This article was originally published in BU Today on November 13, 2018 by Megan Wollhouse.
Actor and comedian Michaela Watkins recalls the day a prospective showrunner matter-of-factly told her that shows written, directed, and acted by women simply don’t succeed commercially.
He made the comment while interviewing for a job on the comedy Benched, which Watkins cocreated for the USA Network, and the remark left a searing impression.
Can you imagine hiring someone who thinks it’s okay to say, “No one cares about you and your life?” said Watkins (CFA’94), who spoke at a forum hosted by the BU Alumni Association October 27 in Los Angeles.
Women’s underrepresentation in film was a key part of the discussion at BU Envisions the Future: The Ideas, People, and Media That Are Changing the World, a daylong event held at Paramount Studios. Seven panels gave participants the chance to talk about Hollywood’s reckoning in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein scandal and rise of the #MeToo movement as well as malicious social media influencers, industry buyouts, and branding in the streaming era. They also had time to schmooze with fellow alums, including Nina Tassler (CFA’79, Hon.’16), a producer and former CBS Entertainment chair, Jim Gianopulos (CAS’73), Paramount CEO, and Bonnie Arnold (COM’78), a producer and former copresident of DreamWorks Animation.
There was much to discuss. On the first panel, It’s Not a Secret Anymore: A Conversation with BU Alumnae, Watkins and fellow panelists, all BU alums, talked about how the #MeToo movement has increased opportunities for women in the entertainment industry. The panel was moderated by Jean Morrison, BU provost and chief academic officer.
Tassler, who left CBS in 2015, didn’t mention her former boss, longtime CBS chief executive Leslie Moonves (Hon.’06), who was accused of sexual harassment and stepped down last month. But she acknowledged her role in the kind of thinking that may have kept women on the sidelines in the industry, describing herself as an extreme “people pleaser,” and someone who never quite expected her rise from talent agent to powerful network executive.
“I was part of the cultural bias,” said Tassler, who founded PatMa Productions earlier this year. “Even women are guilty of cultural bias. We all jumped in and went along with it.”