Why Hollywood needs more women in charge

imageDenise Ream, producer of Pixar’s Cars 2, talks about the increasing number of female big hitters in the film industry.

How important is it that more women are in positions like yours? And do you feel a responsibility to promote role models for girls?

I do feel a responsibility. I was very pleased with Holly Shiftwell, the Emily Mortimer character in Cars 2, who originally had a much smaller role in the film. Due to Emily’s performance and the intelligence that she brought to the role, Holly ended up becoming a major character in the film.

[As for my position at Pixar,] I would never want to be given the job of producer just because I’m a woman. I’d like to think that I got the job because I was qualified and people thought I was competent. I’m excited by the fact that Toy Story 3, Cars 2, Brave [due next year] and Monsters University [due in 2013] are all movies produced by women. And Brave is directed by a woman, Brenda Chapman. I think we are trending in the right direction.

But doesn’t Cars 2 appeal primarily to boys?

Interestingly, that’s not my experience. I would say [in the weeks before the movie was released] I had more mothers and daughters expressing a desire to go see it.

I came to the first Cars film through my eight-year-old niece, who was a huge fan. One of my friends from high school, a mother of three, loved the first film. So my test at the [Cars 2] premiere was whether my niece, who is now 13, and my friend liked the movie as much as the first one. I said you have to promise me that you’re going to be honest – and they absolutely loved it.

They loved the global aspect of it, the locations all around the world. They liked the spy story, and my niece loved Holly.

What dictated the choice of locations?

We picked countries based on their strong automotive traditions – Japan, the UK, France, Italy all have incredibly strong histories and beautiful car design.

A big difference between Cars and Cars 2 is that the latter is darker. It’s a comedy and a spy story – and a lot more grown-up.

The feeling was that, if we were going to tell a spy story – and not a parody of a spy story – we had to establish pretty high stakes. In fact, the [opening] scene was a little bit stronger, and we had objections from the parents that were working on the [film], who basically said this is going too far. And we changed it.

What was it like before?

It was more tense, to be honest. So we just dialled it back.

‘Cars 2’ is out now on DVD

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