Students and critics often seem focused upon scripts, frames (storyboards), and soundtracks for their analyses of films. However, Catherine Hardwicke recently demonstrated at the Middleburg Film Festival that the director’s notes can be among the most interesting materials to study. The director of the first Twilight film was in Virginia wine country for an in-depth interview with Maureen Orth, a Special Correspondent for Vanity Fair. She was also present for screenings of Miss You Already, her latest feature film starring Drew Barrymore and Toni Collette.
Hardwicke proudly displayed her color-coded notes from Twilight, outlining multiple scenes to film according to the whims of the weather. Time, for Hardwicke, is a precious resource. She also showed her notes for Toni Collette’s different wigs at every stage. These notes are instrumental in staying organized and being prepared for unexpected obstacles, often in the form of Hollywood “studio politics” or worse yet, significant budget cuts on short notice. “Sparkling costs a lot of money,” she joked about the vampire scenes and CGI.
The Twilight sequel announcements were unfortunate with the disparaging media reports purporting that she had been fired. Hardwicke addressed those reports directly in Middleburg, explaining that she decided not to make the sequel, as allowed in her contract. The backlash was perplexing treatment (to say the least), because she has been recognized for achieving the highest grossing opening box office sales for a female director ($69 million).
One of the major problems, Hardwicke pointed out, is the issue of “gender bias” in an industry dominated by the view that women “can’t direct action sequences” and are overly “emotional bitches.” In spite of the abrasive environment that exists in parts of Hollywood, she remains dedicated and ever the optimist. “I was going to make that movie no matter what,” Hardwicke reflected about Thirteen, a sentiment that can be extended to all of her films and causes.
Later this month, she will be providing testimony about her experiences to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). However, Hardwicke adds, the number of male-to-female entertainment critics or reviewers is disproportionately “pale and male,” a distribution that favors the current Hollywood culture. She also has a role as herself on a Funny or Die segment, using comedy to encourage debate about Hollywood sexism. Her approach to the issue is admirable and most welcome, as she joins others seeking to open the film industry to women and minorities.