husbands and wives

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The other day Shawn emailed me a link to this blog from the writers of Kill List, Ben Wheatley and  Amy Jump. I was excited to find out that the duo are actually a married team. Seeing this blog brought up a few things for me since, even though I’d looked at details of the film previously, and know Ben Wheatley, also the director, by name, I had no recollection of Amy Jump at all. Granted, in most cases, directors get more attention than writers do, so it’s easier to make an impression. It’s also Amy’s first and only writing credit (according to imdb). It did really make me consider the role of women in film (as if this isn’t something I’m always thinking about) especially regarding husbands and wives that work together.

On our own film projects, Shawn and I work together, particularly in the writing process. By talking to each other we are able to refine concepts or move forward when one of us might be stuck. It works out pretty well. We balance each other out. That is not to say we don’t have conflicts of opinion, but I think for the most part we compel each other and help stories move along. It’s nice having a partner to work with. When it comes to what we do, things are fairly balanced; though, that isn’t to say exactly equal, we both have our own strong points.

Knowing about our own balance of creative input, it becomes interesting to consider husband and wife teams who are more successful and more present in popular media. If I were to mention Peter Jackson, everyone would know who I’m talking about. But what about Fran Walsh? Raise your hand if you know who she is. Well that’s lovely Fran up top with her husband Peter Jackson. They’re also a writing team (and producing at this point) and have been since Meet the Feebles back in 1989. Together they’ve written some amazing movies from the beautifully haunting Heavenly Creatures to the blockbuster Lord of the Rings Trilogy (also working with Phillipa Boyens). Yet, Walsh remains mainly out of the limelight, despite winning 3 Oscars. Personally, I can’t help but believe it it because of Walsh and Jackson’s collaborations that they have made such interesting films, not just one’s singular talent.

It’s impossible to know for sure the reasons why one person is famous and the person right next to them is not as famous. It could be a personal choice but I doubt that is the case. It could be the cult of the director, giving more weight over other positions in film production, no matter their importance or role. Sadly, and more likely, it could just be that women do not get recognition in the film industry. With the exception of a few actresses, it’s not easy to make a name as a woman in film. How many successful woman directors can you name? You might be able to count them on your fingers. Obviously this is something that is pervasive in almost all industries, still in 2011, but it’s even more extreme in an industry with so many subdivisions where it is easy to tuck women away in “appropriate” positions.

I don’t know that I have any final conclusions about these ideas, nothing that isn’t already known, but I think it’s important to bring up every so often, just as a reminder of what progress has been made and is still yet to be made.

4 Responses to “husbands and wives”
  1. On the special features of LOTR, they talk about how BECAUSE they are a married couple, for their sanity and mental health of the family it works out best for only one of them to be the public face. And because the director is more often the face of the movie in any case, it works out that Peter is the face of the couple. Fran wasn’t even interviewed for any of the 15 or so hours of behind-the-scenes.
    In *their* case I believe it’s deliberate. In fact, Philipa Boyens says that specifically.

    But then, look at the Clintons. Hilary set aside any ambition and career she had to help promote Bill and his presidency. And then he was “done” and she had a “turn” …. Maybe other couples do something similar?

    Who knows …

    • miss alix says:

      I definitely feel like it is intentional with Fran Walsh and Peter Jackson, since there is very little information about her in comparison to him. So all the things you’ve said make sense. (Clearly I haven’t watched all the special features 🙂 ) At the same time, and possibly because of this, I feel like there is less recognition for her as well. I hardly ever hear her mentioned in casual conversation about any of their films. It’s a fine line of wanting to remain out of the spotlight and not receiving certain credit for creative work. I am curious how much influence their personal choices in how to deal with media actually effects their reputation or if there are outside forces with more weight.

  2. Lex says:

    The new movie about Charles and Ray Eames covers that very subject.

  3. Nick says:

    Yeah, Fran Walsh is supposed to be notoriously private and camera shy. But I think you definitely have a point — there are a ton of husband-wife relationships in filmmaking, and more often than not the wife is the “silent partner.” Like, did you know that Robert Downey Jr.’s wife produces all his films? Ditto Christopher Nolan, Robert Rodriguez (well, now ex-wife), and I’m sure others I can’t think of.

    Often, it’s probably legitimately the case that the wife is just as happy to stay out of the spotlight, knowing how crazy and intrusive our celebrity culture is. But it also brings to mind the old saying, “Behind every great man is a great woman,” and its corollary question, “Uh, why is she BEHIND him?” There’s clearly a culturally ingrained tendency for women to be accepting of doing more work for less credit, and obviously, the sooner that can disappear, the better.

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