (among the 1,220 helmers of the 100 top-grossing movies from 2002 to 2012, 95.6% were male and only 4.4% were female.)

To help facilitate the meeting, they brought in Carolyn Buck Luce and Rob Evans of Imaginal Labs, who have worked with senior execs from 40 Fortune 100 companies (including Google, Goldman Sachs, Time Warner, NBC Universal, Bloomberg and Intel) and helped them create strategies for women’s advancement within their offices. Unconscious-bias expert Judith Williams, who oversaw global diversity at Google and is now doing so at Dropbox, also paid the group a visit to speak about unintended discrimination in the workplace.

The participants also discussed research released over the past four years from a joint venture involving Sundance, Women In Film Los Angeles and USC Annenberg that examined the common barriers for female filmmakers. After workshopping over multiple sessions to make sense of the statistics, personal narratives and other information found in the reports, the leaders then spent the second day of the meet-up developing practical solutions to the obstacles that could feasibly be implemented across the industry.

Out of the gathering came a few key strategies that the top-level figures intend to go back and champion within their respective workplaces. One: “unconscious bias” training throughout the town. Two: a gender-parity stamp given to the films, TV shows, production companies, networks and studios making the most progress in terms of gender parity. And three: a fellowship program for talented early-­to-­mid-career female directors.

“The time is right to gather industry leadership and start to address these obstacles,” said Sundance’s executive director Keri Putnam. “The commitment from participants makes me believe that the industry is ready to explore real, tangible solutions that create more opportunities for women.”

Added Cathy Schulman, president of WIF Los Angeles and president of production at STX Entertainment, of the unprecedented meeting of competitors: “We are at an economic, social and cultural tipping point and sustainable change is within reach. The time to act is now. Hollywood is surprisingly late in coming to this party and this is the time for conversion.”

Here is the full list of participants:

Adriana Alberghetti 

Agent and partner, WME 

Stephanie Allain  

Producer of Hustle & Flow, Beyond the Lights and former senior vp production, Columbia Pictures 

Victoria Alonso 

Executive vp physical production, Marvel Studios 

Len Amato 

President, HBO Films 

Darla Anderson 

Producer of Toy Story 3, Cars, Monsters Inc., A Bug's Life and board of directors, PGA 

Chris Andrews 

Agent, CAA 

Rowena Arguelles 

Agent, CAA 

Bonnie Arnold 

Co­-president, Dreamworks Animation 

Glen Basner 

CEO of FilmNation 

Maria Bello 

Actor, activist, author and producer 

Andrea Berloff 

Screenwriter of World Trade Center, Straight Outta Compton and board of directors, WGA 

Cindy Chupack 

Writer-executive producer of Sex and the City, writer/co­-executive producer of Modern Family and Everybody Loves Raymond

Maha Dahkil 

Agent, CAA 

Mike De Luca 

Producer of Social Network, Fifty Shades of Grey and former executive at Sony, New Line and DreamWorks 

Zanne Devine 

Executive vp film and television, Miramax 

Cassian Elwes 

Producer-executive producer of The Butler, Dallas Buyers Club, Blue Valentine and former agent and head of William Morris Independent 

Erik Feig 

Co­-president, Lionsgate 

Sid Ganis 

Former executive at Sony Pictures, Lucasfilm, Warner Bros. and Paramount and former president of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences 

Liz Gateley 

Executive vp, head of programming, Lifetime Television 

Micah Green 

Agent and co­-head of Film Finance, CAA 

Catherine Hardwicke 

Director of Twilight, Thirteen, Lords of Dogtown, Miss You Already

Nina Jacobson 

Producer of the Hunger Games and Diary of a Wimpy Kid series and former president, Walt Disney Motion Picture Group 

Charles King 

Founder of Macro, and former agent and partner, WME 

Jenji Kohan 

Creator of Weeds, Orange is the New Black

Sue Kroll 

President of worldwide marketing and distribution, Warner Bros. Pictures 

Franklin Leonard 

Founder of The Black List, former executive at Universal and at the production companies of Will Smith, Sydney Pollack and Anthony Minghella, Leonardo DiCaprio and John Goldwyn 

Linda Lichter 

Founding law partner of Lichter, Grossman, Nichols, Adler & Feldman

Alix Madigan 

Head of creative affairs, Broad Green Pictures 

Zola Mashariki 

Executive vp, head of original programming at BET Networks, former senior vp, Fox Searchlight 

Glen Mazzara 

Creator and showrunner of Damien, executive producer of The Walking Dead and The Shield and co-­chair of the WGA’s Diversity Advisory Group 

Hannah Minghella 

President, Tristar Pictures and former president, Columbia Pictures 

Bruna Papandrea 

Co-­founder of Pacific Standard, producer of Gone Girl, Wild, Hot Pursuit

Kimberly Peirce 

Director-writer of Boys Don't Cry, Carrie, Stop-Loss, Western Council and National board member, DGA  

Lydia Dean Pilcher 

Producer of The Darjeeling Limited, Vanity Fair, Cutie and the Boxer and vp, PGA 

Gigi Pritzker 

CEO of OddLot Entertainment and board trustee, Sundance Institute 

Keri Putnam 

Executive director, Sundance Institute 

Howard Rodman 

President, WGA 

Rena Ronson 

Agent, partner and head of the Independent Film Group, UTA 

Michelle Satter 

Founding director, Sundance Institute Feature Film Program 

Cathy Schulman 

Head of production, STX Entertainment, president, Women In Film Los Angeles and board member, Film Independent 

Stacy Smith 

Director of Media, Diversity & Social Change Initiative, USC and author of Women In Film/Sundance Institute research 

Mimi Steinbauer 

President-CEO, Radiant Films International 

Robin Swicord 

Screenwriter of Little Women, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Jane Austen Book Club, Memoirs of a Geisha, governor for the Writers Branch of the Academy and chair of the Nicholl Fellowship 

Paula Wagner 

Co­-founder, Cruise/Wagner Productions, producer of the Mission: Impossible trilogy, War of the Worlds, The Last Samurai, former CEO, United Artists and board member, PGA