December 10, 2015 12:25 AM

The conversation about women in the film industry – or the lack there of – has really ramped up.

Now, Jessica Chastain and Barbra Streisand are adding their opinions to the mix in two separate op-eds in the Hollywood Reporter.

One thing has become very clear as the conversation continues, working with an abundance of females in the film industry is a rare thing, but Chastain’s editorial offers a refreshing look at what it’s like when there’s more than two women on the set of a Hollywood production.

“I’m in Prague filming a movie called The Zookeeper’s Wife with director Niki Caro,” Chastain, 38, writes. “I can’t even tell you – it’s amazing. I’ve never been on a set with so many women.

“We’re not even 50 percent of the crew – we’re probably something like 20 percent women and 80 percent men – but it’s way more than I’ve ever worked with on a film before.”

According to Chastain, the film’s crew includes a female screenwriter and director as well as female producers, among other roles. The actress says being on set with other women is exciting and different from most of her past experiences where she would only see a few other women on set.

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“Usually on a movie it would be me and maybe two or three other women, even though there are 100 people there,” she says. “It’s crazy. I loved making the movie Lawless – it was a very masculine story about three brothers – but when Mia Wasikowska showed up on the set, I ran into her trailer and yelled, ‘It’s a girl!’ I was so happy.”

Chastain also discusses the boundaries put on female directors, adding that she doesn’t believe any director – male or female – should be barred from doing something because of their gender.

“Look at Kathryn Bigelow: She can do incredible action films. Or Anthony Minghella, who directed the most beautiful, sensitive romances,” she says. “I want to make sure I’m contributing to creating diversity in the industry. I want to work with anyone who is talented, but I know that some people have to work harder to succeed in this business than others.

“It’s like Viola Davis said in her Emmy speech: The only thing that separates women of color from anyone else is opportunity. It’s the same situation with female directors versus male directors – they are not given the same opportunity.”

Chastain adds that she believes seeing women in the industry is a direct result of women in power positions making room for other women. She describes her time on set as being a “very collaborative experience,” as all of the crew were “giddy with happiness” at the idea of film being put together by so many women who understood how rare that opportunity is.

“It’s been heaven for me. We all hang out all the time – there are no strange power plays or egos,” she says. “We know how rare making this kind of film is. I don’t think it’s a fluke.

“If you look at the people who put the film together, it’s a lot of women who have had a difficult time in the industry, so of course they are going to want to be on a set where they aren’t the token woman, where there are more voices.”


Streisand, 73, echoed similar sentiments as Chastain.

In her own editorial, the Hollywood veteran recalls the difficulties she faced while working in the industry in the ’60s and ’70s – before sexism in films was a hot button conversation.

She recalls her less-than-smooth entry into the world, fighting a reputation that deemed her “difficult.”

“What does ‘difficult man anyway?” she writes. “If a man on a set says something – ‘I want to change this shot’ – they do whatever he says. Now, if a woman asks…”

But the term “difficult” wasn’t the only thing that bothered Streisand about the way women in the industry were talked about. She argues that most of the language used when discussing women, holds negative connotations.

“We’re just measured by a different standard,” she writes. “He’s ‘committed.’ She’s ‘obsesses.’ It’s been said that a man’s reach should exceed his grasp. Why can’t that be true of a woman?”

Streisand even compares her troubles in the film industry to those of current female actresses turned directors, like Angelina Jolie. She says that ‘vanity’ is another word used for women, that critics wouldn’t use when referring to the work of a man.

“I saw it in a review of [Angelina Jolie Pitt’s] By the Sea,” she says. “I haven’t seen the movie, but they call it her vanity production,” because she’s doing the jobs I did. But [if a man does it,] it’s ‘how brilliant. He’s multifaceted, he’s multitalented, a multi hyphenate.'”

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