Festival goers packed the Sundance TV lounge on Main Street as the HFPA hosted the Women Breaking Barriers panel in association with Sundance Institute and Sundance TV Saturday. HFPA journalist Elisabeth Sereda moderated the discussion and opened the proceedings announcing a $50.000 HFPA grant to the Sundance Institute Women’s programs. “This means so much to everyone at Sundance,” said Keri Putnam, executive director of the Sundance Institute. “Supporting women has always been very meaningful for us and to have your help in this, is extraordinary.”
With that award-winning Tina Lifford (Queen Sugar) Reed Morano, award-winning cinematographer and director; Golden Globe-winner Sandra Oh (Killing Eve), Cathy Schulman, producer and president of Women in Film and Golden Globe-winner Octavia Spencer held a spirited discussion which was in turns enlightening, profound, topical and emotional particularly following the Women’s Rally which preceded it in Park City.
The talk touched on personal experience and practical aspects in achieving equality for women in the entertainment business, in access, treatment and pay, with Morano and the actors on stage relating anecdotes from personal experience and Schulman weighing in with the many years of experience with Women in Film. “Seven years ago, I would call the trades and beg them to cover our issues and I couldn’t get a single article published. Now there isn’t a minute, a day, week or month that goes by that we don't talk about women’s issues. The most important thing is that we don't get all excited and then just brush everything under the rug again
Looming large was the industry-wide debate taking place in Hollywood. Panelists concurred that it has been an important moment in starting the conversation but that the problem is more systemic than the abuse which has come to light. The role of men in the conversation was also touched upon. Octavia Spencer expressed a sentiment on many people’s mind when she suggested quietly listening as an important first step. “This is a wonderful moment that's happening right now. It is making us confront deep seated cultural issues, it’s a paradigm shift. That can be frightening but we just need to take baby steps, put one foot front of the other. It’s not gonna be easy but we’ll get there.”
“I don't think we can underestimate the importance of conversation,” added Tina Lifford. “Human beings tend to be afraid of change period. And when were talking about huge cultural relationship changes it’s going to make everyone afraid. We need to create a space where everyone can express their feelings then we can move on to some sort of cooperation.” And that pretty much sums up what led the HFPA’s to hosting the panel.
Sandra Oh concluded on a positive note. There is a new generation of women who have less heaviness on them and I’m sure there are lot of women in this room who have a clear creative vision and will put it out there and they inspire me tremendously.”