Balls of the Belles

The Women's Picture

"Women in top positions have to make the best business decisions: what's best for the company, not what's best for women," said Jane Rosenthal�top-positioned Tribeca Productions co-founder and producer of films like Wag the Dog and About a Boy�at the March 19 opening night of New York Women in Film & Televsion�s 25th Anniversary Exhibition at the Walter Reade. The lesson in realpolitik continued as Nora Ephron cautioned against being "too sentimental about what it's like when women get power." (Amid chuckles, somebody mentioned Golda Meir, though not Maggie Thatcher or Condi Rice.) They were talking big leagues, not indie circuit, and the audience teemed with networkers, hot for a manicured hand into which they might slip a clip-tape or CV. Despite the weekend's film offerings�breakthrough quirkies like Nancy Savoca's True Loveand Jennie Livingston's Paris is Burning�this panel, featuring Maid in Manhattan co-producer and former Roberts-J.Lo-Sarandon manager Elaine Goldsmith-Thomas and De Niro-partner Rosenthal along with golden-gabber Ephron and the perenially free-to-be-33 Marlo Thomas, was not going to spend much time discussing alternative funding, production, and distribution.

"The independent film business is worse than the studio system," confided Ephron.This group came to talk about Hollywood�the over-30 spurn, the pay gap (Goldsmith-Thomas told of out-muscling men to get Julia Roberts guy-size pay for Erin Brockovich), and the secrets of elbowing into the boys club. "I took a job as a researcher for CBS sports, I didn't even know how to score a football game," said Rosenthal. "At Revolution they put our projects in pink," said Goldsmith-Thomas of life in the Sony family, "but we get to do what we want to do." According to her, men holding purse strings have begun to "respect the market." For empirical evidence, she points to recent megaplex marquees�the market-respecting overlapped runs of Just Married and How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days.

So now that we're satisfied that it's gonna rain Sweet Home Alabamas, what about those shot-caller female directors? The best places for them seem to be docs or soaps. The former got a panel over the weekend (though it was, aside from Paula Heredia, noticably absent some of the field's brighter lights) as did news reportage (Christiane Amanpour, Ashleigh Banfield, and Vietnam-associated correspondents Marlene Sanders and Janet Gardner). Daytime TV, alas, merited only a hagiographic (and sparsely attended) celebration of 65 years of Guiding Light. Nobody laughed at the absurd montage to a cruise-ship-loungey �In My Life.� No semiotician-types came out for the big grill either. When your correspondent asked about the possible tension between satisfying assumed viewer expectations and promoting more empowering female fantasies, executive producer Mary Alice Dwyer-Dobbin reminded us that "These are love stories. People want to be in love." And love, like wearing Bo-Peep dresses around the house, never goes out of style.

 
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