“Women’s voices can no longer be ignored,” said Liz Gateley, EVP head of programming, Lifetime. “The industry is changing and it’s about time.”
Lifetime elaborated on its efforts to do exactly that during its TCA session, while also promoting reality show This Time Next Year and the Catherine Zeta-Jones vehicle Cocaine Godmother.
“Lifetime has always been a destination that gives women the platform to be seen, heard and believed,” said Liz Gateley, EVP head of programming, Lifetime. “Yes, we believe them and that will always be true.”
According to the Boston Society of Film Critics, there were 487 shows, and only 28 percent of all above-the-line producers, directors and writers were women.
“At Lifetime, our numbers tell a very different story,” said Gateley.
100 percent of Lifetime’s showrunners are women, 84 percent of Lifetime’s writers are women, 67 percent of its directors are women, and 75 percent of all its executive producers are women. This can be attributed in part to Lifetime’s Broad Focus initiative, which aims for gender parity in entertainment.
To celebrate these numbers, Lifetime assembled the all-female showrunners of its scripted programming, with Stacey Rukeyser (UnReal), Sarah Gertrude Shapiro (co-creator, UnReal), Tara Armstrong (Mary Kills People), Sera Gamble (You) and Jamie Denbo (American Princess).
“Fundamental respect for women that’s apparently lacking in our industry is coming to light more and more and now we’re having a conversation about it, which is the best part about it,” said Rukeyser.
When talking about their unfortunate experiences on set, Gamble pointed out that it’s often the small things.
“Microaggressions. The small way that things are over-explained. The way credit is dispensed in a room. Small slights that happen in unevolved rooms, places and sets,” she said. “Over time that wears people down and silences them.”
“Men feel nervous, and I’m sorry that they do, but we’ve been thinking before we speak for a really long ****ing time,” said Denbo.
But they also talked about working to stay vigilant of themselves.
“Unconscious bias isn’t limited to one gender,” said Gamble.
“We can end up taking men more seriously accidentally, or because our superiors do,” said Shapiro.
“What I want for all of us at the end of #MeToo is more than a safe working environment for myself and my colleagues, but to get my shows on the air and get rid of the assumption that they’ll be ‘soft’ and get rid of the insistence that the female characters be ‘likable,’ which then makes them soft,” said Rukeyser. “To get rid of the idea that you need a man above you or with you, because a woman is going to be too emotional or inexperienced or any of the other stereotypes about female showrunners. That is how we’ll change the gender politics in this country. To get people into the hearts and minds of women. To understand them better in a more truthful way.”
Viewers will get a chance to do so with Cocaine Godmother, a Lifetime movie starring Catherine Zeta-Jones as Griselda Blanco, the infamous and brutal Colombian drug lord.
“We need to show women in all lights,” said Zeta-Jones. “Maybe men should watch more of Griselda and Lifetime.”
Men and women will have their chance when Cocaine Godmother premieres Saturday, January 26.