Olivia Pope gets a lot of credit for being a powerful woman, but it’s the woman behind the fictional character who is helping to create real change in an industry that’s woefully lacking in women and people of color behind the camera. Kerry Washington on Monday spoke to a group of women at the Sundance Film Festival’s annual Women in Film Brunch, telling guests that progress is going to take “courage on all of our parts.”
“Sometimes the people who are in charge of those rooms, they want us to feel lucky to be in the room. And we are because we’re all really blessed to be doing what we do … but that doesn’t mean that I don’t get to bring other people with me,” Washington said. “Being alone in the room is exhausting … you feel like you have to stand up for the entire gender or race.”
Speaking with “Manchester by the Sea” producer Kimberly Steward, both women agreed that in order for the system to change, women have to support other women. It’s what brought the two together in the first place. Washington remembered reading a profile of Steward, who mentioned Washington as a woman she admired in the business.
“A woman who shouts out other women? That’s just something we all have to do,” Washington said.
Washington has, in her stead as a producer of things like the HBO movie “Confirmation,” has made it a priority to hire other women, people of color and people of the LGBTQ community to work on their sets.
“(It’s) making sure people in society who we’ve labeled as other have a seat at the table,” she said.
Earlier in the event, Caroline Libresco, who heads up Women at Sundance, said they’d found the main obstacles to women getting jobs behind the camera were “access to and knowledge of financing” and “male dominated networks.”
Steward said that producers have to be willing to take more risks, too, while Washington chimed in that it’s not a risk to make movies for and about women and people of color.
“Why do we allow this myth of risk to remain?” Washington asked. “And if it doesn’t work, who cares? So many movies don’t work.”