• Quilt.AI

#QuiltDialogues: Deepa Mehta on Women in Film


Last year, we brought on board a stellar team of advisors (predominantly women) to help us become a bigger and better business. On the occasion of International Women’s Day 2021, we reached out to some of them to share how they #ChoosetoChallenge misogyny in their respective professions and industries.


First in line is the phenomenal Oscar-nominated filmmaker Deepa Mehta.


Quilt.AI team: This year’s International Women’s Day motto is #ChoosetoChallenge. We would love to know about your journey as a filmmaker, and how you have challenged misogyny in the film industry.


Deepa: What a great day it is — International Women’s Day. I think #ChoosetoChallenge is an incredibly interesting motto because there are no clear directives, you can interpret it the way you wish to interpret it. For me, as an Indo-Canadian filmmaker, a mother, a daughter, a sister, but finally myself, I would like to challenge the preconceptions people have of women.


[These] preconceptions are age-old and practically in our DNA. “Women don't know anything about technology.” “Women shouldn't break the glass ceiling.” These are archaic thoughts but they are still there because they are preconceptions.


Preconceptions exist in different countries, in different cultures differently. In some, they are more predominant than others but they’re still there. If a woman is successful, the preconception is that her father must have known somebody to help her, or she must have gotten lucky, or married in. It’s never about her.


We have to challenge that. How we choose to do it — in my world, which is the world of filmmaking — is up to you.


But if I had any advice to give (and I hate giving advice because it makes me sound like a pompous idiot and I don’t know if it comes through) it would be [to reflect] how has the film industry evolved?


[I believe] in the last 10 years it has changed radically. When I started making films 30 years ago, I remember a big funding body in Canada came to me with a script for a film on young immigrant men. The head honcho said to me (very sweetly, a nice man), ‘Deepa, I’m sorry, but we can’t give you any money because the script is really good but you’re at a disadvantage because you're a woman.’


I was literally gobsmacked but too intimidated to take him on and ask him what does that mean? Of course I’m a woman, I mean it’s obvious that I’m a woman. Are you questioning my ability to do something because of my sex?


I mean I thought about all of this in my head but didn’t have the courage to say anything at that point. But I did think to myself that the only way I can take on a statement (because I was really offended) was to do the film.


And that’s what I did.


I made Sam & Me. It went to the Cannes Film Festival, it got an award at the Cannes Film Festival, and the man who had said that to me about my script, what he really said was about me as a woman, had to give a party for the film. That was huge for me, it really was! Because it wasn’t the party, it was — eat your words. Don’t have preconceptions!


Quilt.AI team: That’s so inspiring! Has anything changed since then? What would you choose to challenge this year in the film industry so that women can live fulfilling (professional) lives?


Deepa: Today if that happened, first of all, [the person] would be harassed and he’d have to leave his job. The evolution has been that we can actually call out people. That we come as directors to set, or as artists to set, we will get the due respect that we deserve. It depends a lot on our own behavior. But if you’re decent, you get decency back, that's the advantage that we women have. So don’t forget that.


On set there is this thing that you have to walk around with a weapon and you have to control it. It’s not true and it’s not in our nature. And that's such an important preconception to get rid of.


So choose to challenge the preconception of what you’re supposed to be. Whether you're in a film set or whether you’re sitting at home, or whether you’re sitting at a bank or a big office at the corner. You’re not there because of anything else except your own merit and your own capability. That’s what I will #ChoosetoChallenge because it continues.


Quilt.AI team: Thank you for your time. Any parting words?


Deepa: This year, 2021, for International Women’s Day, I choose to challenge the preconceptions that people have of women, especially women who have made some sort of a mark, whether it's in banking, or whether in films, in writing, or any craft. We are pretty good. So don’t ever forget that.


Happy International Women’s Day!



Watch out for exciting #IWD2021 #ChoosetoChallenge content all of this week on Quilt.AI.

































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[FULL TRANSCRIPT]


Good morning! What a good morning and what a good day it is. The motto for this year is #ChoosetoChallenge.


I think it is an incredibly interesting motto because there are no clear directives, you can interpret it the way you wish to interpret it. For me, as an Indo-Canadian filmmaker, a mother, a daughter, a sister, but finally myself, I choose to interpret the motto as -- I thought to myself, what do I want to challenge? I would like to challenge the preconceptions people have of women. So my challenge is to tell all of you to challenge those. Those preconceptions are age old and practically in our DNA. Women don't know anything about technology. Women shouldn't break the glass ceiling, These are archaic thoughts but they are still there, because they are preconceptions.


Preconceptions exist in different countries, in different cultures differently. In some they are more predominant than others but they’re still there. If a woman is successful, the preconception is that her father must have known somebody to help her, or she must have gotten lucky, or married in. It’s never about her.


We have to challenge that. How we choose to do it -- in my world, which is the world of filmmaking -- is up to you. But if I had any advice to give -- and I hate giving advice because it makes me sound like a pompous idiot and I don’t know if it comes through -- but, how has the film industry evolved?


In the last 10 years it has changed radically. When I started making films 30 years ago, I remember a big funding body came and gave the script in, of signing me, for a film by young immigrant men -- for a funding body in Canada. The head honcho said to me, very sweetly, a nice man, ‘Deepa, I’m sorry, but we can’t give you any money because the script is really good but you’re at a disadvantage because you're a woman.’ I was literally gobsmacked but too intimidated to take him on and ask him what does that mean? Of course I’m a woman, I mean it’s obvious that I’m a woman. Are you questioning my ability to do something because of my sex? I mean I thought about all of this in my head but didn’t have the courage to say anything at that point. But I did think to myself that the only way I can take on a statement, because I was really offended, was to do the film.


And that’s what I did.


I made Sam & Me. It went to the Cannes Film Festival, it got an award at the Cannes Film Festival, and the man who had said that to me about my script, what he really said was about me as a woman, had to give a party for the film. That was huge for me, it really was. Because it wasn’t the party, it was - eat your words. Don’t have preconceptions.


Today if that happened, first of all, he would be harassed and he’d have to leave his job. The evolution has been that we can actually call out people. That we come as directors to set, or as artists to set, we will get the due respect that we deserve. It depends a lot on our own behavior. But if you’re decent, you get decency back, that's the advantage that we women have. So don’t forget that.


I mean there are decent guys too.


But on set there is this thing that you have to walk around with a weapon and you have to control it. It’s not true and it’s not in our nature. And that's such an important preconception to get rid of.


So choose to challenge the preconception of what you’re supposed to be. Whether you're in a film set or whether you’re sitting at home, or whether you’re sitting at a bank or a big office at the corner. You’re not there because of anything else except your own merit and your own capability. So that’s what I will choose to challenge. Because it continues.


This year, 2021, for International Women’s Day, I choose to challenge the preconceptions that people have of women, especially women who have made some sort of a mark, whether it's in banking, or whether in films, in writing, or any craft. We are pretty good. So don’t ever forget that.


Happy International Women’s Day!


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