Kimberly Peirce Interview

Kimberly Peirce directs Stop Loss

Writer/director Kimberly Peirce has been working on her latest film, Stop Loss, for more than five years. Peirce talks to Chris Neumer about this process and gets inside why the ‘truth’ is out there and discusses the concept of an audience member breaking up with a director.

by Chris Neumer

Extra Information

CHRIS NEUMER: It’s a pleasure to meet you.

KIMBERLY PEIRCE: Very nice to meet you.

CHRIS NEUMER: I’ve got all sorts of questions and things for you.

KIMBERLY PEIRCE: (pocketing her Blackberry) Let me turn this off.

CHRIS NEUMER: I actually turn my cell phone on before my interviews now so that I seem more important.

KIMBERLY PEIRCE: (laughs) Okay good. I hope you get a number of calls.

CHRIS NEUMER: I was really curious to meet you because I was reading some previous articles on you and, this came up so many times, apparently you look at people when you talk to them. I know it sounds weird, but this came up in different articles, honest to God, five or six times, “When Kim Peirce talks to you, she looks at you. She looks into your soul.” And I thought, “Well this is going to be interesting.”

KIMBERLY PEIRCE: How can I do it now that you’ve pointed it out?  You’ve totally diffused my game.

CHRIS NEUMER: But nonetheless, that’s part of the excitement.

KIMBERLY PEIRCE: That’s interesting.

CHRIS NEUMER: And now that I’ve got you on the ropes because you’re going to be thinking about looking at me, the interesting answers start to come out. Now, I’m going to learn all the dirt.

KIMBERLY PEIRCE: Okay. There you go. We’re locked in.

CHRIS NEUMER: I saw the movie three weeks ago, enjoyed it. It had a lot of interesting, thought-provoking questions and of course no answers.  And it brought to mind—are you familiar with the documentarian Robert Greenwald? He did the documentary Outfoxed and the Wal-Mart documentary.

KIMBERLY PEIRCE: I haven’t seen his stuff, but I’ve seen a lot of other documentaries lately and I should see his stuff, because I love that kind of vein of film making. Is it kind of in the Enron vein? The Smartest Guys in the Room and Why We Fight?   Both of which I love and the Al Gore documentary, that stuff just—I can’t even believe how good that stuff is, so I need to see some of his work.

CHRIS NEUMER: Well, he does a variety of these things and he takes everybody to task. So I was meeting with him and he’s working on a new film on Iraq. He’d just done an Iraq documentary and he’s working on a new one. I said, “How do you make the material interesting and not boring?” We’re getting these Iraq movies left and right, how do you keep the audience from getting bored by the things that we should be most horrified by. So I figured I’d ask you the same question. With all these movies like In the Valley of Elah and such coming out, how do you take pains to make sure that people are not bored or hit over the head by the Iraq message?

KIMBERLY PEIRCE: It’s a good question. I started this, though, after 9/11. Because I was in New York, the towers fell, it was very devastating. I went to vigils for the victims. I just knew that I was fascinated with soldiers and why they were signing up, what their experience was in combat and what they were thinking when they came home. Then my little brother signed up and went to Iraq in ‘03. He was there for a year. He didn’t get stop-lossed because he was on a five-year contract and he got out on a combat related injury, which is the only way to avoid stop-loss.

CHRIS NEUMER: Is he okay?

KIMBERLY PEIRCE: Yes he is. I mean he’s got to have some surgery and I feel bad about that, but he’s fundamentally okay. His entire unit got stop-lossed. So, it’s not his story, it’s the story of all these other men.

CHRIS NEUMER: But it could have been.

KIMBERLY PEIRCE: Right, it could have been his story.  The reason I bring up the time issue is that I was sort of ahead of the curve because I’m from a military family. So I was just pursuing what was interesting to me by going around and interviewing soldiers and trying to understand the answer to these questions. The Valley of Elah and all that stuff… I was working on my movie and then all that stuff coming out, so I didn’t even have the issue of, “Am I competing?” or “Have the people numbed out?” If anything people hadn’t even taken an interest in the Iraq war when I was really most interested in it. In a bizarre way I was really ahead of the curve.

CHRIS NEUMER: That’s got to make you feel good to be able to say that too.

KIMBERLY PEIRCE: What?

CHRIS NEUMER: “Oh, I was ahead of the curve. No, no. I’m better. I was here first.”

KIMBERLY PEIRCE: I don’t think being ahead of the curve makes you better. It also can make you naïve.

CHRIS NEUMER: This is true, but not as funny.

KIMBERLY PEIRCE: If I’m ahead of the curve, all kinds of stuff might happen. I might write something and then something happens to make what I write really stupid.

CHRIS NEUMER: You know, of course, that when you say that I have to ask, and I know the film’s been complete for a number of months, but were there moments like, “Oh man, I can’t believe that happened.”

KIMBERLY PEIRCE: No, because I don’t make topical movies. In a way they come from the headlines, they come from stuff that’s really happening.  The whole thing is the challenge to go deeper than all of that. So the reason that I interviewed so many soldiers was—there were a number of stories I got interested in along the way and I’d be like, “Oh okay, let’s tell that story.” What was really happening is that a type of character was emerging for me. That was a young guy who was a patriot, who came from a military family. He signed up for all the right reasons: to protect his family, his country, his home after 9/11. I interviewed so many guys who said that that was why they signed up. I said, “That’s the type of guy I’m going to write about.” Then what happens is that there can’t be a new development in the war that’s going  to change that profile. That is the character, right? And he’s a leader. He was the captain of the football team, he and his best friend sign up, so he becomes the sergeant in charge of these men. Then I started realizing, one of the most profound things was, you sign up for patriotic reasons, but almost every soldier I talked to said that’s not why you’re over there, that’s not what you’re doing. You try to stay alive every single day, every single night of your life. And you try to keep the guy to your left and to your right alive. That became really, really interesting to me, because now it’s about a leader who wants to survive, but more than that, he wants to keep his men intact and his men alive.

CHRIS NEUMER: And there’s sort of a very strange juxtaposition between the right reasons to get in and the people bringing you over there having the right reasons in getting you involved… I don’t know if that makes sense.

KIMBERLY PEIRCE: I think you’re saying, you get in for a certain reason and then [the powers that be] have an agenda and that may or may not be your agenda.

CHRIS NEUMER: Exactly. And then you have to deal with them manipulating you like a marionette in order to continue to do that. That’s exactly what we’re talking about: the conflict between the manipulation versus the patriotic reasons why you joined.

KIMBERLY PEIRCE: Right and then the thing that was so heartbreaking and moving to me is that once these guys are in—and they really sign up for all the right reasons—but once they’re in, it’s just, “I’ve got to get out of here alive. I’ve got to get myself and I’ve got to get you out.  I don’t go home unless you go home. And if I go home and you’re injured or you’re killed then I don’t go home complete.”
When I started hitting on that over and over from these soldiers, that’s what broke my heart. That kind of sucked me in. That transcends what happens in the war because that becomes the universal experience. What I wanted to be topically accurate about was, at that time, they were running the checkpoints and guys were getting killed and they were being led into ambushes. And those ambushes were being fought the way that we wrote about them. So I had to be insanely accurate about that. That’s also because there’s a whole emotional and physical logic that comes out of a scene and a character that I get by making everything around it accurate, so that would be my reason for that. And then at a certain point it is what it is, it doesn’t matter what happens. So I had to search long and hard enough until I had a story that to me was reflective. I didn’t want to make a movie and have it come out there and go, “Oh that’s kind of what 10% of the guys go through.” That wouldn’t be satisfying. I want it to be like 80-90% of the guys are like, “That’s what it is for me.” You know what I mean? It’s not the exception, it’s the rule.

CHRIS NEUMER: The other interesting thing I realized after someone said, “Ugh, did you see that anti-patriotic movie she made?” and I said, “Stop-Loss?” And they were like, “Yeah it was terrible! It was all, ‘We shouldn’t be at war,’” and I spoke to another person who said, “She just opened her heart to the troops and was so supportive.” And I got a number of these different responses. It made me realize that this movie is almost like a Rorschach test for how you feel about the war. If I think you’re just some liberal, commie filmmaker, it’s a horribly anti-patriotic movie. How did you navigate those straits to create an entity that allows the viewer to put so much of themselves on it?

KIMBERLY PEIRCE: I think by surrendering to the people and the experience. So, again, if I start out being fascinated by the soldiers and my baby brother’s a soldier, and we’re military family, my obligation is simply, as I put it to my brother, “I just want the soldier’s point of view.” I don’t know if you know anything about the videos I got a hold of…

CHRIS NEUMER: I do.

KIMBERLY PEIRCE: Yeah, so I was IMing with him and then he brought back and then I gathered. I went all over the place and got soldier-made videos. They were taking cameras and putting them on sandbags, wiring them on Humvees or on gun turrets. And they were just filming whatever they filmed. It would be like if you and I were just having this seen here and we just put the camera down. Then they would go to their barracks and then they would cut it on iMovie to rock music or patriotic music. When I saw those I was like, “Oh this is where the movie needs to be born from.” This is this generation’s story. This is generation that picks up a camera and films themselves and puts it on the Internet. That cuts it together and it’s amazing to me as a filmmaker watching this generation of people become film literate in a way. How do I navigate the straits? To me, it’s all about character. Of course, I have a human agenda, where it breaks my heart when I think humanity is not being protected or living up to its potential, but other than that…

CHRIS NEUMER: (laughs) Well, yeah, other than that.

KIMBERLY PEIRCE: Other than that.  I mean if these guys are picking up guns and clearing rooms, or if they’re picking up grenades and they’re clearing rooms with grenades and there are consequences to that, I’m just going to show it. I want to understand the situation that leads the guy to take the action. I don’t want to take a judgment, because that is up to you. It’s also why I have two guys in the movie who start out very similarly; they sign up for very patriotic reasons, they sign up in the buddy program, but they end up going different ways because one of them is the leader and he feels responsible for what happened. There’s a temptation that you have as an author to side with one of them. You notice that a lot of times when you’re watching a movie where you feel led and you go, “I know you side with that guy and I can tell that that’s the ‘bad’ guy.”

CHRIS NEUMER: “You” being the filmmaker.

KIMBERLY PEIRCE: Yeah. Meaning you’re sitting in the theatre, and I think this is not great drama. It’s like you obviously don’t agree with things; everything is set up for you. That’s the bad guy, this is the good guy and it’s just no fun. Whereas I think the struggle here was, “How can I make each of their arguments really, really valid, so you feel that?”

CHRIS NEUMER: True. Well, there’s certain movies that are easier to, dare I say, judge, than others. I think in Silence of the Lambs it’s a little easier to side with Jodie Foster than Buffalo Bill…

KIMBERLY PEIRCE: But that’s a genre movie.

CHRIS NEUMER: That’s true.

KIMBERLY PEIRCE: And I love that movie. That movie isn’t trying to engage you in this way, and I think that’s why it’s successful.

CHRIS NEUMER: Yeah, I overlooked that point. And I think as a filmmaker it’s like, and not specifically on this project, “How do you suck that up?” Where it’s like, “I can’t preach. I have to put my soapbox away.  I have to let the audience figure it out.”  I don’t know how you do that. Were there scenes that you were like, “I love this scene, but unfortunately it shows too much going this way or going that way,” that you had to pick out?

KIMBERLY PEIRCE: Yeah, there’s definitely all kinds of interesting things that happen in cutting a movie, but I think what you do is just let your— First of all, I’m not a very preachy person, I don’t think.  I’m very much led by my curiosity. So, if I’m curious about why a patriotic guy might have a change of heart then I allow that to guide me. I ask, “When were you patriotic and when did you believe and when did you start changing your feelings about it? What were the things that moved you?” If I’m interested in the guys who are just like, “Screw it, I just want to go back and drop the biggest bomb possible and end this war.” I’m truly curious.

CHRIS NEUMER: Oh, that would end the war, yes.

KIMBERLY PEIRCE: (laughs) But I am truly curious about the guys who want to keep going back. I had a screening in San Diego with The Wounded Warriors. It’s a group. A bunch of these guys came, and I write about it in my website and they’re crippled. It’s heartbreaking.  But they are—they want to go back to war. They were like, “We love the movie, we’re crippled, and we want to go back.” And I was like, “Wow.”  We were in a big audience and I said, “Why do you want to go back?” I was genuinely curious. And they said, “Well, you know, being a husband and a dad is not as exciting as being with the guys. I’d like to go back and I miss my men.”

CHRIS NEUMER: See I hear that and I feel sorry for the kids.

KIMBERLY PEIRCE: (laughs) You feel sorry for the kids.

CHRIS NEUMER: It’s good and I’m glad you’ve found a way to ask why without coming across as an asshole. I can’t do that. I’m glad you get away with it. I have not figured it out asking how you do that questioning without getting great irony in return.

KIMBERLY PEIRCE: Because they think you’re being ironic to them.

CHRIS NEUMER: Which I’m really, truly not, I’m curious as you. I think I give off ‘ironic’ when I don’t mean to be.

KIMBERLY PEIRCE: Right, right. Well, we can work on your performance. I mean, I’m a director and that’s kind of [my responsibility].  But I do think it’s about that connection with the other person letting them know that you’re truly curious. So I was truly curious about why they would want to go back and as you listen to their reasons, they aren’t the reasons that you think they are.  They aren’t war hungry guys that want to go kill people. I was like, “Do you want to go back for the combat or do you want to go back to be with your guys?” And they were like, “I want to go back to be with my guys.” So, that to me is very interesting because then I realized that King [Ryan Phillippe’s character] and Shriver [Channing Tatum’s character] actually have very similar values.  They both want to be with their guys…

CHRIS NEUMER: They’re just manifesting it in different ways…

KIMBERLY PEIRCE: They’re manifesting it in different ways and that’s really interesting.

CHRIS NEUMER: So, going back to the film it seems like, and now I’m putting words into your mouth, it seems like what you’re saying is that if you stick with sort of the organic nature of the story you can’t really go wrong because that’s just the way it is.

KIMBERLY PEIRCE: Right. I think if you just follow your curiosity and you allow these people to emerge as real characters who really have true objectives, then that’s where the drama comes from. The best drama is where we both want something reasonable and we both can’t have it.  Right?

CHRIS NEUMER: This is true, yes.

KIMBERLY PEIRCE: If there’s a mutual exclusivity to what we both want, then we’re going to fight it. That’s kind of what every scene in a movie is. Then I follow what moves me and breaks my heart. When the guys say to me—this was very interesting—I was like, “Why wouldn’t you want to go back to the war? What would be the main reason?” And some people were like, “Well, I don’t want to kill innocent people.” So, for a while, I was like, “Okay that’s a good reason.” But when I really probed more deeply, some soldiers said, “I don’t fucking care if I kill innocent people!’ and I was like, “Okay, that’s valid too.” Some people were like, “I don’t want to kill innocent people.” Most people said, “I don’t want to kill innocent people, but really, I don’t want to have one of my guys get killed or wounded on my watch.” That was the thing; you could just tell that was the deepest reason. So the question is: how do you articulate a character who isn’t a political activist? That’s not what these soldiers become.  But how do you articulate a character who doesn’t want to go back to war, this war, doesn’t want to kill innocent people, but the deeper reason is, he just can’t lead more men to be crippled or killed? That’s where the crafting comes in.

CHRIS NEUMER: That’s a kind of burden to be carrying around.

KIMBERLY PEIRCE: The leader? Exactly.

CHRIS NEUMER: Well, not only that, but the privates. You have to take care of the guy next to you.

KIMBERLY PEIRCE: Right. Do you want to know something interesting? The Wounded Warriors?

CHRIS NEUMER: By the way, this had better be really interesting.

KIMBERLY PEIRCE: No, it’s not even that interesting.

CHRIS NEUMER: (laughs) I’m teasing you.

KIMBERLY PEIRCE: It’s along these lines. I asked one of them, “How did you get hurt?” And he said it was his fault, he was hurt by a guy under his charge. He said, “It’s so much like you have in the movie.  It was a mission right before we were supposed to come home.” A guy under his charge accidentally discharged his weapon. It killed a guy and it crippled this guy. And I said, “How do you feel about that guy?” He said, “I feel bad that I didn’t make him be more careful with his weapon. It was my fault.”

CHRIS NEUMER: And maybe this is the difference between going through the boot camp and having the drill sergeants yell at you, but my take on that would be, “Oh no it’s ALL his fault. This is not mine!” But that’s the difference between soldiers and people who are not soldiers.

KIMBERLY PEIRCE: Right. I think we are different. For me the journey of getting inside that… it’s just so curious and humanly moving, it’s so extreme. So, I think if you just keep approaching with curiosity.

CHRIS NEUMER: Here comes my next question, which is absolutely nothing we’ve talked about.  I realized, flipping through your IMDB page a few days ago, that you’re probably getting the question, “What have you been doing these last 8 or 9 years, you’ve been gone?” And I thought, “Oh this poor, poor woman.” Because you haven’t been gone! You’ve been doing tons of stuff! Tons, tons, tons! But you look at the reporter from the Omaha Daily News and that’s what she’s asking. Are you preemptively scared or angry or do you have a pat answer prepared for the question, “Where have you been?”

KIMBERLY PEIRCE: I have a pat answer. I have a real answer, which is, I was incredibly fortunate…

CHRIS NEUMER: I don’t want the pat answer. I know the real answer. I’m just asking!

KIMBERLY PEIRCE: Well, do I have a pat answer? I don’t because I mean, what’s the pat answer? I wish I could have worked…

CHRIS NEUMER: Or, “I was working.”

KIMBERLY PEIRCE: I was working.

CHRIS NEUMER: (laughs) That’s the thing that always surprises me. A long time ago I was talking to Debra Winger and I asked, “Where have you been?” I was young and very naïve. She told me that she hadn’t been anywhere, She said, “I’ve been doing exactly the same things, you just don’t know that.” And that’s sort of the shift in perspective that I think journalists fail to recognize. I don’t know how to play ‘stupid journalist’ anymore though. I can’t necessarily put myself into the headspace of an interviewer who sits down and says, “Tell me about the movie.” The lack of perspective sort of goes hand in hand with that question “Where have you been?”

KIMBERLY PEIRCE: And it’s interesting to the public that you have given something to them and they want more of it. So, it’s not like they’re saying, “What were you doing every day of your life? Were you actually being productive?” They were like, “Why did you give me something and then not produce something else that I could get entertainment from?”  I’m kind of like, “Okay, we’re in a relationship here.” That’s kind of how I am in my relationship. My partner says, “I need more of this.  How come we’re not going out to dinner?” And I’m like, “Okay we have to go out to dinner more.” Because they want more. Now you’re caught up where you’re in a privileged relationship with your audience. But frankly, if they want more from you, it’s good.

CHRIS NEUMER: See, now I’m rethinking my relationship with Joel Schumacher. Do you have any advice on how to break up with a director?

KIMBERLY PEIRCE: (laughs) Yeah…

CHRIS NEUMER: That was a great answer, by the way. I’m completely thrown for a loop because of it. I want to sit here and ponder the relationship that a director has with his audience, but can’t. So, I move on, appreciatively. One of the reasons that I was looking forward to talking to you was because of an interview I saw you did during the Boys Don’t Cry tour. It was a very nuanced, very sensible, very rational, very balanced explanation of how the true tragedy with Brandon was the creation of the humanity of the character and then ripping it down, essentially destroying the person. And I thought, “That’s a really interesting perspective.”

KIMBERLY PEIRCE: Well, I love doing interviews where [the journalist] has already read up on me. I’m very prolific on my website so you can get all the basic answers. I prefer an interview where you’ve already consumed all that stuff and we can actually talk about… what was the thing? That I was ripping into the humanity of John the killer?

CHRIS NEUMER: No, no, no. It was Brandon’s dream of—he had created this dream and then everyone else chipped it away. That’s the really horrible part. You made me understand that psyche in very humanistic terms and you weren’t beating me over the head with it. I was surprised that you could do this. You don’t often see very accepting, very progressive beliefs that can either take it or leave it. You don’t see that very often.

KIMBERLY PEIRCE: Explain that, I don’t understand. Like, progressive beliefs… meaning… oh, that I have a progressive understanding of human nature and I’m putting it into the movie?

CHRIS NEUMER: Yes, but you’re also fully willing to accept that other people might not buy it. I’ve had several dealings with vegans, hardcore recyclers, people who are against fur etc, and our conversations always come down to the point where I say, “Well, that’s fine for you.” And they’re like, “No, it should be fine for you too.”
Then I say, “Guess what, it’s not.”

KIMBERLY PEIRCE: Well, I’m not a proselytizer. That just goes back to like with Brandon, what was my basic job there? I understood Brandon.  And I took on a character that I think most people, in their lifetimes would never understand. So what was my job? My job was to make the character, first of all to build him so that he was true and then to bring you in if I could and the way to bring you in was to make him as universal and like you as possible. He wants love and acceptance.

CHRIS NEUMER: But the thing that truly separates you is that there’s no sense of you saying, “The audience has to accept this!” Instead it’s like, “I’m just putting this out there.  If you like it, great. If you get something from it, beautiful. If not, eh, what can you do?” Nuance is very important. One thing I wanted to ask you about, I was thinking about this in the opening scene of Stop Loss, and I apologize in advance for making you a representative for all women directors, but I figured I’d start with you since I’m talking to you now. I was writing something about the lack of female directors that had movies open in the summer of 2007. I think between May and August there were two movies that opened in more than 800 theatres that had female directors, and one of them was killed! And I thought to myself—

KIMBERLY PEIRCE: One of them was killed?

CHRIS NEUMER: Adrienne Shelley.

KIMBERLY PEIRCE: (whispers) Oh yeah.

CHRIS NEUMER: Waitress was delightful. And Kasi Lemmons was the other one with Talk to Me.

KIMBERLY PEIRCE: She’s a nice girl.

CHRIS NEUMER: Wonderful woman. And these situations always bring up this quote from Robin Swicord.

KIMBERLY PEIRCE: She’s really good.

CHRIS NEUMER: She said, “Why do people always assume that I write with my vagina? And I tell them, this is not true.”

KIMBERLY PEIRCE: (laughs)

CHRIS NEUMER: And I thought, here you are making a movie about war, about troops, you have an action sequence at the beginning that is pretty hard-hitting, did you come up against any, I don’t know what the term is… did you encounter any trouble because you are a female and you were directing a war film AND what the hell is wrong with Hollywood?

KIMBERLY PEIRCE: (laughs) Okay, so first thing: I was very fortunate that I learned my lesson from one of those interim projects. It made more sense for me to pay for the development of a movie, rather than accept any money from Hollywood to do that. I easily can set things up, that’s not hard. On this one I was like, “Let me just do it myself.”  So I paid for it. I just picked up my camera, went all over the country, interviewed soldiers, gathered stuff, and gathered all the videos. I was in heaven working. Because I could just wake up and work 20 hours a day, no problem. Wrote the script on spec with Mark Broussard who is a novelist from Texas. Fantastic writer. Paid for all that. When we were done with that process, I had a script and you totally knew what the movie was and I then cut together a five minute trailer—that was the soldier’s videos and some of the research I had done around the country. We presented that to the studios. We went to a bunch of studios and financiers and producers and we said, “Okay, this is the movie. We want to make it. If you buy it, you make it. If you don’t, you pay us a huge fee. We don’t want the fee; we want you to make it. We don’t want to get stuck in that bizarre development situation.” If they were making a war movie and they went out looking for a director, I might have been like, “Hey guys. Boys Don’t Cry was tough and I’m tough and the guys will respect me.” In that case, I might have come up against that. But in a bizarre way I sidestepped all of it because my brother fought, I’ve been interviewing soldiers for years—

CHRIS NEUMER: And you were approaching them.

KIMBERLY PEIRCE: And I was approaching them. I also understood emotionally and physically what these soldiers were going through and, believe me I wanted those action sequences to be jam-packed. I showed the studios the footage that I had gathered and by showing them footage that I had gathered the testosterone level was already up; the authenticity was already up, so I think there ended up being that kind of cut through. And maybe that’s the way women need to do it…

CHRIS NEUMER: So not even make it an issue, just be like, listen, you accept that I’m here, you accept that this is the case…

KIMBERLY PEIRCE: And I’m already so far ahead on a stylistic level with it because I’m like, “I like when that bomb explodes, I like this and I like that.” And the trailer is so jam-packed full of rock music. It’s tough, it’s hip, and it’s accurate. It’s got all the war footage that audiences had never seen. Because I was getting it off the Internet and getting it from soldiers so it kind of wowed them and if you entertain them then they would follow, so there wasn’t an issue of, “Does she have the right sensibility?”

CHRIS NEUMER: Gotcha. I don’t know why, but I’m thinking about incredibly horrible pitches for the project you’re describing, like “She’s All That except in Iraq” or something like that. I don’t know why I’m thinking that… I guess because what would be the worst thing you could do and Hollywood usually does that.

KIMBERLY PEIRCE: One more thing, I think that opening sequence really does kind of rock people and moves them, the great thing is that the fact that I’m a woman is an afterthought, then it’s kind of great. Then I’ll be the first woman who’s done that, then women can do it and there won’t be an issue about it.

CHRIS NEUMER: Kathryn Bigelow might have something to say about that.

KIMBERLY PEIRCE: (laughs) Okay, not the first. I love Kathryn, she’s great. Let’s not even put a number on it, let’s just say… that—

CHRIS NEUMER: It will be apparent that women can easily do it.

KIMBERLY PEIRCE: And not every woman and not every man can.  It’s about what your sensibility is. There are men who are great… others who aren’t.

CHRIS NEUMER: Even I know this. For whatever reason it doesn’t seem like the people who are signing the checks necessarily… maybe they get it too, but they don’t like it.

KIMBERLY PEIRCE: Now to what the hell’s wrong with Hollywood…

CHRIS NEUMER: Well, yeah, as I said, two female directors directed movies and I know that there are far more—

KIMBERLY PEIRCE: Tamara Jenkins also did one last year.

CHRIS NEUMER: I don’t think it opened in 800 theatres or it came out between May and August.

KIMBERLY PEIRCE: Okay, you’re right.

CHRIS NEUMER: It seems like in today’s day and age that it should be—

KIMBERLY PEIRCE: There should be more?

CHRIS NEUMER: Yeah. Don’t even get me started on movies made for black audiences.

KIMBERLY PEIRCE: That there aren’t enough made for black audiences?

CHRIS NEUMER: I mean, Daddy Day Care?

KIMBERLY PEIRCE: That they’re bad.

CHRIS NEUMER: I mean, they’re horrid! What was the other statistic I found while researching this? In 1991, there were 7 movies made that had black actors in the lead and this last summer there were 6. And not only that one of them was Daddy Day Care and one of the other ones was equally horrid.

KIMBERLY PEIRCE: Well, you know, that’s also about, you need someone who can make those characters authentic writing the screenplays.

CHRIS NEUMER: Yes and Robert Johnson needs to be taken out and beaten for what he’s doing.

KIMBERLY PEIRCE: Who is he?

CHRIS NEUMER: He’s the guy who owns BET and the guy who produced the “other” movie. Not Daddy Day Care.

KIMBERLY PEIRCE: Oh no.  Is he African-American?

CHRIS NEUMER: Yes, he’s African- American.

KIMBERLY PEIRCE: So, he’s just making his money. What we need is more—to be honest, movies tend to be either autobiographical, or things that we care about, we just need more African American writers.

CHRIS NEUMER: All of the above. But I have tell you if I was black, I would be pissed as hell.

KIMBERLY PEIRCE: (laughs) You’re not pissed as hell now?

CHRIS NEUMER: You make a valid point, I’m still pissed as hell!

KIMBERLY PEIRCE: And you’re not black.

CHRIS NEUMER: And I’m not black. I’d be more pissed if I was black.  And I just don’t know what to do. I keep calling people. I keep calling producers going, “What can be done? What can be done?”

KIMBERLY PEIRCE: More. It’s just in the writing. Where are the really great female characters coming from? Sometimes they’re coming from men, sometimes they’re coming from women, like Tamara Jenkins. So it’s also at the writing level.

CHRIS NEUMER: I don’t know if this makes me super progressive or naive, but I thought your female lead was really a good role model, and though she doesn’t say much.

KIMBERLY PEIRCE: Abby.

CHRIS NEUMER: Who I thought was Agnes Bruckner for at least the first hour and a half of the movie, but I thought she was such a strong, she was good because she didn’t say anything.

KIMBERLY PEIRCE: That’s that American stoicism. I love that you mention that because I think that there’s a whole aspect of this, military family and the other side of the soldier. And she did it very well.

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