I'm A Female Filmmaker With Funding For My First Film & People Think I Got It By Sleeping With Someone
My phone is on silent. I’m trying to be nonchalant. It rings, and I immediately decline the call.
Suddenly, I can’t help it — I panic. “What does it say when my phone goes to voicemail?”
My boyfriend looks at me, confused and worried, “What?”
“I don’t remember what the message says, do I say my last name?”
“Do I say, ‘Hi you’ve reached Jannette Bloom?’”
“I think so, yeah...”
It was past midnight. I had just gotten home from work as an extra on a TV set, and had been silently deleting a string of unwanted text messages that started as “Come over” and evolved into photos of the man’s erect penis.
I’m an indie film producer, writer, and actress. I had just pitched my next feature film to this man. My first feature, Mahjong and the West , was just released on Amazon and Vimeo On Demand. It first played in a few festivals, then in NYC and LA to benefit Prevent Child Abuse America.
I started noticing something when I’d mention Mahjong to some of my male counterparts, other aspiring writers and filmmakers. They always wondered how I got my funding and most would ask if I used Kickstarter. I’d say "No, we found an investor who funded the project." They would look defeated and annoyed, rolling their eyes. I didn’t realize what this was about until someone outright said it: “Wow. I wish I was a young pretty girl.” That is an exact quote.
Since I am female, it must be that I got where I am by sleeping my way there. It couldn’t possibly be that I wrote a great script and worked my ass off to get it into the right hands. Men do this all the time and no one questions it. “Oh wow, that guy must be talented!” A woman does it and she must be damn good in the sack.
This brings me back to the dick pic sender.
I thought it had gone so well. When I left him, I was ecstatic. I had told him it was a top notch script, a top ten finalist (out of thousands) in the American Zoetrope Screenplay Contest. That it only involved one location and two actors. That $75K would look like $1M onscreen. He ate up everything I said. He loved the premise of the film, thought it was inventive and fresh, and seemed genuinely excited about the profit potential with such a low cost up front. We had exchanged phone numbers and I was going to contact him about meeting the following week to talk more about it. We had only gotten each others’ first names. Now, after harassing me and calling my voicemail, he heard my last name and I was afraid for my safety.
Block it out if you have to and don’t let it stop you from doing your work.
Unfortunately experiences like this are not as uncommon as they should be, and not just in the film industry, but what may be even more insidious is the everyday sexism that prevents women’s work from being seen as worthy of investment. An October 2015 study conducted by Stacy Smith, Ph.D. at The University of Southern California shows how women reach a wall when trying to get funding for narrative feature films. According to the report, 61 percent of interviewees named financing as one of the major obstacles to creating feature films. Academy Award winner Jane Campion, the only female Palm D’Or Winner at Cannes, told The Guardian in May of 2014 that gender disparity in Hollywood is all about funding. And women’s feature films are not being made in the first place. "At film schools, the gender balance is about 50/50. Women do really well in short-film competitions. It's when business and commerce and art come together; somehow men trust men more,” said Campion in the same interview.
I guess it’s no coincidence that Mahjong was funded by a woman.
This distrust of women’s ability to produce worthwhile and profitable work is so ingrained in some people, they don’t even realize how insulting their comments are. It’s just assumed that a woman’s looks and sexuality are more powerful than any other tool she has in her arsenal, so that must be how she got ahead. But — and we all know this — women are every bit as smart, creative, and talented as men. So let’s start acting like it.
I went to film school, I studied acting for five years, I wrote countless bad scripts until I wrote a good one, then I wrote a couple more good ones, then I got one of those good ones made by working incredibly hard. The pieces came together because I believed I had something great to offer and I never gave up. You put in the work and you get where you want to go. Even if it’s six times as difficult as a woman. I’m halfway toward doing it again. Those men I talked to wanted to attribute my accomplishment to sex because they didn’t want to admit to themselves that my ability to find funding for my films could be based on merit. Because that would mean they’re not working hard enough.
I ended up just blocking the dick pic sender's number; he was barraging me with pictures and messages and phone calls. It was actually quite zen to just press a button, and suddenly I didn’t hear from him anymore. As women, we are bombarded with little sexist messages all the time, whether it’s someone downplaying our talents or telling us to smile on the metro. We fight back, but it can be exhausting.
Block it out if you have to and, more importantly, don’t let it stop you from doing your work.
Editor's Note: A previous version of this article mistakenly implied that Jane Campion won an Academy Award for directing, when in fact she won for screenwriting.
Image: Courtesy Of Jannette Bloom/Mahjong And The West