"Swiss Army Man" producer Miranda Bailey on why the call for diversity shouldn't mean we pigeon hole the type of movies women make. This article originally appeared on Indiewire.
We are at a time in the film business where there’s a lot of attention being paid to what women are and are not doing in Hollywood. We talk about needing more female-centric roles, characters and storylines, which I totally agree with, but let’s not forget that women can and do enjoy creating exceptional stories that are about men as well. Why can’t we? Men do it all the time with female stories. Regardless of what you hear, most men are actually evolved enough to appreciate and enjoy female-centric stories and characters.
Take a look at “The Hunger Games,” that’s a perfect example. Or “Bridesmaids,” every man I know loves that film.
As a woman, I go to the movies if they are good and if the story is unique, not because it’s about a woman or a man. When we speak about women in Hollywood, let’s not forget those of us behind the camera and let’s allow us to help create all types of stories, including those centered on men and farting.
So how did “Swiss Army Man” end up on my slate after I had just made a movie, that was pretty much its antithesis, starring a young woman in the coming of age drama “Diary of a Teenage Girl”? It went like this:
I was at Soho House in LA having cocktails with fellow producer Lawrence Inglee. Lawrence and I had just finished working together on the Richard Gere and Oren Moverman movie “Time Out of Mind.” Lawrence was pitching me project after project:
“It’s a man whose blind but then he sees and his life changes…”
“A man makes a discovery days before the death of his wife that causes him to believe his sixty-five year marriage was a lie.”
It went on like this for at least six projects. Then I said, “Is that all you’ve got? They all sound the same to me and like I’ve seen them all before.”
“Well, I do have one more. It’s about a suicidal man stranded on an island who finds a flatulating corpse and convinces him to live. He uses the body like a tool to survive. His boner is a compass. The directors have never made a feature before but they did that music video ‘Turn Down for What.”
(I loved that video)
“What’s it called?”
“Swiss Army Man.”
“That one sounds good. Let’s do it. Set a meeting with the directors this week, I’ll put in up to half of the money and produce it with you guys.”
“Seriously? Just like that? Don’t you want to read the script?”
“Sure, yeah, I should probably read the script…but I’m in. We can always make the script better. That’s one movie I haven’t seen.”
And that’s how it happened. The next morning I went into the office and handed Amanda the script, which I read that night and let her know we had our next movie. I gave her the pitch and she stood there frozen with the script in her hand.
“Is this a joke?” she asked.
“No joke, just read it. The directors are coming in today at 3PM. Their name is The Daniels.”
I then led her into my office and had her watch the video for “Turn Down For What.”
“Now read the script with that in mind.”
She did. She fell in love, just like me, and our meeting was great.
Lawrence brought The Daniels in with their producer, Jonathan Wang. There we were in the Cold Iron Pictures conference room, four dudes with a dude-centric movie, which started with a fart that made you laugh and ended with a fart that made you cry. During that meeting, hearing Daniels, Wang and Inglee passionately describe what this movie really was, Amanda and I knew that this was going to be great and if it wasn’t, at least we would have a hell of a good time making it.
The directors were just about to head to the Sundance director’s lab, which made us feel even better about the project. During the development process, when we were working on drafts of the script and the directors were meeting with actors and other financiers, all of us knew there was one distributor that was ideal for this project. A distributor who we knew would get what Daniels were trying to do: A24. If we got this right, maybe we could land them.
Now we just needed the remaining financing. ICM, WME and UTA all loved the project and were sending it out to other financiers. Most of them liked the script but didn’t understand what “box” it would fit in, so they passed. This invisible “box” that movies need to fit in is something that drives me crazy. Why do we need to have comps for everything? Isn’t that exactly what indie film is for? The fact that this movie was completely unique was exactly why Cold Iron Pictures wanted to make it.
But soon enough someone else got it; another woman stepped in, Lauren Mann. She loved it. For her, it was about sex and death and love and she completely related to it. She worked with William Olsen and now we had another financier. Once we were about to close that deal, and we were four weeks out of production, we had another financier, Tadmor, who was also excited to jump on board. Now we were fully financed and the train took off.
I must admit that once I watched The Daniels on set during the bus scene, that’s when I really understood what we were making. That’s where it really hit me that these directors were the next big thing. I was in awe. And that’s why I love making movies.
Cut to Sundance: We held our breath when we premiered and prayed A24 would raise up their hand. There was a bunch of nonsense written about walkouts in the trades. Personally, I didn’t mind it because it meant people were talking about the movie. Then the bidding started, A24 entered the fold and went on to create a mind-bogglingly brilliant campaign that captures the essence of the film all of us made. And even though it’s about two dudes in the woods with boners and farts and poop…Chicks will dig it as well because we don’t need our content coddled for us.
We like good unique films like “Swiss Army Man”…and we fart too.
Indiewire Guest Post: On the 'Diary of a Teenage Girl', Self-Acceptance, and the Power of Cinema