The Cure for Your ISM

So, last week I was contacted by a BBC reporter to discuss the issues of sexism and ageism in Hollywood. Apparently, a lot of older actresses are grousing about how there are no roles for them and how that’s just not fair. Having been contacted by this reporter because he assumed I would agree, happy to chime in about how things slow down for female actors of a certain age, you can imagine his disappointment when my passion for this topic landed not on the side he had expected.

Now, before you come take away my “aging chick in Hollywood” card (which I totally have, by the way), let me say this one simple thing: The cure for every ISM in this business is creating your own content. Fact.

The reason I’m a horrible old lady right now is because I’m not going to back up my fellow forty-something females in the industry on this “grave injustice” that’s being done to us. Because I don’t buy into that last bit right there: “being done TO US.”

As soon as we decide that we need permission to make art, we’ve already signed up to be told when to retire. Once we’ve given anyone else the power to greenlight our work as storytellers, a clock is ticking on how long we’re going to be allowed to do it. Whenever we hand over the reins on our creative careers, we’re forced into some ISM at some point because the person in control can decide at whim when we’re DONE.

And this is why I have beaten the drum of self-producing, content-creating, putting on your own show, shooting your own stuff, BEING the storyteller you were born to be pretty much my whole life. It is the ultimate control in an industry that tries to give very little to its creatives. And that’s why it’s a revolution that’s scaring the bejeezus out of the dinosaurs in this business.

Certainly, I’m not saying that aging women whose run of studio blockbusters tapers after the age of 40 have nothing to complain about, but I am saying that they should be complaining NOT about having the studios change the rules on whether or not they’re “worth hiring” but instead about having handed off so much control to corporate entities in the first place.

The number of people out there whose phones stop ringing is staggering. True. But there are several different ways to handle that silence. There’s deciding you’re done; retiring. There’s bitching about it in the press; turning your ISM into a scapegoat. And then there’s getting out there and creating something; deciding it’s your choice when to be DONE putting your art out into the world.

Sure, it’s a whole different thing to produce a film yourself than to be hired by a major studio in a deal negotiated by your fancy team, but IF the *creating* of the art is what you want to do, get off your butt and do it. Because the little project that goes to the little festival and impresses a small but loyal fanbase is the spark that ignites the movement to get you back in studio blockbusters anyway. Better than that, you find you don’t care about whether that old life ever comes back, because you’re having so dang much fun being in charge of your creative career for a change!

Of course, if what you *actually* want is for someone at the major studio to admit they’re making business decisions that suddenly exclude you (no shock that they’re doing this) and that this is horrifically unfair (not likely that they’ll ever admit this) in hopes that they’ll suddenly flip a switch and give you back your heyday (one in a million shot, here), enjoy your ISM.

Me? I’d rather have a daily-updated list of a kabillion things I cannot *wait* to create, having my chief complaint be the lack of hours in the day to get ’em all done.

Stop giving away your power — whatever your gender, race, or age. And if you’ve already given some away, take it back. Do you need me to remind you how? Create something. And then? KEEP CREATING!


Bonnie Gillespie is living her dreams by helping others figure out how to live theirs. Wanna work with Bon? Start here. Thanks!


Originally published by Actors Access at http://more.showfax.com/columns/avoice/archives/001947.html. Please support the many wonderful resources provided by the Breakdown Services family. This posting is the author’s personal archive.

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