We Asked Hollywood "What's Your Career Pledge?" — Here's How They Responded
Progress comes in many forms. Sometimes it is a film with a cast made up entirely of performers of color dominating the box office and becoming the top-earning domestic movie of the year. It may be the first Asian woman to earn a nomination in the Emmy's lead actress drama series category. Or maybe it is the $20 million raised in 60 days to help address undeniable systemic issues in the workplace, including sexual harassment and pay inequality. All of these moments happened in 2018, and it was incredible to watch all of them unfold.
With that said, we still have a ways to go.
Last year, Bustle pledged to #AcknowledgeHerMore. In our effort to shine a light on women who played key parts in creating TV and film that year, both behind the scenes and in front of the camera, Bustle made a point to mention a woman who was a part of every project featured in the Entertainment section. This year, we're flipping the script from last year: From now until the end of the 2019 awards season, we're asking every woman and non-binary person we speak to within the entertainment industry (writers, directors, costume designers, actors, music coordinators, and more) to share with us the one pledge they've made to themselves in their career, and what they are doing to keep that progress going.
Over the course of January and February, we will be doing our part to push the conversation forward by asking some of the people behind our favorite entertainment moments for their pledge, starting with...
Amy Nauiokas, producer of Can You Ever Forgive Me?
What is the one pledge you've made to yourself in your career? "I, very early on, have made a pledge to hold close the values and the love of integrity that I grew up with and learned from my parents and my grandmother. And I will never budge when it comes to integrity, in any way, shape, or form."
What are you doing to keep the progress in Hollywood going? "I’m asking questions, whether it’s casting, or financing, or packaging, or even building the story from the scaffolding of the story, from the idea up. How are we reflecting the society that we live in? How are we hiring? How are we managing our diversity amongst our crew and our team?"
Karyn Kusama, director of Destroyer
What is the one pledge you've made to yourself in your career? "The pledge that I’m still learning to keep is, I’m never going to walk away from conflict simply because it makes me uncomfortable. That I need to start walking into and engaging the thing that makes me most uncomfortable, and testing those waters a little bit more."
What are you doing to keep the progress in Hollywood going? "I just had an opportunity in front of me to hire highly qualified men or women, and I decided it would be interesting to just hire the qualified women. See what that’s like. Not as a political mandate, but just as something to try. ... To have so many women on set ... it just created a really nice environment. ... I think it’s so important that we keep an open dialogue about this stuff, because I have a lot to learn from other women, I have a lot to teach other women, but the same can be said of other men."
Betsy Beers, executive producer of Grey's Anatomy
What is the one pledge you've made to yourself in your career? "Take time to listen to other people, but take time to listen to yourself. They're both equally valuable."
What are you doing to keep the progress in Hollywood going? "It's really, really important for us to continue to spread the word that there's all of these possible positions out there for women, that they either may not be aware of or they may think aren't open to them. We're here to say, 'Oh, yes they are.' Everything is open to them. Everything is open to you."
KiKi Layne, actor in If Beale Street Could Talk
What is the one pledge you've made to yourself in your career? "I guess to always do things that I love ... gotta hit me somewhere in my spirit."
What are you doing to keep the progress in Hollywood going? "I'm taking this time to get clear about — once my voice and my platform carries more weight — how am I going to use that influence. So, I'm paying attention to the people I'm meeting and working with and seeing what they're doing, because once I get to that level, I want to be impactful."
Amy Sherman-Palladino, creator and showrunner of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
What is the one pledge you've made to yourself in your career? "I’ve always said, 'You can’t be afraid to get fired,' because I think that’s where all bad writing comes from."
What are you doing to keep the progress in Hollywood going? "I’ve always hired women my entire career. So, to me, this is not something I just started with. I’ve always had to have as many women around as possible. It’s more of the same."
Natalie Portman, actor in Vox Lux
What is the one pledge you've made to yourself in your career? "Work on things that I felt were meaningful in a way that was worth the time that I was away from my family. … It’s so hard leaving, and I want anything that I do to be enriching and invigorating in a way that made me better when I went back."
What are you doing to keep the progress in Hollywood going? "I think continuing the conversation is most important, and to continue gathering. I think the force of women meeting and talking to each other and working together to achieve common goals is ... it starts with getting together, so that’s what we should continue to do."
Delia Ephron, screenwriter of You've Got Mail
What is the one pledge you've made to yourself in your career? "First of all, all my stories have to [in] some way be personal. They have to come through my heart. I don’t look outside to decide what I want to write. 'Oh everyone’s writing about vampires, I’ll write about vampires.' By the time you’re done writing about vampires, no one’s interested in them, or more importantly, you didn’t really have a powerful feeling about vampires. Your work is your fingerprint, and that’s the way I think of it."
What are you doing to keep the progress in Hollywood going? "I think in the sense that I’ve always mentored anyone I possibly can."
Alex Borstein, actor in The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
What is the one pledge you've made to yourself in your career? "I only want to take work that either the quality is excellent, or it’s something that I've never done before that seems like it will be really exciting to try. Maybe if something's not like the most compelling, incredible character in the world, but oh my God, I would get to go to Africa and be in the jungle and learn how to, you know, [do] something that would be pleasing to me and crack open my experiences. That's my pledge ... I will never take anything out of fear again."
What are you doing to keep the progress in Hollywood going? "I try to make choices on projects that are made by brilliant women, directed by them, edited by them, music is chosen by them, costumes are designed by them, [and where I'm] surrounded by other talented women. If I'm ever at a point in my career where I have any power, which I don't know that that will ever happen, [but] if I'm ever making choices about hiring those positions, I would certainly do my best to see the diversity on the set that you're more comfortable with."
Felicity Jones, actor in On the Basis of Sex
What is the one pledge you've made to yourself in your career? "I think there's a pledge that in whatever capacity when I'm presenting women on screen that I present the full human being, all the different sides of someone, the flaws as well as the triumphs. And that's how I always go into everything, no matter what the situation, I have to honor the truth of the character."
What are you doing to keep the progress in Hollywood going? "Making and talking about films like On the Basis of Sex. The fight continues."
Shay Mitchell, actor in YOU, Pretty Little Liars, and The Possession of Hannah Grace
What is the one pledge you've made to yourself in your career? "To play strong female roles ... I think it's important for young girls, and just women in general to see, we don't need saving. We go through a lot, and we can handle it."
What are you doing to keep the progress in Hollywood going? "...Truly everything that I attach my name to it, and the different projects work on, are only because I'm extremely passionate about them. I love what I do because of that."
Meher Tatna, President of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association
What is the one pledge you've made to yourself in your career? "I guess being Indian my upbringing always sort of made me not be particularly assertive or to stand up for myself. And that is something I've tried all my life to overcome, not always successfully, but it is something I try to remind myself of. That I am worth standing up for and that my voice means something."
What are you doing to keep the progress in Hollywood going? "Solidarity. Supporting one another, standing up for one another. It's always helpful if someone supports your position and tells you that you are worthy and you are right and that they will help, so I try to."
Karen Gillan, actor/writer/director in The Party's Just Beginning
What is the one pledge you've made to yourself in your career? "I think one that I made was that I would never take an acting role purely for money. And I think that’s a good one to stick to, because I think it could probably get quite tempting at times. But you have to hold your nerve and you have to tell people how you want to be considered as an actor. You need to position yourself where you want to be, rather than allowing other people to completely steer that or just taking what you’re given. I think you have an element of control in there. And I certainly don’t want to be driven by financial rewards.
What are you doing to keep the progress in Hollywood going? "I feel that becoming a female filmmaker is a step in the right direction, because I think action is just the most important thing here. Words are important, but action speaks volumes. And so if we want equality, let’s take steps to do that, and it’s going to be difficult, and there’s going to be setbacks and obstacles in the way. But I think, I’m hoping that if other young girls who might consider directing see me in that role, and then decide to move into it themselves, then I think that’s a great contribution to the movement."
This list will be updated throughout January and February with more pledges by the industry's leading forces behind TV and film.
Responses have been edited and condensed for clarity.