Olivia Wilde joins fellow female directors for ‘Wonder Women’ panel discussion

SCAD Savannah Film Festival

SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) — This year, it’s predicted that 10 to 12 of the top 100 films at the box office will be directed by female directors, which is considered a big change from previous years. 

SCAD Savannah Film Festival’s “Wonder Women: Directors” panel discussion opened with this impressive statistic at the event held at the Gutstein Gallery day three of the festival.

Female directors spoke to and fielded questions from an audience of aspiring and working film industry professionals at one of the four “Wonder Women” discussions scheduled for this year’s festival.

Reminding yourself of your worthiness — because that’s what you are: worthy — and carrying that into both life and work, for me, that’s been something that’s been super helpful.” 

Annabelle Attanasio, director, “Mickey and the Bear”

Panelists included Olivia Wilde (“Booksmart”); Annabelle Attanasio (“Mickey and the Bear”); Laure de Clermont-Tonnerre (“The Mustang”); Jocelyn DeBoer and Dawn Luebbe (“Greener Grass”);  Gail Mancuso (“Modern Family,” “A Dog’s Journey”); and Kaila York (“Never See Her Again,” “Home Is Where the Killer Is”). 

The directors discussed the importance of equality in film, and how women are just as capable of making a significant impact in the industry as their male counterparts.

“It’s really obvious that audiences are eager to see more stories told by women, and that they show up for stories made by women about women,” said Olivia Wilde, whose film “Booksmart” screened Tuesday at the SCAD Savannah Film Festival.

“The industry is based on commerce; well, now we can show that numbers don’t lie, and people will show up and that hopefully will encourage studio heads to greenlight more films generated by women,” Wilde said.

The panelists spoke about people who helped them find opportunities in their careers.

Gail Mancuso, who was an economics major who switched gears to pursue a film career, told the audience that actress, comedian, television producer and writer Roseanne Barr gave her that first shot at directing.

Mancuso had worked for Barr as a script supervisor for Barr’s show, “Roseanne.”

“People don’t know what you want to do until you ask them, and you tell them,” she said.

Mancuso asked Barr if she could direct an episode that needed a director, and Barr gave her the go-ahead. She added that at that time, female directors were scarce.

“There were maybe three of us there,” Mancuso said.

Jocelyn DeBoer and Dawn Luebbe, whose film “Greener Grass” won an award at South by Southwest, found themselves getting rejected four times before getting one of their films accepted by the Sundance Film Festival.

“For all three of our short films, we applied to Sundance, and we got kind of really nice rejection letters,” DeBoer shared to light chuckles from the audience.

“What was really nice was when we arrived at Sundance with our feature, ‘Greener Grass,’ the first night we were there, we were at a filmmakers’ party,” DeBoer recalled.

“These two programmers came running up to us and were like, ‘We’ve been tracking you guys for four years! We’re so excited you’re finally here!’”

The two directors like to tell this story, Luebbe said, because “sometimes, repeated rejection doesn’t mean that you aren’t progressing.”

The panel opened up to questions near the end, giving the directors chances to share valuable advice with audience members.

“If you apologize for your existence in life, you’re going to apologize for your existence on set, too,” said Annabelle Attanasio, to a student.

“Reminding yourself of your worthiness — because that’s what you are: worthy — and carrying that into both life and work, for me, that’s been something that’s been super helpful.” 

The panelists also encouraged aspiring directors and film biz professionals to shadow people that inspire and influence them.

A great thing about being an actor that wants to direct, Wilde said, is the abundance of opportunities to shadow everyone on set.

“I started about 10 years ago just kind of slinking around sets; I never went to my trailer, I just paid attention and asked a lot of annoying questions,” she said. “That was my de facto film school.”

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