Filmdom's female creators get their propers in Women on Top: Hollywood and Power, a rather sketchy documentary due to bow this week on AMC.
No in-depth celebration, the hour has the flavor of a feel-good reel put together for an awards dinner and shown just before the night's honoree is introduced. Give a little bit of biography, get a few friends to say nice things, and you're done. But what gives this documentary value is the light it sheds on women working behind the scenes of some of the most popular movies of the past 20 years.
Here's a great factoid to drop at the next cocktail party: Half of the 20 highest-grossing films of the last two decades were produced by women. The documentary lets Lauren Schuler-Donner, producer of Mr. Mom
and You've Got Mail,
explain how she's progressed without the help of director-husband Richard's coattails.
Other top producers get the star treatment, such as Paula Wagner, co-producer of Mission: Impossible; and Laura Ziskin, identified as the first female to make into the men's only executive club. Ironically, this trailblazer is responsible for the "success through prostitution" yarn, Pretty Woman. Women are breaking into more of the craft guilds, though they're still underrepresented. Only 4 percent of Hollywood films are directed by women, though, according to the documentary. Women are getting more chances to prove themselves, such as director Mimi Leder, who made her move into features doing big-bang action flicks like The Peacemaker
and Deep Impact.
Yet for every success story, there is someone like Callie Khouri, the Oscar-winning screenwriter of Thelma and Louise
who still could not get her dream job as a director, because the establishment saw her as "just" a screenwriter.
The most intriguing segments come from nontraditional sources, such as Mira Nair, the India-born director of Monsoon Wedding
and Salaam Bombay. She shot the latter by day and scrapped for completion money at night. Her first feature was nominated for a foreign film Oscar.
In the end, each of the portraits is all too brief. The women inspire by their very existence and their tenacity, but don't view this looking for a blueprint to follow.
Women on Top: Hollywood and Power
debuts on AMC May 12 at 10 p.m. ET/PT.