Duana and I won’t be able to record a new episode of Show Your Work on Friday because we are travelling. If we were able to do it though, I’m pretty sure we’d be talking about Barbra Streisand’s new interview with Variety, published just ahead of Oscar weekend, specifically because this award season has been dominated by Time’s Up and #MeToo. She wanted to share her experiences as a woman who’s been in this business for decades, how she battled sexism, what she thinks has to change, and what she’s learned.
There’s some really, really great work insight here. And what’s frustrating is that, unfortunately, when you google Barbra Streisand right now, this is not what’s being discussed. Most of the headlines, if not all of the headlines, are about how she cloned her dog, that two of her three dogs are clones of the “original” dog, Samantha. Do I think it’s weird? Sure. Do I think Barbra Streisand cloning her dogs (it’s not exactly affordable) has the real world impact and relatability that some of the other things she brings up might have on our current reality? Not at all. Cloning pets could present some serious and frightening situations … in the future. Right now, though, the fact that she was the victim of male mutiny on one of her sets is a pretty f-cking immediate issue.
Here’s what happened:
Streisand’s decision to transition into directing movies paved the way for other A-list actresses — Jodie Foster, Angelina Jolie and Natalie Portman — to do the same. It wasn’t so easy in her time. Streisand recalls that on the set of “Yentl,” which took 14 years to make, she was greeted with open arms by her overseas crew. “Europe had a queen,” she says. “Europe had a woman prime minister. They totally respected me, accepted me, as a first-time director.”
The experience was drastically different on her second movie, “The Prince of Tides,” which was shot in the United States. She recalls how one day, she told her co-star Nick Nolte that he couldn’t change the words in his scene. “When I cut, they have to match,” she told him. “And he said, ‘No, no, you don’t see my mouth from over there.’ He starts talking to the camera guy. And he says, ‘You don’t see my mouth moving, do you?’ The guy says no. I have my monitor right over there. I look back, and of course you can see his mouth. I go over to the camera operator, and I say, ‘Why did you just lie to him?’ He says, ‘It’s the boys’ club.’ Can you imagine? They were protecting him.”
Another memory of that shoot still bothers her. She wanted everyone to stay a little late, because Nolte was in a head space where she thought he could nail a scene that called for his character to be tired. But the camera operator and the crew banded together and told her they wanted to go home. Nolte took their side (although he called her later that night to apologize). “So I had to walk off the set. It would have literally taken 10 minutes, but they were f-cking with me.” The next morning, Nolte needed 17 takes to get it right, because he was too rested. “Today I wouldn’t ask the question,” Streisand says. “I would tell them. And if you don’t want to do it, don’t bother to come back to work tomorrow. I wouldn’t be afraid of that. But then, I was afraid of it.”
“They were f-cking with me.” She’s Barbra Streisand. By that point in her career, she was already a LEGEND. And now she was directing her second movie. And her lead actor and her crew decided that they would decide what kind of shots could and couldn’t be done and when to go home. It’s outrageous. It should be more f-cking outrageous than her cloning her dog.
And what’s sh-tty about that is that it doesn’t feel outrageous because it probably happens all the time, in all kinds of industries. Every day Duana and I are getting emails from women in law, accounting, medicine, retail, tech, etc, who experience exactly what Barbra Streisand experienced: having the title but not the influence to get sh-t done because the people, the men, who are less qualified than they are, “band together” and override them. I’m sure some of you are already emailing us about it now after reading this?
What are the consequences? Well, on top of all the regular work that has to be done, if you find yourself in this position, you then have to spend more time addressing it, coming up with a way in the next meeting or the next presentation to make sure your management is not compromised. And that directly affects productivity.
Also, what kind of an asshole keeps changing the words in the script and refuses to stick to the words in the script when he’s told BY HIS DIRECTOR that for very technical reasons, LIKE CONTINUITY, he needs to stick to the words in the goddamn script!?!?!
Read Barbra’s full interview with Variety, and all the other things she says not related to her cloned dogs, here, including another anecdote about how she would deliberately bury the credit for herself in the films she directed because she doesn’t want people to see her name at the beginning. So instead of seeing “directed by Barbra Streisand” in the opening credits, that would only appear at the end.
"Literature cannot be the business of a woman's life."
This is the feedback Charlotte Bronte received early on when she submitted a selection of her writing to poet laureate Robert Southey. She and her sisters wrote under pen names (men’s names) at the beginning of their careers. It was the only way they could get noticed.