Production company trying to get more women in director chairs

Production company trying to get more women in director chairs
Lauren Greenfield's new production company, Girl Culture Films, wants to help brands hire diverse talent.

A new production company wants to put more women and diverse perspectives into director roles for commercial ads. Its first project, a docu-series from lubricant brand KY, addresses a still very taboo topic: women’s pleasure.

The inspiration for the company, called Girl Culture Films, came four years ago after the Super Bowl when an unlikely ad called “Like a Girl” for menstrual products aired. The commercial’s goal was to help women and girls reclaim the expression as a message of empowerment.

“It stopped people in their tracks — it wasn’t what they knew advertising to be,” according to Lauren Greenfield, the director of the ad and founder of Girl Culture Films.

The overwhelming response inspired Greenfield to help get more women and diverse directors to work on commercial ad campaigns and branded content.

Her company, which launched in January, intends to make it easier for brands to find women and other diverse talent to tap as directors. VR pioneer Nonny de la Pena, Twilight director Catherine Hardwicke, The Departure directer Lana Wilson and Amy Berg, the documentarian behind Deliver Us from Evil about sex abuse in the Catholic Church, have all signed on. Greenfield serves as creative director.

Girl Culture Films unveiled last week the promo for its first project: A docu-series on women and consensual sex called “The Pleasure is Mine,” directed by Berg. In it, a diverse group of women share their perceptions about sex and empowerment. The project is done in partnership with lubricant brand KY so it doubles as an ad. It’ll be released in April.

The company will also be developing film and TV projects, in addition to ads and branded content.

Greenfield, who sat down with CNN Business for an interview at SXSW, said there has been a “sea change with people’s willingness to talk about non-consensual sex,” but talking about consensual sex remains taboo. Lubricant brand KY was interested in forging a discussion about women’s pleasure.

“For us, it was really exciting because we just wanted to have real women have authentic conversations about sex. [It is] another way to look at women’s voices and women expressing their voices and in a way, the kind of empowerment through that discussion,” Greenfield said.

Greenfield has spent more than two decades as a photographer and documentarian looking at consumerism, wealth and culture, oftentimes by examining the lives of women and girls. Her documentary work includes the recent film “Generation Wealth” on Amazon, which looks at wealth and addiction in our society. She’s also the creator of “The Queen of Versailles” about a billionaire and his family before and after the 2008 economic crash, and “Thin,” a documentary about the treatment process for women with eating disorders.

The production company borrows its name from Greenfield’s 2002 book “Girl Culture” on body image.

“As a documentarian who’s kind of focused on the sociology of our culture, I often look at the problems and document those problems. When I made ‘Like a Girl,’ it was the first time I saw that, in making media, you could also be part of the solution,” she said.

Accepting awards for “Like a Girl” made Greenfield realize just how rare it was to have a female team working on the ad.

“I’ve looked at the huge impact that advertising has over women and girls’ self image and the way their identities are formed, and so to see that women don’t have a voice is such an influential conversation made me want to be proactive in that area,” she said.

Women make the vast majority of household purchasing decisions yet there are still so few women in creative marketing roles. In the advertising industry, 11% of creative directors are women, according to the 3% Movement (named after the role’s stat from 2008). In the film industry, just 8% of directors are women.

“I think that we have to all realize as a culture that these images are so impactful,” said Greenfield. “I do think that we all need to be responsible for the images that go out there.”