In May, the ACLU publicly requested a state and federal investigation into sexist hiring practices in Hollywood, an accusation of systemic bias backed up by cold, hard stats. The ACLU's announcement and subsequent petition spurred on a conversation that had been brewing for years, highlighted by a recent L.A. Weekly article titled "How Hollywood Keeps Out Women." Filmmakers even began to take sides on whether the Directors Guild of America was doing enough to promote diversity.
Lexi Alexander is a prominent figure in this debate, a filmmaker best known for directing Marvel's Punisher: War Zone and British soccer hooligan drama Green Street. Her Twitter presence is a rare glimpse into a world that most of us only experience through a haze of PR obfuscation, revealing hair-raising stories about discrimination in Hollywood.
Shortly after the ACLU launched its petition, Alexander shared her views on sexist hiring practices, her support for file-sharing sites like the Pirate Bay, the dangers of crowdfunding, and why she'd love to direct a Ms. Marvel adaptation starring Kamala Khan.
— Jeffrey Jon Smith (@jeffreyjonsmith) June 8, 2015
I think a good place to start would be asking how you became so publicly active on Twitter. It's unusual to see a prominent filmmaker be so outspoken about controversial issues like gender discrimination, and a lot of people online seem to respond to that.
Well, yeah, it is unusual. Somebody told me last week I'm the only one. Certainly not the only female activist out of Hollywood, but I guess on the level of filmmaking that I've achieved. And that's actually very sad, because I think if more women would be willing to do that, we would achieve a lot more a lot faster.
I didn't say anything about any political issue whatsoever until about two years ago, when I wrote one blog [post] that I thought maybe three people would read. That got picked up by Indiewire and my friend Patton Oswalt tweeted about it; it just went viral. I guess it was the first time a woman filmmaker just like laid it out like that. Which looking back, it wasn't actually that totally honest. I mean, it was the most honest people have ever heard about it, but there wasn't anything in it that was offensive, anyway. Now I'm much more offensive.
So that started it. Then I tried to shut up about it again, but once the lid was off, I couldn't stop. It's kind of my Achilles heel, really, because it's hard for me to look at something and then un-see, or to pretend that I haven't see it.
Believe it or not, I'm very busy and still developing films and developing TV shows, but it's hard to do when people have chosen you to be their mouthpiece, you know?
A lot of this seems to be about transparency, like with the Sony email hack and so on. Over the past month or so we've seen this Tumblr account, Shit People Say to Women Directors, and people discussing what's happening in the Directors Guild of America (DGA) — topics that until recently, we obviously wouldn't know about. Speaking to an outsider, how would you explain what's going on with the Directors Guild right now, and how people are using social media to try and motivate change?
Well, we've worked on this ACLU investigation for two years, and people didn't quite… Well, they heard rumblings about it, but they didn't take it seriously. It was a woman named Maria Giese who I often retweet who actually contacted the ACLU, so once they came out with their big letter, what actually happened is a lot of women found the courage to say, "OK, at least now nobody can blacklist me because they know the ACLU's involved." So it was almost like a bodyguard.
In terms of the DGA, that is still our only arena that we're not — you know, it's so corrupted that we're getting clocked left and right. As a matter of fact, I was just DMing with another reporter about the fact that the DGA killed another story. And they can do that; they have the power to actually call an outlet up and say, "Don't run the story." It's rough, and I think more people are aware because we've been talking about it; the ACLU mentioned them. But nobody is even close to understanding what the reality of that place is.
— Jessica P. Ogilvie (@jessicapauline) May 15, 2015
Do you think the ACLU letter is going to make a difference?
I think it will definitely make a difference. That's why we worked so hard on it, because it's a civil rights organization who is well known for turning all kinds of civil rights issues around for the better.
The studios are big companies; they have shareholders. They're actually not allowed to be that discriminating. It's weird though, because there's so many levels, the level where the discrimination happens is not often associated with the shareholder corporation level. I'll hear of these stories where a network will push a certain show to hire more women, but the showrunner refuses because he just doesn't like women. Like literally a story I heard last week, he will not hire women and the network is like, "But you have to because we have diversity rules." So there's still a disconnect because they don't want to lose the star showrunner because they think he's responsible for the ratings.
It's an interesting scenario because it's not like any other corporation where you just put a mandate in and you say "you have to hire so many," and people will follow it. Here it's the case of like, "I'm the star showrunner and I can do whatever the f--k I want to do, and you can't tell me what to do."