Throughout December as we covered the fallout of the Sony Hack, I often wondered how Amy Pascal, co-chair of the studio and head of its Motion Picture Group, could possibly continue on, given how damaging some of the leaked information was to interpersonal working relationships. How effective can you be when you’re constantly apologizing for sh*t-talking behind people’s backs? Hollywood is a high school cafeteria, and in that environment, being caught out as a behind-hand gossip usually results in excommunication. And, well, Amy Pascal has been excommunicated. It’s not surprising.
But it is a bitter pill to swallow, for there are so few female executives in the industry that losing even one feels like setback. Of the “big six” major studios (Sony, Fox, Universal, Disney, Paramount, and Warner Brothers), only one has a female chair—Donna Langley, head of Universal. There are women in executive positions—Kathleen Kennedy heads LucasFilm and Marvel’s chief of VFX is Victoria Alonso—and there are smaller distributors and production companies headed by women, like Megan Ellison’s Annapurna or Terry Press at CBS Films, but the higher up the ranks you go in a studio, the less women you see, and that’s one-sixth more true today than it was yesterday.
I don’t know what else Sony could do, though. Pascal took the biggest hit in the Sony Hack. Would it have ended any differently had a man been in her position? Filmmaking is a cooperative process and it’s not inconceivable to think that her working relationships were badly damaged. That’s ironic because she was known for so long as the executive who championed creatives, who defended the authorship of filmmakers, and who mediated peace between the talent and the businessmen. That reputation has taken a hit, though, and it will take time to repair. Time that can’t be spared when you’re responsible for running a multi-billion dollar movie studio that’s already experiencing a rocky patch even before leaked emails took a flamethrower to your business network.
The silver lining is that Sony isn’t kicking Pascal to the curb. She’s stepping down from her leadership position, but she is setting up a production company that will be financed through Sony. It’s as good a compromise as can be under the circumstances. It could only be better if Sony committed to retaining diversity at the top, but of course, the list of potentials is all white guys. Two steps forward, three steps back.