The Walking Dead EP Gale Anne Hurd Says Hollywood’s Lack Of Women Is Due To Fear

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You may not be super familiar with the name Gale Anne Hurd, but you sure as hell are familiar with her work. She produced hit action blockbuster films such as ‘The Terminator’ and ‘Aliens’ and more recently she is known as the executive producer of the hit AMC series ‘The Walking Dead’ which is currently the most-watched scripted drama, beating all broadcast and cable series among adults 18-49. No big deal.

She is probably the most stand-out example of a woman producing action flicks in Hollywood, which is good and bad. It’s good because it shows women are capable (to the studio heads, not audiences, WE already know this!) of taking an action film and making it a huge success. And it’s bad because Gale should NOT be an anomaly in 2015 in Hollywood.

In an interview with Stephen Galloway from THR at the Loyola Marymount University’s School of Film & Television’s ‘Hollywood Masters’ interview series, she spoke in depth about her career and touched on how gender affected her in certain capacities.

Be sure to watch the whole video below where she talks about working with Jim Cameron on ‘Terminator’, starting in the makeup department at the beginning of her career, and her view on guns in America. It is a fascinating and entertaining interview for sure.

The part we were most interested in was how she dealt with sexism in the industries given that women accounted for just 16 percent of directors, writers, executive producers, producers, editors and cinematographers working on the top 250 domestic grossing films of 2013. No doubt that number has not improved much in 2 years.

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This year Gale received the David O. Selznick award from the Producers Guild of America, but says the toughest decision she ever made in her early life was to follow her dreams and pursue a career in entertainment. Why was it so tough?

“Well at the time, this was 1977. There weren’t a lot of female role models. I couldn’t look and say, you know, I want to be like her. So at that time, my ambition was, I could be someone’s secretary, and that would be my job. My mother had been a secretary,” she said, reiterating why her presence as a top EP today in the industry is a huge representation for what is possible for up-and-coming women.

She talks about working hard and persevering, as well as forming great relationships with other industry professionals who became her biggest help when it came to being recommended for bigger jobs. She also believes knowing your worth goes a long way.

“I learned to be adequate. But it was very important. I mean, you know, one thing regardless of what you do, you know, everything that you do in the business whether it’s writing, directing producing, any of the crafts, you have to know how to market not only what you’re making, but yourself.”

Gale explained how hard it was to get the original Terminator script approved by studios, and at that time the movie’s director Jim Cameron was still a relative unknown.

“Which just goes to show you that if the door slams in your face 99 times, knock on the 100th, because maybe that one will be the “yes” you were looking for,” she said. Some sage advice which extends long beyond just the success of ‘The Terminator’.

As a female producer of the film, it was tough selling that to studios.

” You know, you have to have enough confidence in yourself, because as the producer, you’re the general. And if people don’t trust that you can move the army forward and win the battle, you’re not gonna get your project going,” she said. Eventually it was another woman who initially came through for the Hurd-Cameron duo.

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“There was a woman at HBO who purchased the Pay TV rights in advance for 500,000 which was huge!”

Subsequently Barbarba Boyle, who was a high-ranking executive at New World Pictures at the time, became interested in the script and eventually it got green lit after Barbara and Gale got it in the hands of the right people.

Gale was 27 at the time, btw. Once again, no big deal! Also fun fact: aside from Arnold Schwarzenegger, OJ Simpson was the other name potentially being thrown out there to play the now iconic role of the Terminator.

On the topic of sexism for females behind the scenes, Gale believes it exists more for directors than producers.

“Women directors. Because the perception is that we live in a culture outside of television where the producer is the most important position. Director, it’s still the auteur philosophy of the most important person on a film is the director. And there’s a great deal of reticence giving a woman a chance. And the statistics support the fact.”

When asked what can be done to change those statistics, she does make a point of stating the positives along with giving possible solutions.

“The good news is, look at the number of women who won awards at the DGA Awards. I mean, in television primarily, but Michelle MacLaren, who’s directed in The Walking Dead. She was the producing director on Breaking Bad, is now doing a new Marvel movie. And I think it will change. Obviously, Kathryn Bigelow,” she said.

“So it now becomes, you know, we can give this woman a chance because she’s proven that it’s a good bet. You know, it’s a business run by fear, where executives are concerned, you know. They want to be able to on the Monday morning after a film has opened, to be able to explain why their decision to green light a film and to hire a particular director and a particular cast was worth taking a risk on. So each time you step out of the safe zone, you have to do that as an executive.”

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One of the biggest tips she gives to being a successful producer, whether it be on a film or TV series, is to create a good partnership with the director and share a creative vision. An audience member toward the end of the session asked her if she had any serious struggles in her career given that the sci-fi genre is mostly male dominated, and Gale’s answer is actually quite surprising.

“Well see that’s the perception is actually misguided because when you think about it Debra Hill started before I did in science fiction and horror. Laura Ziskin, the late Laura Ziskin produced the Spider-Man films. Lauren Shuler Donner produces all of the Fantastic Four and X-Men films. Kathy Kennedy. It’s actually in a way almost dominated by women. You know, Christopher Nolan’s partner Emma Thomas produces his films.”

“When you actually think about it we really are the producers of these big films so it’s really not something that is an impossible dream. It’s just a perception possibly because most of the credit goes to the director. So go for it, you know, just make sure that you’ve done your homework. That’s what I had to do. You know, that I was prepared when I got the next opportunity that I didn’t blow it.”

Her continual suggestion of working hard, paying your dues and being persistent are themes we can all relate to. It’s awesome to hear the positives from a woman who is creating many paths for other female producers who perhaps never thought it was possible.

You can read the interview transcript in full by clicking here or a 9 minute video below:


 

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