MAKERS: Women in Hollywood

WOMEN IN HOLLYWOOD showcases the women of showbiz, from the earliest pioneers to present-day power players, as they influence the creation of one of the country’s biggest commodities: entertainment.

Video Transcript


LINDA WOOLVERTON: When I was writing "Beauty and the Beast," I knew that our heroine was going to meet the beast and confront the beast. So she had to be a strong enough character to do that. I set out deliberately to not create a character that was the perfect victim, the poor stepchild stuck in the basement scrubbing the floor waiting for the prince to come and save her.

- Oh!

- Hello.

LINDA WOOLVERTON: I just didn't think it was right to shove that idea down the throats of generations of young women. But the idea of this new Belle didn't go over well. There was a scene that I wrote where Belle's waiting for her father to come back. And she's putting pins on the map to all the wonderful places she's going to go.

So I brought the pages in that day. And I went away. And I came back the next day. And Belle wasn't putting pins in a map. She was baking a cake. She was in the kitchen. Belle was in the kitchen. So I wasn't happy.


- That hurts!

- If you'd hold still, it wouldn't hurt as much.

- Well, if you hadn't have run away, this wouldn't have happened.

- If you hadn't frightened me, I wouldn't have run away.

LINDA WOOLVERTON: I had to imagine every day that I was going to war. I literally imagined putting on a flak jacket, putting on my helmet, because I was going to war to fight for what I believed was the right thing; for this new woman that I wanted to see in the world that we needed, that we need. So for me it was a righteous fight. And it was worth it.

JULIA ROBERTS (VOICEOVER): Hollywood measure success by two criteria, awards and dollars.

- The motion pictures selected as the Best Picture nominee of 1991 are "Beauty and the Beast."


- "Beauty and the Beast" got six nominations, including a nomination for Best Picture. Now that really sets a record here because--

JULIA ROBERTS (VOICEOVER): The new woman that Linda Woolverton went to war for earned "Beauty and the Beast" $425 million at the box office and the first Best Picture Academy Award nomination ever for an animated film. Despite the film's unparalleled success, and other triumphs for female filmmakers in Hollywood, women still struggle for greater participation in American movies and television. Yet generation after generation, they have demonstrated their skill and their artistry in the most powerful entertainment industry in the world.

ALFREE WOODARD: When I was in grade 9 through 12, they'd bus 750 kids to the local cinema. And so that's where I saw "The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner, "Citizen Kane."

LENA DUNHAM: My mother was the person who introduced me to the films and books of her childhood. So she introduced me to Esther Williams' movies and "Mr. Peabody and the Mermaid."

- I loved the "Star Wars" movies and I loved "Superman."

- All those feelings watching movies were thrilling to me. I learned to be scared when I saw "Wizard of Oz." I learned to laugh.

- I just got pinched in the elevator!

- Now you know how the other half lives.

- Look at that. I'm not even pretty.

SHERRY LANSING: I knew from the time I was a young kid that I wanted to be part of that world.

JULIA ROBERTS (VOICEOVER): For most of the last century, men chose the stories and created the images audiences saw on screen.


This wasn't always the case. Initially the cinema welcomed anyone who wanted to make movies.

CHRISTINE ACHAM: Early Hollywood was so new and so exciting that people really hadn't defined roles as to what was a feminine role and what was a masculine role. In the silent era, there were actually over 20 independent companies run by women-- which was, if we think about it today, pretty incredible.

JULIA ROBERTS (VOICEOVER): Filmmakers like Alice Guy Blache owned her own studio, directed hundreds of films, and produced hundreds more. Actress Mabel Normand helped launch Keystone Studios, and Charlie Chaplin's career, before going on to direct and run her own studio.

America's sweetheart, Mary Pickford, the biggest movie star of the silent era became a founding partner of United Artists. Not only did women act, write, direct, and produce but they also made films with strong female characters and told stories about and for women.


Although women helped make moviegoing popular, once people recognized how profitable the cinema could be, women's roles began to decline. Men ran businesses in America and Hollywood was about to become one of the country's largest.

- In our Fox Studios, we were dedicating a new sound film division. And the silent film was on its way out.

JULIA ROBERTS (VOICEOVER): Conversion from the silent era to talkies required a large investment of money, squeezing out the smaller female-run companies and concentrating the industry. Five studios, each with its own distribution arm and theater chain-- the Writers Guild, the Directors Guild-- all run by men.

CHRISTINE ACHAM: A lot of women who were active within the film industry in the silent era had to find different roles if they wanted to stay in Hollywood. And a lot of them moved into screenwriting. We had a lot of editors.

The one female director that made that transition from silent to sound is Dorothy Arzner. And she actually became the first woman director accepted into the Guild. And her role is really interesting because it began to show how women had to adapt to being in a very male-driven industry.

And she opted to actually dress in suits. She smoked cigars. I think it was her way, in a sense, of sort of bridging the gap. And she did it. She directed very mainstream Hollywood films.

JULIA ROBERTS (VOICEOVER): But Dorothy Arzner remained the sole woman directing films in Hollywood until the early 1940s.

- Quiet! Camera! Action!

JULIA ROBERTS (VOICEOVER): The absence of women behind the camera had a direct impact on the types of female characters who appeared in front of the lens. Most female characters fell into classic archetypes-- the good girl and the fallen woman. the virgin, and the whore. Through the next decades, every studio would have its blonde bombshell.

- How do you put it around your neck?

- You don't, lovey, it goes on your head.

JULIA ROBERTS (VOICEOVER): And it's girl-next-door.

- Girls like me weren't built to be educated. We were made to have children. That's my ambition, to be a walking, talking baby factory.

JULIA ROBERTS (VOICEOVER): There were occasional exceptions to the rule, like Marlene Dietrich, Bette Davis, Katharine Hepburn.

- Snob.

- Say, what do you mean snob?

- You're the worst kind there is, an intellectual snob.

JULIA ROBERTS (VOICEOVER): While the studio system also typecast men, both the good guys and the bad guys often had more shades of gray.

GEENA DAVIS: I'm not sure what I saw as a kid that led me to want to be an actor. But I know that my best friend and I, every day after school, would act out scenes from "The Rifleman" in her backyard.


- Stay here, son.

GEENA DAVIS: Because I was taller, I would be the father. And she would be my son, Mark. It never occurred to us, why are there no female characters that we want to pretend to be? It was always male characters we were copying.

JULIA ROBERTS (VOICEOVER): By the late 1960s, despite growing changes in women's lives, on screen they remained familiar stereotypes.

SHIRLEY MACLAINE: I've played lots of hookers with hearts of gold.


I did play ditsy, good-looking gal-- well, not so good looking. But I played ditsy. Yeah.

JANE FONDA: There was a series of movies where I played the good little perfect all-American cheerleader. If people offered me a job, I would take it even if it wasn't very good. I was extremely passive. I just did what people told me. I didn't know who I was, what I could do, what I wanted to be.

- You know this is the men's locker room.

- It his? Oh!

JANE FONDA: It was all about how I looked. And I was under contract to studios. And people made you look the way they wanted you to. And I was not brave enough to be able to say, "I don't like what you're doing." I was a good girl. And good girls weren't ambitious. And that's what governed me.

- Are you in the entertainment field?

- Well, yes, I am.

JANE FONDA: It wasn't until I got offered the part in "They Shoot Horses Don't They?" Sydney Pollack was hired to direct it. And he asked my opinion about the script.

He said, I want you to reread the book. And I want you to tell me what you think is missing. Whoa. I began to realize that it was when I had some say so in my work, that it was better work and I was happier doing it.

- Maybe it's just the whole damn world is like central casting. They got it all rigged before you ever show up.

- I know what you mean.

JANE FONDA: It was the 1960s. Watts was burning. The world was changing. Vietnam was erupting. It was the first time in my life that I was in a movie that spoke to what was happening in the world. And that just thrilled me to be able to be relevant.

- Women, join us! Women, join us!

JULIA ROBERTS (VOICEOVER): In the mid '60s and '70s, women took to the streets to demand equality in work and pay. The women's movement empowered them to seek more creative positions in filmmaking and greater entry to the executive suites of Hollywood.

SHERRY LANSING: It's the woman's movement that really broke down the barriers for so many of us. Because women like Gloria Steinem and Betty Friedan were telling me that I could have options, and I was listening to them. When I graduated college, I knew that I wanted a career in the movie business. I loved the movies.

And at the time I thought that all I could be was an actress. And then I got cast in two movies. And I was miserable. I just hated it. I discovered that what I really wanted to do was to be behind the camera. And so I started reading scripts for $5 an hour for an independent producer. And I was so happy.

JULIA ROBERTS (VOICEOVER): Like Sherry Lansing, Paula Weinstein began her career reading scripts.

PAULA WEINSTEIN: It was a very interesting time in Hollywood. It was early '70s. It was the beginning of the most glorious time in terms of storytelling-- male storytelling.

- Standby, cameras, everybody.

- We need debris, steam, and fire. All right?

PAULA WEINSTEIN: There were no women directors. There were women writers. There were women editors. That was the traditional role. And if you were a woman who knew how to behave in a non-threatening way to get what you wanted, that was good.

JULIA ROBERTS (VOICEOVER): Sherry Lansing quickly rose to power at Columbia Pictures, eventually becoming Vice President in Charge of Production. But she faced considerable resistance along the way.

SHERRY LANSING: You would be asked your opinion on a script and what we should do with, say, the third act. And I would give a suggestion. And the producer would say, hmm.

And then they would go around the room and maybe four or five people later a guy would give the same answer that I gave. And they went, oh, that's really good. And I went, but I just said that. So you know you weren't being listened to.

JULIA ROBERTS (VOICEOVER): Despite her youth, at the age of 35, Sherry Lansing was appointed president at 20th Century Fox-- the first female president of a major motion picture studio.

SHERRY LANSING: The headline in the "New York Times" when I was made the head of the studio was ex-model becomes head of 20th Century Fox. They had totally eradicated all of the years of work that I had in the movie business and just put this headline in. It got front-page headlines everywhere, because it was the first, and women were not accepted at the time. But we were just evolving then.

JULIA ROBERTS (VOICEOVER): In the 1950s, television mirrored the movies in its depiction of women. The majority of women on the small screen were either perfect homemakers or male fantasy figures.

DIANE ENGLISH: Women didn't see themselves on television in a very accurate way. You know? I think women were looking for someone to relate to.

JULIA ROBERTS (VOICEOVER): In the 1960s, a few shows broke away from these conventional female roles. For the first time, TV depicted women leaving home and entering the workforce. In 1965 Marlo Thomas and ABC created a new sitcom, which she both starred in and produced.

MARLO THOMAS: As we talked about the show and what she would do, I said, I want her to be a girl like me who's got a college education; who wants to be independent; who doesn't want to get married; who wants to find out who she is. That's what I want to play.

JULIA ROBERTS (VOICEOVER): That girl was the first American sitcom centered around a single working woman living on her own.

- I wrote this article about a girl who believed in women's liberation and freedom for women and independents. Now you're certainly not that girl. Are you that girl?


JAMES L. BROOKS: I was the beneficiary of the woman's movement in a way, because it was just breaking. So we just had story material. And God knows it was-- it changed all our lives. Nobody was ever the same afterwards. You can't exaggerate it. There's no way to exaggerate it as a social movement.

JULIA ROBERTS (VOICEOVER): On the night it debuted, 40% of all televisions in the nation tuned in to "That Girl."

MARLO THOMAS: It really proved the concept that the audience was out there. And in fact, it wasn't just young girls. It was moms and grandmothers.

JULIA ROBERTS (VOICEOVER): The show ran successfully for five years, during which Marlo Thomas had a major role in shaping its content and storylines.

MARLO THOMAS: The big conflict for the last show was that the network and the sponsors and everybody, even my writing staff, wanted Anne Marie and Donald to have a wedding at the last show. And a lot of shows did that, where there was a wedding at the end.

And I said, I just can't. I have the feeling that there's these millions of girls who've been hanging on Anne Marie's every word and following her journey. And if she gets married at the end, it means that's the only happy ending. So in the last show, I took Donald to a Women's Lib meeting, which made everybody mad. But I thought, it's the perfect end.

JULIA ROBERTS (VOICEOVER): "That Girl" opened the door for other working women like Mary Tyler Moore and "Julia." "Julia" was the first show with a middle class African-American woman as the lead.

DIAHANN CARROLL: Julia was a professional. She was a nurse. And she was raising her son.

- Has Mr. Colton told you?

- Told me what?

- I'm colored.

- What color are you?

- I'm a Negro.

- Have you always been a Negro or are you just trying to be fashionable?

DIAHANN CARROLL: We wanted to walk away from all the cliches and all the caricatures of what Black people are supposed to be. We had to rethink those. Everybody had to rethink those once "Julia" was in the marketplace.

JULIA ROBERTS (VOICEOVER): There was a strong economic incentive for TV networks to cast a variety of female characters as leads in their shows.

- Would you believe only five minutes ago I simply sprayed away all my own unwanted hair? I did it with Neet's spray.

JULIA ROBERTS (VOICEOVER): While movies were financed by ticket sales, television was financed by advertisers.


- Just listen to the dishes.

JULIA ROBERTS (VOICEOVER): Women were a growing body of consumers whom advertisers eagerly wanted to reach.

- The Campbell life is really the life. Nobody ties you to the stove, nobody ties you to a heavy dinner schedule.

JULIA ROBERTS (VOICEOVER): The increase in the number of women on screen also translated to more women behind the scenes.

GAIL PARENT: Around the time of Maude and Mary Tyler Moore is when women were wanted for writing for television. They were looking for us. They were hunting us down. I mean, before, our agents had to break their doors down. And now people were asking for women.

- Oh, boy, if I should get this job, Joe, it would be huge. Maybe too huge. Do you realize I would be carrying as full a workload as you, maybe more? How does that grab you?

- Rhoda, what's wrong? I mean, you worked for years for something like this.

MARTHA M. LAUZEN: When you have at least one woman working in a position of power behind the scenes as a creator in television or as a director or writer in film, you get more female characters on screen. And not only do you get more female characters on screen, but you get a different kind of female character. You actually get a more powerful female character.

JULIA ROBERTS (VOICEOVER): Despite the increasing presence of women in television, Hollywood was slow to throw open the studio gates. Movie executives continued to aim their movies at men, confident that they would drag their wives and girlfriends to the theater with them.


PAULA WEINSTEIN: When you would say "this is a woman's movie," in the '70s, they had they thought of it as some kind of depressing menopausal piece-- as if it couldn't be funny and life-filled.

- So is Hollywood sexist? Here are some of the facts. Did you know that no American woman has ever been nominated for an Academy Award for directing? Or that men get nearly 3/4 of all feature film roles and get paid nearly twice as much for their work?

PAULA WEINSTEIN: What became clear is that every one of these guys, every studio head, every powerful producer-- they had their girl. They had a way to go, look, I'm not sexist. Here's the woman who works for me and I've promoted more women. Women getting passed that was a big deal.

JULIA ROBERTS (VOICEOVER): One way a female star could become a producer was to star in the films she wanted to make. Jane Fonda used her box office clout to make films about issues that mattered to her.

JANE FONDA: I thought, well, the only way I can do it is to make my own movies. I was becoming a political activist. I was beginning to internalize how film could be important and that I might have a role to play in that.

PAULA WEINSTEIN: "9 to 5" really grew out of her work that she was doing with the organization 9to5 about clerical workers.

JANE FONDA: Karen Nussbaum began to organize office workers, women who worked in banks, hospitals, insurance companies. And she would tell me stories about what it was like for them. And again, I thought, I want to make a movie about this.

PAULA WEINSTEIN: She called one day and said, "oh, my God. I have to do this." And she's a great producer, 'cause she called the next day and said, "have you seen this Dolly Parton"? Dolly had just been on some variety show. And it was, like, wow. It was completely Jane's idea that she and Lily and Dolly star in it. And with that, they sold it to me as a studio executive.

JANE FONDA: We brought in Colin Higgins. And I brought Colin to Cleveland where there was this National Organization of Women Office Workers. And he went around and asked them all their story. And then he asked the brilliant question. Do any of you ever fantasize what you'd like to do to your boss?

- Looks like you've gotten yourself in a spot of trouble.

- Judy? Judy, you've got to help me. That mob has gone crazy out there. They're trying to kill me.

- Well, why would they want to do a nasty thing like that?

- I don't know. I'm not such a bad guy.

- You're a sexist, egotistical, lying, hypocritical bigot.

JANE FONDA: Lily and I often reminisce about the morning that Dolly showed up (EMOTIONALLY) with her long nails. It was so funny watching her try to type. And she saying, "I think I've got the song."

And then using her nails as a washboard, she started singing "9 to 5." And Lily and I just looked at each other. And we had goose flesh all over our bodies. And it became the anthem of the movement of Women Office Workers.


DOLLY PARTON: (SINGING) Working 9 to 5, what a way to make a living.

JANE FONDA: After that movie, office workers didn't have to explain anymore what their problems were. The movie did it and it gave them an anthem. It was, I think, the first and maybe the only time that a movie grew out of an organized movement and then undergirded it to lift it up even more. And that felt really good.

JULIA ROBERTS (VOICEOVER): "9 to 5" was a smash hit. But movie executives still saw it as a woman's picture, a feminist comedy with unusually wide appeal.

- Sherry Lansing is one of the most successful women in Hollywood.

JULIA ROBERTS (VOICEOVER): After three years successfully running 20th Century Fox, a longer tenure than most studio heads at the time, she left for a new challenge; to produce her own movies.

SHERRY LANSING: The three years that I stayed at Fox were great. I had done the job long enough to prove that women could last. But I didn't want to be removed from the creative process.

The characters that I've always been attracted to are strong women who refuse to be victims. And "Fatal Attraction" was a particularly personal story to me. I thought it represented a woman who refused just to accept someone who slept with her and then tossed her aside.

JULIA ROBERTS (VOICEOVER): Actress Glenn Close, who starred in three films and won Academy Award nominations for all three, eagerly sought the role of Alex Forrest.

GLENN CLOSE: They really didn't want me. They didn't even want me to audition because they didn't want to put me through it when they knew that I was not who they wanted. And I didn't know that.

- What are you so afraid of? You are afraid.

- Don't flatter yourself, OK. Just don't even flatter yourself.


- Oh, poor little Danny. Oh, poor Danny. I mean, mama's gonna be cross. You can't help having naughty thoughts now can you?

GLENN CLOSE: My agent really fought for me to at least get an audition. And I think I really surprised them. I surprised myself.

- Oh, this is the way you do it, huh, showing up at my apartment?

- Well, what am I supposed to do? You won't answer my calls. You change your number. I mean, I'm not gonna be ignored, Dan.

JULIA ROBERTS (VOICEOVER): "Fatal Attraction" was the second highest grossing film of 1987. But unlike the genial comedy of "9 to 5," the movie generated a storm of controversy.

GLENN CLOSE: What shocked me when that movie came out more than anything else was that feminists were outraged. And a lot of them said, how dare you play a part like that, that represents all working single women. And I had never thought of that because I wasn't playing a generalized working single woman. I was playing a very specific human being.

SHERRY LANSING: I actually called Betty Friedan. And I actually talked to Gloria. I was so hurt. And they said to me that I didn't understand that because she was a successful career woman, that perhaps I had inadvertently painted that picture of a career woman, which was the farthest thing from my mind.

CHRISTINE ACHAM: When you would see a character like Alex Forrest in "Fatal Attraction," and she's a strong woman and she's an executive, the fact that she is crazy is really problematic because she was the only representation of an executive woman onscreen.

GLENN CLOSE: That was probably the beginning of parts that I've played where the women have been called evil because they are strong. And I have never considered those women evil. I would say that they are women who are basically acting like men.

- You're a real hard-dick bitch, you know that. If you were a man, I'd kick the living dog shit out of you.

- If you were a man I'd be worried.

GLENN CLOSE: There's so many women in the world who feel totally powerless. And so if you play a character who unapologetically embraces power as a woman, it's effective. And that's very compelling. And I think it's, for some people, quite frightening.

- You women are crazy.

- You got that right.

- We think you should apologize.

- I ain't apologizing for shit.

JULIA ROBERTS (VOICEOVER): "Thelma and Louise," released in 1991, sparked even more controversy particularly among men.

- I don't think he is gonna apologize.

- Nah, I don't think so.




- You bitches from hell. Ah, dammit!

- This is a very male-bashing movie. Seven out of eight of the men were total jerks.

- They go in and they rob a convenience store. They go in and they lock a policeman in his trunk. And the audience apparently finds all of this to be hilarious and liberating. And I find it to be rather pathetic.

GEENA DAVIS: When that movie came out, the way people reacted to it was so different than anything I had been in before. It was really remarkable. I think "Time" magazine had two negative editorials about it in the same issue. Because one wasn't enough. And it was all about, "oh, my God. Things have been ruined. Women have guns now. It's all gone to hell."

- This is probably gonna start a trend now. Within a few weeks, I'm sure that they're gonna have their first "Thelma and Louise" killing.

CALLIE KHOURI: People would talk about the ultraviolence and stuff like that. And I would think, what are they talking about? Have they not seen a Scorsese movie? Have they not seen Francis Ford Coppola's movies?

- Officers, I'm real sorry about this.

- I apologize also.

CALLIE KHOURI: There was nothing in that movie that was ultraviolent. There was one shooting and a truck blew up.

- It is male-bashing. And basically the woman that wrote the screenplay said it's not hostile towards men, it's hostile towards idiots. But all the men in the movie are idiots basically.

- Real men won't be the least bit threatened. Cool guys aren't at all. It's about self-determination. And I think anybody can relate to that. And, yes, it's true that the female parts are the bigger parts, which in 99% of films these days is not true. So that's kind of shocking.

CALLIE KHOURI: For the first time, men were having to look at themselves as secondary characters and as stereotypes. And there were some men that really didn't like it. I thought, yeah, it's not so much fun is it.

- And the pictures nominated for the Best Original Screenplay this year are Callie Khouri for "Thelma and Louise."


CALLIE KHOURI: I did not for a second imagine. I kept saying, they're gonna give it to a real writer. There's no way.

- And the Oscar goes to Callie Khouri for "Thelma and Louise."


CALLIE KHOURI: I was floored and really wished that I had written a speech.

- Gina and Susan, I think you've made the world a better place for those performances. I love you.

GEENA DAVIS: "Thelma and Louise" was a big turning point in my career and in my life. It very much heightened my awareness how few opportunities we give women to feel empowered by the female characters in what we see.

JULIA ROBERTS (VOICEOVER): In the '90s, storytelling on television took a new turn. The proliferation of cable channels and the emergence of more networks generated fresh female heroines like "Buffy the Vampire Slayer."

- But why can't you people just leave me alone?

- Because you are the slayer. Into each generation a slayer is born, one girl in all the world; a chosen one; one born with the strength and skill to hunt--

- --the strength and skill to hunt the vampires; to stop the spread of their evil blah, blah. I've both been there and done that. And I'm moving on.

MARTI NOXON: At the time that "Buffy" premiered, something subversive on television that featured a female character who was not one-dimensional, we hadn't seen a lot of that. We were asserting something about the idea that you can be a girl and be a hero, but a real girl with vulnerability; who makes mistakes; who wants to be liked; and who can rise to the occasion.

- OK, OK. Look, I really don't want to fight all three of you unless I have to.

SHONDA RHIMES: I think what was interesting to me about the character of Buffy was that she was doing things that normally you saw boys doing. She was the strong one who was doing the fighting. She was saving the boys' lives on a regular basis. She was also really flawed.

I thought it was very interesting that Joss Whedon was using being a vampire slayer as a metaphor for being a teenage girl. And I thought, well, this is where all the character growth is happening. Because it's not happening in movies.

JULIA ROBERTS (VOICEOVER): Although each episode only attracted 4 to 6 million viewers, small in comparison to hit series in the past, the show ran for 7 seasons and had a huge cult following on the internet and college campuses.

JUDD APATOW: It's easier to do interesting characters, male or female, on television now because you don't need as many people to watch for a show to be a success. Where in the old days, you would need 25 or 40 million people to watch your sitcom to make it a hit, now you can be a hit because 4 million people watch you. So all of it is niche-programming. But that opens it up for all sorts of characters of every type.

JULIA ROBERTS (VOICEOVER): Popular television series soon began featuring strong female leads. Elaine did not appear in the pilot for "Seinfeld." But NBC demanded the addition of a principal female character before it bought more shows.

JULIA LOUIS-DREYFUS: It seems to me if there are no female characters in a show, you might want to think about putting a female character in-- be it 1989 or 1955. You know? I mean, it wasn't "Dragnet."

- My mother caught me.

- Caught you doing what?

- You know.

JULIA ROBERTS (VOICEOVER): Elaine's inclusion affected all the storylines.

JULIA LOUIS-DREYFUS: Elaine Benes was a part of the masturbation episode.

- I am never doing that again.

- Come one.

- Come on.

- Whoa, whoa. You don't think I can?

- No chance.

- Care to make it interesting?

- I want to be in on this too.

- Ah, no.

- Ah, no, no.

- Why?

- That's a whole different ballgame.

- What? Why?

- It's a whole different thing.

- Why?

- 'Cause you're a woman.

- So what.

- Well, it's easier for a woman not to do it than a man. We have to do it. It's part of our lifestyle.

- Oh, that is such baloney. I shave my legs.

JULIA LOUIS-DREYFUS: I kept waiting for somebody to shut this thing down because nobody was talking about women masturbating in the early '90s. It was just not part of the-- I mean, people didn't talk about it. So the fact that I was being included in this joke was enormous.


- You caved?

- It's over?

- You're out?

- Oh, my God the queen is dead.

JULIA LOUIS-DREYFUS: We weren't trying to change the world. We were trying to make something really funny. And that's very hard to do. It really is. And if you can do it, you can change the world a little bit.

JULIA ROBERTS (VOICEOVER): The growth of premium cable channels like HBO and Showtime provided even greater freedom than the networks in the depiction of sex. Because subscribers chose to pay for these channels, the Federal Communications Commission's rules regarding acceptable content didn't apply. This opened the way to much riskier and more risque programming.

- Sweetheart, this is the first time in the history of Manhattan that women have had as much money and power as men, plus the equal luxury of treating men like sex objects.

- Yeah, except men in this city fail on both counts. I mean, they don't want to be in a relationship with you. But as soon as you only want them for sex, they don't like it. All of a sudden they can't perform where they're supposed to.

- That's when you're dump then.

- Oh, come on, ladies.

SARAH JESSICA PARKER: What stood out about the show was the quality of conversation. It was the intimacy of those friendships. It was the transparency with which they shared their lives. That just hadn't been seen in cinema or in television.

It feels like a relay race to me. It feels like Marlo Thomas and Mary Tyler Moore handed off this baton and we were so fortunate to get it. Mary Richards couldn't sit around with Phyllis and Rhoda and talk about sexual politics.

Television was not ready for that, nor was there a channel that advertisers didn't have a say in. So it was a confluence of things that came together for the right time for "Sex in the City" to be told.

JULIA ROBERTS (VOICEOVER): Other writers, like "Grey's Anatomy" creator Shonda Rhimes, began to recognize the opportunities television offered to create original and diverse characters.

SHONDA RHIMES: "Grey's Anatomy" was my first television show. And we were casting it and it never occurred to me that we wouldn't cast it looking like the world outside. But looking around at the time when we were casting the show, I realized that most of the other shows there's this very strange assumption of whiteness, just the way there's an assumption of niceness for women that goes on.

And that wasn't how I'd written the show. My women weren't nice. And my characters weren't specified in any race at all because I thought we were just gonna bring in actors and put the best ones in the part.


- This is--

- --humiliating on so many levels.

SHONDA RHIMES: We'd made the pilot of "Grey's Anatomy" and we were waiting for it to get picked up. And ABC called us into a meeting. And Betsy Beers, who was my producing partner, and I sat in a room with a bunch of men.

One of whom stood up and voiced very strongly the idea that nobody was gonna want to watch a show about a woman who had sex with a guy she'd just met the night before her first day of work; that that kind of woman was not somebody that any woman in America was going to know; that that was not a nice person; that that was disgusting and that we had made a mistake.

And I remember sitting there thinking, these people have no idea what's going on in the world at all-- none. And those men in the room with the network were clearly proven wrong because the show's been on the air for 10 years.

JULIA ROBERTS (VOICEOVER): While Shonda Rhimes pushed the envelope for women on network television, Lena Dunham a generation behind her, began doing the same on cable.

LENA DUNHAM: On "Girls" I didn't think I was necessarily gonna get away with casting myself as this lead character. I didn't know if I would get away with some of that sexual content. I didn't know what was allowed. I just kind of went in thinking everything was allowed. And then it mostly was.

- It's a little late, lady.

- Can I borrow the fountainhead?

- Sure. It's in my library.

LENA DUNHAM: My work must on some level be a reaction to the way sexuality has been fed to me and people of my age. But I'm not coming at it from that perspective. And I'm also not coming at it from a perspective of wanting to like elicit any shock reactions. I'm just wanting to express honestly what I've seen and felt.

PAULA WEINSTEIN: I think what Lena has done is groundbreaking in a way that makes me so happy, where you see a woman comfortable in her body who doesn't have that body-- that "Vogue" model body. Just that alone is a life-changing moment for young girls to see the confidence that she has.

JULIA ROBERTS (VOICEOVER): Not everyone was enamored with the show. Critics objected not only to Dunham's frequent nudity, but also to the empty sexual behavior of her characters.

LENA DUNHAM: When someone asks "are the girls good role models," I'm like-- are the guys on "Entourage" good role models? Is Larry David a good role model? Is Woody Allen a good role model? And I resent being forced into a position of having to represent all of female sexuality.

- I think when you get criticism, you have to be elegant about it and appreciate it and understand that it's a part of the gift of getting to put your work out into the world. And so I'm sure people dislike the show for plenty of reasons.

JUDD APATOW: I think Lena Dunham's success has had a tremendous effect on young women's interest in going into this type of work. A lot of young women say, oh, I can make movies and I can tell stories and be honest, and good things can happen.

JULIA LOUIS-DREYFUS: Television is more fertile ground for women right now. And that's why television is so fucking good right now, really. Because there are shows on television with women in starring roles, and supporting roles, that aren't just the woman role. And I can't tell you the happiness that that gives me.

- And action.

JAMES L. BROOKS: I think television is gonna lead us out of darkness. A good hunk of cable television believes the pursuit of excellence is commercial. That's the place that's believed. We can make money by trying to be very good. And I think that lets more women in the door.

- How are you? I see you. I see you.

JULIA ROBERTS (VOICEOVER): On television today, women can be vice president, president, gay, bisexual, and every shape and color. In the movies, their roles remain limited. Movie studios have increasingly placed their bets on big-budget special effects films that they can market globally.


JULIA ROBERTS (VOICEOVER): Today, the North American box office represents only 40% of a film's revenues. 60% comes from overseas. Action is seen as the genre that travels best and drives the billion global box office.

Action and superhero films also support the widest range of tie-in products, like toys and games. There are only a handful of female writers and directors in this world of comic book heroes and computer-generated villains and monsters.

SHIRLEY MACLAINE: I think in society we feel more comfortable putting $250 million into a man's hands than a woman's. Yes, I think that's part of the way we handle and feel about money.

JULIA ROBERTS (VOICEOVER): Consequently, many female filmmakers have turned to lower budget, independent films and documentaries to explore relationships and issues mega-budget movies ignore.

AVA DUVERNAY: It wasn't until my 30s, when I was working as a publicist in film, that I started to have this inkling of maybe I can do what I see people doing, my clients. I was writing the script for "Middle of Nowhere." I couldn't get it made. I couldn't get the money that I thought I needed for it.

(SARCASTICALLY) It was odd. Studios were not interested in the inner lives of Black women like I thought they would be. Go figure. So it was like, girl, of course. That's not gonna happen. You need to find another way.

- Can you even believe it? I can't believe it-- 10 months early.

- That's good news.

- It's great news. I mean, you got everything going for you. You're coming home.

AVA DUVERNAY: It's the story of a woman who's caught between family expectations, her spouse, and herself.

- The directing award for dramatic film goes to Ava DuVernay for "Middle of Nowhere."


AVA DUVERNAY: When "Middle of Nowhere" won Best Director at Sundance in 2012, that being the first time that an African-American had won that award, it was bittersweet.

- Thanks to my mom and my sisters and my aunt and my grandmother who always made sure I saw the beauty in where we lived in Compton and Lynwood.

AVA DUVERNAY: Ultimately, women have to make movies. And we don't need institutions to do that.

JULIA ROBERTS (VOICEOVER): Ava DuVernay's success in low-budget films convinced producers she could direct more expensive movies. Women have also proved that they are as capable as men of directing dramatic action movies. In 2010, for the first time, the Motion Picture Academy honored a woman for that very accomplishment.

- And then the winner is-- well, the time has come-- Kathryn Bigelow!


JULIA ROBERTS (VOICEOVER): Not only did Kathryn Bigelow become the first woman to win an Academy Award for Best Director, but her film "The Hurt Locker" also won the Oscar for Best Picture of the year.

- This really is-- there's no other way to describe it. It's the moment of a lifetime. I would say never give up on your dream. I've been making films for a while. It's been only about 30 years. So when I say, don't give up on your dream, I mean it quite literally.

- This is some classy--


- Jeez, Megan.

- I want to apologize. I'm not even confident or which end that came out of.

JULIA ROBERTS (VOICEOVER): "Bridesmaids" proved that women could master another genre that men had traditionally monopolized, bathroom humor. The movie was written by Annie Mumolo and Kristin Wiig, who also starred. Judd Apatow produced the comedy which grossed more at the box office than any movie he'd made before.

JULIA LOUIS-DREYFUS: I love the movie "Bridesmaids." I loved everything about that movie. I knew all these women. These were the kind of women that I'm friends with. I identified with these chicks on screen. It had a huge impact.

- Wow.

- What are you guys talking about up here?

- We are--

- We're going to a restaurant tonight. I know the owner. So it's just something--

- (MOCKINGLY) You do? Oh, Helen knows the owner. [MUMBLING MOCKINGLY] Big whoop.

MARTHA M. LAUZEN: When Kathryn Bigelow won her Oscars, people wondered would there be a Bigelow effect. The same thing happened, by the way, with the success of "Bridesmaids." Would the success of a single film or of a single filmmaker radiate out and influence the careers of other women in the business? There was no Bigelow effect. And there really was no "Bridesmaids" effect.

JUDD APATOW: I think what it's about is that it's easier to make movies for men 'cause you could just blow stuff up.


I hope somebody hits somebody. And that's a movie for a man. I think when you say, let's make a movie for women, people just go-- what could it be? And they have to think of the original idea. And it's much easier to do things that have been done.

JULIA ROBERTS (VOICEOVER): The following year, producer Nina Jacobson shattered another long-held Hollywood belief by proving that an adventure film driven by a female protagonist could become an international blockbuster.

NINA JACOBSON: When I first read "The Hunger Games," the first book had been published and was in bookstores. And I became obsessed and fixated on the book. Suzanne Collins had pulled off this nearly impossible task of talking about violence and young people without ever exploiting the subject.

- Primrose Everdeen.

- Prim! Prim! No! I volunteer! I volunteer! I volunteer as tribute.

- I believe we have a volunteer. Mr. Mayor?

- You need to get out of here. You need to get out here.

- No.

- Go find Mom.

- No!

- Prim, go find Mom right now.

NINA JACOBSON: Katniss is a character I think everybody identifies with. It doesn't matter whether you're a boy or a girl, a man or a woman. I think people just identify with how primal that first decision is that she makes to protect her sister. But I think beyond that, you're country that has been at war for a decade. And these books are about the consequences of violence.

JULIA ROBERTS (VOICEOVER): "The Hunger Games" set box office records for opening day and opening weekend. "Catching Fire," the second movie in the trilogy, surpassed the first film's ticket sales and became the highest grossing film in the US in 2013.

2013 was indeed a remarkable year for women in the movies. Whether comedy or drama, small budget for big, female-driven films proved they could earn as much or more than traditional male-oriented movies. The final tally for women's movies in 2013? A staggering $2.5 billion in worldwide ticket sales.

Has women's success in 2013 finally changed the way Hollywood regards them? Employment figures show they're still woefully underrepresented in the industry. Women directed only 6% of the top 250 grossing films of 2013, and only 14% of the episodes in the 2012-2013 television season.

- As an actress in film, it is very easy to become isolated just due to the ratio of gender inequality that exists. Rarely do you have a scene with other women. Very few women are on the crew. You have fewer and fewer women to turn to for help or advice. This is a problem. And it is unhealthy.

JULIA ROBERTS (VOICEOVER): In 2013, the year of the woman in film, women still comprised only 30% of all characters who appeared on screen-- a figure that has barely budged since the 1940s.

LENA DUNHAM: There aren't enough women in Hollywood. We all know that. I mean, if you look at the stats, they're totally alarming and they don't reflect the fact that we populate 52% of the earth. And it's frustrating.

And I think when you are a female showrunner, it's something that Shonda does. It's something that Jenji Kohan does. It's something that we really try to do is to really make choices that are proactive. We do have a little bit of a female affirmative action policy going on. And that's important to me.

ALFREE WOODARD: Knowing the statistics, knowing the truth-- does it slow us down? Does it oppress us? Hell no. It actually fuels us.

JULIA ROBERTS (VOICEOVER): Women aren't waiting by the phone for Hollywood studios to call. They are taking advantage of new platforms to reach audiences eager to see the kind of stories that they want to tell.

PAULA WEINSTEIN: They're places where people are exploring every aspect-- a five-minute webisode, a half an hour webisode. There's a possibility for more voices than we ever thought possible before.

NINA JACOBSON: You have to just keep fighting the fight, look out for each other, make noise about it, and just keep trying to expand the circle; knowing that the rate of growth is never gonna be what you want it to be. Because you can't change it overnight.

MARTI NOXON: Once you get into that room where you're spinning ideas, gender is irrelevant. It's about the work. And I would love a world where that's the future. It's not about gender. It's about what you can say.


- Perhaps those of us in the industry who are still foolishly clinging to the idea that female films, with women at the center, are niche experiences-- they are not. Audiences want to see them. And in fact, they earn money.


The world is round, people.

AVA DUVERNAY: This industry is no longer what it used to be. The gatekeepers' gates are rusting. There are new ways to do things, new ways to shoot, new ways to monetize, new ways to distribute, new audiences to find, new ways to communicate with them that don't require some old man telling you, "you can do it." So now that that's the case, and we know it's the case, we need to begin.