Watching the Emmys last weekend, it was impossible not to notice that this show was doing something different; for the first time in a long time, it felt like a major awards show was giving women with the same recognition and respect that it gave men. From Viola Davis' history-making win to Jill Soloway's honor for Transparent , the night was filled with talented women getting their due in an industry that's known for its sexism and gender inequality, and for those actually sitting in the audience, it was hard not to feel an actual change in the atmosphere.
"I saw a good number of women go up there for directing and writing," says Naomi Scott, a producer who was at the show with her husband, Parks and Rec's Adam Scott. "And it’s exciting. I wish it wasn't so exciting because honestly, it should just be the norm."
Yet thanks to the Scotts, it might just become that. Adam, of course, is known for the feminist, Leslie Knope-featuring Parks and Rec, while Naomi is a rare female exec in a sea of men — according to a study by the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film, current stats have women making up only 23 percent of film producers on the top 250 grossing films. Together, the Scotts are responsible for this summer's The Overnight , a feminist indie dramedy about a crazy night shared between two couples, in which Adam starred and both of them produced. The film, the first made with their company, Gettin' Rad, received major praise from critics, particularly for its depiction of marriage and frank discussions of both male and female sexuality.
"One hundred percent, we wanted to tell [this story], Scott says. "Adam is a feminist, I’m a feminist, and we’ve always felt that we connect with characters that were strong... in the sense of not being afraid to show emotion."
In The Overnight, every character, male or female, is remarkably vulnerable, whether they're talking about sex or jumping into pools naked (to say any more would be a serious spoiler). The women, especially (played by Orange is the New Black's Taylor Schilling and French actress Judith Godreche), open up in ways not often seen on-screen; they discuss everything from body image to the standards of motherhood. Scott says that featuring such complex female characters was a natural decision.
"I truly think it’s just part of our DNA, just how we think," she says.
Along with her husband, Scott is producing several upcoming films and TV shows, as part of a deal Gettin' Rad made with Universal last fall. Although few details are known about what those projects will entail, Scott says that the duo are "excited to tell more stories from a feminist perspective."
"We’re putting up a lot of projects right now and looking for female directors, and I want that list to be much longer than it is right now," Scott says. "But it is substantial — there are definitely women directors who are stronger than their male counterparts on some projects."
According to Scott, finding female directors is only one part of the equation. She notes the need for every role behind-the-scenes, from production designers to cinematographers, to be filled by more women.
"I think there’ve been specific changes you could point to and they’re public, whether it’s Lena Dunham or Amy Schumer, Amy Poehler or Tina Fey, any of those people," she says, "But it needs to be pervasive... I've seen it in practice on set, but I don’t know that there’s enough of those experiences to say that there’s been a big change."
As a producer who's worked on Jimmy Kimmel Live! and The Greatest Event in Television History, Scott is all-too-familiar with Hollywood's behind-the-scenes gender imbalance. She says that although she's never experienced outright discrimination, she has felt "looked over" by male executives, especially in her earlier days.
"I’ve always had the good fortune of working for people who have acknowledged my skills just for what they are, and not for what my gender is," Scott says. Still, "I think it [sexism] is pervasive... I haven’t felt that directly, but I’m sure it’ll happen."
On The Overnight, Scott's main concern was making a movie — the company's first — that didn't fit into Hollywood's norms. With its detailed discussions of sex and use of prosthetic penises, the film isn't exactly like your normal comedy.
"We’ve always thought of it less like a straight comedy and more of a horror comedy. A lot of people told us that this film was like a horror film, and the monster was sex," Scott says, laughing.
As nervous as they were, the Scotts were thrilled about getting to make The Overnight(now on iTunes and On Demand) astheir first film.
"That kind of stuff was exciting because it felt different," Scott says. "It felt like we were really starting kind of out there, versus something that’s a bit more mainstream or acceptable."
If "unacceptable" means frank, feminist films that tell honest stories about people and feature naked Adam Scott? Then here's hoping The Overnight is just the first of many movies made by Gettin' Rad's two great creators.
Image: The Orchard