Gina Prince-Bythewood’s Netflix hit ‘The Old Guard’ boasts predominantly woman post-production team

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Charlize Theron stars in “The Old Guard.” [Netflix photo]

After breaking viewership records on Netflix, Gina Prince-Bythewood‘s action movie “The Old Guard” also is gaining attention for boasting a post-production team comprised of about 85% women.

As previously reported, the Netflix original, which stars Oscar winner Charlize Theron, KiKi Layne, Matthias Schoenaerts and Chiwetel Ejiofor, last month was revealed by the streaming giant as one of the top 10 most popular Netflix films ever – making Prince-Bythewood the first Black female director on the list.

“The Old Guard,” adapted from the comic book series by author Greg Rucka and illustrator Leandro Fernández, centers on a covert team of immortal mercenaries who are suddenly exposed and must fight to keep their identity a secret just as an unexpected new member is discovered. Netflix revealed July 17 that the film was on track to reach 72 million households in its first four weeks.

A co-production of Netflix and Skydance, it’s also critically acclaimed, garnering an 81 percent positive reviews on Rotten Tomatoes.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, Prince-Bythewood ( “Love & Basketball,” “The Secret Life of Bees,” “Beyond the Lights”) became the first Black woman to direct a Hollywood comic-book-themed movie with “The Old Guard.” Plus, Terilyn A. Shropshire (“Eve’s Bayou”), who has collaborated with the helmer since 2000’s “Love & Basketball,” became the first Black woman to edit one.

The action vehicle’s visual effects supervisor was Sara Bennett, who became one of only two women ever to have won an Oscar in VFX, for 2014’s “Ex Machina.”

Other key players behind the scenes on “The Old Guard” – which had a reported budget of $70 million – included cinematographer Tami Reiker (“Beyond the Lights,” who shared the director of photography role with Barry Ackroyd), special effects supervisor Hayley Williams (“Annihilation”) and costume designer Mary Vogt (“Crazy Rich Asians”).

Per The Hollywood Reporter, Prince-Bythewood said that such a gender breakdown behind the camera “doesn’t happen, or very rarely happens on any movie, but on an action film, I guarantee you that’s never happened before.”

“When you look at the résumés of a lot of really talented women, they are not as long or as extensive as a lot of men in the same position,” Prince-Bythewood said. “But I know for a fact that it doesn’t have to do with talent, it has to do with opportunity. … There are so many women out there who are so good at what they do, but they just haven’t gotten the chance. Their being on my crew, being a part of the film, makes the film better.”

As previously reported, 2019 was a huge year for female filmmakers, but the movie business continues to be dominated by male moviemakers, according to the latest “Celluloid Ceiling” report released in January.

In its 22nd year, the annual San Diego State University study found that women comprised 20% of all directors, writers, producers, executive producers, editors, and cinematographers working on the top 100 domestic grossing films released last year. That was up from 16% in 2018.

“While the numbers moved in a positive direction this year, men continue to outnumber women 4 to 1 in key behind-the-scenes roles. It’s odd to talk about reaching historic highs when women remain so far from parity,” said Martha Lauzen, the author of the study as well as the executive director of the university’s Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film.

The latest “Celluloid Ceiling” study also indicated why the hiring of women is so important, especially when it comes to reaching any semblance of parity: Films with female directors are much more likely to hire women in key roles than films directed just by men. Of the 500 top grossing movies last year, 59% of those directed by women employed female writers, while on films with exclusively male directors, women were only 13% of their writers. (Rucka wrote the screenplay for “The Old Guard” based on his comic.)

Women made up 43% of editors on films with at least one female director, but on movies with only male directors, women accounted for only 19% of editors. On films with at least one female director, women accounted for 21% of cinematographers, while on those with exclusively male directors, women were only 2% of cinematographers.

With “The Old Guard,” Prince-Bythewood put those numbers into practice, and the result is a hit film that will boost the profile of all involved, including her.

As previously reported, she was quickly tapped to helm “The Woman King,” an action-packed based-on-real-events historical drama starring Academy Award winner Viola Davis, after the successful debut of “The Old Guard.”

Plus, Netflix co-CEOs Reed Hastings and Ted Sarandos held up “The Old Guard” to investors last month as an example of a franchise-building feature that the streaming service is moving into, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Sarandos said the property has “a world and stories to be told for some time to come,” which means Prince-Bythewood and her woman-dominated team could potentially be working in this world for a while.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, Prince-Bythewood wanted with “The Old Guard” to make her mark on the comic-book movie genre, which includes acclaimed blockbusters like “Logan” and “Black Panther,” “which had all the muscularity that you love, but I cried in both of those because I felt so deeply for the characters and the themes within.”

“I absolutely give out props to Patty Jenkins: Her work on ‘Wonder Woman’ and just killing it absolutely opened the door a crack, and through that crack Skydance, who has this property of ‘The Old Guard,’ were very intent on wanting a female director for it,” she said.

Hopefully, “The Old Guard” will open the door even wider for more women directors – and their women-dominated creative teams and femme-focused stories – to blast through it

-BAM

 

 

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