Maggie Gyllenhaal Says Her 'Entire Life Has Changed' Because of Her Oscar-Nominated Directorial Debut

The Oscar nominee and Lost Daughter director is proud to have been welcomed into the filmmaking community

Maggie Gyllenhaal

Maggie Gyllenhaal is feeling supercharged about her career.

The Lost Daughter director and Oscar-nominated writer says she "feels like my entire life has totally changed," following the success of her directorial debut — which is up for three awards this Sunday at the 94th Academy Awards: Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Supporting Actress and Best Actress.

Speaking with PEOPLE after a panel hosted by Neiman Marcus Beverly Hills in celebration of Women's History Month, Gyllenhaal says she's forever grateful for the film's critical reception, but even more so for the experiences and connections she's forged with other filmmakers and fellow nominees.

"My favorite part of the whole [awards season experience] has been meeting people whose films I love, hearing from people who have way more experience than I do, how they're thinking about film, what they're working on, how they work," says the star, 44. "It's really been cool; I'm being included in that community."

One of Gyllenhaal's new and cherished connections is with Zola writer/director Janicza Bravo, who was also featured on the panel where the two women spoke about feeling hopeful about their opportunities as directors in a typically male-dominated field.

"I had to pave my own way in an industry that had not made room for me," Bravo, 41, said. "I had been raised to think in terms of scarcity and now I know there's more land to be had."

Added Gyllenhaal: "I think a conscious effort is being made in our industry to make more space for us. As a united group, we are very powerful."

Maggie Gyllenhaal and Janicza Bravo
Stefanie Keenan/Getty Images

One note of constructive criticism, however: the two filmmakers say they would love for the awards prognosticators and prediction conversations to not pit female directors and directors of color against each other.

"That conversation starts early, the sort of, 'Who's going to make it to the end?'" says Bravo. "Because there's so few of us [female filmmakers] already, right. It's same with directors of color. You're not going to have two women directors a part of the conversation for best director. Or you're not going to have two Black people in conversation for this. I mean, it's so goofy, but it is how it's been."

Adds Gyllenhaal: "Janicza and Maggie are gonna duke it out for the [win], or whatever. That is really the wrong framework."

All things considered, both Bravo and Gyllenhaal are excited for what lies ahead.

"I feel really good," says Bravo who has also been directing a lot of TV in addition to her two feature films. "I think there are more choices in front of me than there have been before. And one of my favorite things is to be able to say 'No.' There's a lot of power in being able to articulate your steps. And I feel very grateful that I get to say 'No' more, and that I can afford it."

Gyllenhaal, who is nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay at the Oscars on Sunday, says she's feeling more grounded than anxious about who will take home the award.

"It feels so much more like solid ground, the actual work and thinking about the next thing, rather than the sort of huge party coming on Sunday, you know?" she says. "The work is very reliable and you can really put your mind somewhere that you're like, 'Okay, I can trust this [next thing]. But I'm also really looking forward to the party."

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