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US Filmmaker: Debates on Women's Rights Could Drastically Change Hollywood

© AP Photo / Markus SchreiberDirector Steven Soderbergh attends a news conference for the film 'Unsane' during the 68th edition of the International Film Festival Berlin, Berlinale, in Berlin, Germany, Wednesday, Feb. 21, 2018.
Director Steven Soderbergh attends a news conference for the film 'Unsane' during the 68th edition of the International Film Festival Berlin, Berlinale, in Berlin, Germany, Wednesday, Feb. 21, 2018. - Sputnik International
The conversation about women's rights in Hollywood will lead to the long-term changes in the film industry, US director Steven Soderbergh, told Sputnik in an interview.

Soderbergh, known for the Ocean's Trilogy, Traffic and Erin Brokovich, took a short break from cinema a few years ago, directing TV series Mosaic, but then returned with several new projects.

Equal Rights

Soderbergh has just released a psychological thriller Unsane, centered around a young woman worried she might be stalked and questioning her sanity. The movie that tackles harassment comes after a series of revelations of sexual misconduct in Hollywood. Some of the stories involved top figures, such as producer Harvey Weinstein.

"As soon as those stories started to break, that behavior just went away… Nobody can get away with that kind of behavior anymore. So that's the good news," Soderbergh said.

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Women have been coming forward with their stories of harassment just as the conversation about equal pay has begun to get traction.

"'The equal pay for equal work' conversation is also at the front of everybody's mind right now, so that's good news. I'm hoping that these shifts will remain in place… It feels pretty permanent to me," the filmmaker said.

Clare Foy, the actress who stars in Unsane, became enmeshed in equal pay controversy after it emerged earlier this month that she had been paid less than her The Crown co-star Matt Smith in the first two seasons of the Netflix show. The producers explained it by his Doctor Who fame, but promised to change the situation going forward.

Soderbergh explained his choice of Foy for the main role by her readiness to change.

"She was prepared to annihilate some of the work that she'd been doing in the past couple of years. She was really eager to try on something that was the polar opposite of what she had been asked to do… She just has that thing, you just want to watch her," the filmmaker said.

Foy, in turn, may have been attracted by the "garage-band aspect" of the production, Soderbergh added.

Phone Movies

The way the movie has been shot, entirely on an iPhone 7 Plus, may be a sign of future changes in the industry. Soderbergh believes that more movies, including big-budget ones, could be filmed this way.

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"It requires a filmmaker to make a philosophical leap that is tricky for some people, I think… What people are really trying to wrap their minds around is they haven't thought very deeply about what is really going on with this technology. The issue is, I'm gonna make, let's say, this 35-million period costume drama and shoot it on a phone that costs $700. Some people have a block because they feel like that's wrong… I don't feel that way," the filmmaker said.

This revolution is in the making, according to Soderbergh: there will be a filmmaker in a few years time, who will decide to upend the whole production process, making it an overturned pyramid balanced on top of a phone.

Soderbergh himself is starting to shoot a new movie next week, with a budget of a little over $2 million. It will be filmed on a phone.


The fact that the main character of Unsane is a woman makes for a different tonality than if it were a man, especially in the context of the conversations in Hollywood and beyond about the issues women are facing.

"The issue of her not being believed obviously now takes on a slightly different cast than it did even a year ago, just because of the conversations that have been in the public," the filmmaker said.

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At the same time, Soderbergh described Unsane as a movie about a person entrapped by a system that "devalues them, or strips them of their identity."

"It's always dangerous, I think, when people describe something as Kafkaesque. What we do need to remember, is that the reason that that term exists is that he identified something that was coming and articulated in the way that nobody had before. What Kafka saw and what he wrote about was this creeping sense of systems and institutions taking over our lives and that becoming normal," the filmmaker said.

Soderbergh has been drawn to stories where a single person is trying to destroy or change a system that is oppressing them.

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