patricia arquette is fighting hollywood sexism, even if it means she loses jobs
The actress celebrated an empowering new partnership between Tribeca Digital Studios and the ActuallySheCan campaign that champions young female directors.
It's been over a year since Patricia Arquette delivered her incendiary gender pay gap speech while accepting the award for Best Supporting Actress at the 2015 Oscars. But the outspoken actress hasn't relented from spreading her message — onethat has galvanized actresses from Amanda Seyfried to Helen Mirren to share their experiences of inequality, and helped push the nation's strongest equal pay legislation, the California Fair Pay Act, into law. This morning in New York, Arquette championed not only the women in front of the camera, but the women behind it.
The actress hosted a breakfast celebrating a new partnership between ActuallySheCan -- an all-encompassing female empowerment campaign -- and Tribeca Digital Studios in which four female directors were commissioned to create inspirational short films about ambitious young women across various fields. Director Emily Harrold's film follows Mexican-American chef Daniela Soto-Innes, who is one of NYC's youngest top chefs at just 25-years-old. Harrold's former NYU classmate Erin Sanger chose to follow Katie Orlinsky -- an award-winning photojournalist whose assignments have lead her to shine light on social injustice around the world -- as she embarked on a journey with Kristen Knight Pace, a hopeful in the 2016 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, or in Orlinsky's words, "the Super Bowl of Alaska." Duo Ricki Stern and Annie Sundberg captured a subject a little closer to our hearts, Chromat creative director Becca McCharen. All of the women involved -- from the talented directors to the subjects themselves -- prove the campaign's message, #ActuallySheCan. Each film will be screened during the upcoming Tribeca Film Festival.
Arquette expressed gratitude to the initiative for taking concrete steps to dismantle the inequality so institutionalized in the film industry, where "only 7% of directors are female, even though women are 51% of the population." "Projects like this are incubators for our filmmakers of tomorrow," Arquette explained, "because when you meet with a producer, it's crucially important to have work you can show them -- a short-form project demonstrating that you can tell a longer story. So few women have that opportunity." She spoke with each director about the obstacles they've faced, the sexism they've experienced, their female support systems, and what their resolute and empowered subjects have taught them about the world.
"In the film, Becca says she creates the world that she wants to live in," the Chromat film's producer, Anne Munger, told Arquette. "Her runways reflect a world where women of all different shapes and sizes are valued and praised. Sure, there are limits to where fashion tech is now, but she doesn't care; she's gonna push those boundaries and see how we can create adaptive clothing that really elevates the human body. And that unapologetic force of just really creating the world you want to live in, I found so inspiring about Becca."
Arquette challenged the film industry not just to create the world we wish to live in, but to represent the one we already inhabit. "Look at the data; 7% of directors is not an acceptable number. Women are not having enough opportunity, men of color are not having enough opportunity, women of color are certainly not having enough opportunity, and I think art is suffering for it," she said. "We need diversity. If you're limiting your vision, you're limiting the story of human being." Arquette also took great care to emphasize that film's inequality issue is the world's inequality issue. "It really shouldn't be a conversation only about Hollywood. Gender imbalance is in 98% of all industries," she said.
One attendee asked Arquette how things have changed for her since she bravely ignited that Hollywood conversation. "Before I made that speech, I said to my boyfriend, 'I'm gonna say something if I do win, and I'm gonna lose some jobs over this, I might not work anymore, but I'm cool with that,'" she explained. "I have lost some jobs from it, but I'm okay with that. When you're in a position where you can make a difference, to be a part of that story is a great thing."
Text Emily Manning
Photography Paul Buck for EPA