“Woman of the Hour” was an exercise in combining the right people in what Miri Yoon — one of several producers on the project along with Kendrick — likened to a kind of “math” problem. Kendrick, who was initially attached only to star, “really drove us over the line,” said Yoon, who recently worked on another major actor-director feature, “Don’t Worry Darling” from Olivia Wilde. It was the way Kendrick interpreted the Black List script by Ian McDonald — a quasi-biopic about the 1970s serial killer Rodney Alcala told through the eyes of women who crossed his path, including a “Dating Game” contestant (Kendrick) — that convinced everyone she should helm.
“We’re like, well, what are we doing?” Yoon said. “Why do we even bother going through this whole dog-and-pony show trying to figure out who else can do this movie? Let’s just go.” From that moment, it went fast — about six weeks after Kendrick was tapped to direct, the crew was in prep for a 24-day shoot — and it went hard, with a Vancouver winter standing in for a Los Angeles summer. Despite all of this, the first-time filmmaker was very deliberate, Yoon said: “There’s nothing arbitrary about Anna Kendrick.”
I suggested that Kendrick’s preparation might be due to the fact that she’s a woman in the director’s chair, with all the prejudices that entails. Yoon gestured that I had hit it on the nose. While almost half the actor-director films at Toronto are by women, everyone knows by now the challenges female filmmakers face behind the camera. As actress Eva Longoria recently told Variety upon the release of “Flamin’ Hot,” her feature directing debut, “I get one at-bat, one chance, work twice as hard, twice as fast, twice as cheap.”
No doubt aware of this calculus, Kendrick herself announced she was “heartbroken” at not being able to attend the Toronto festival for the premiere because of SAG-AFTRA rules. While some independent films have secured interim agreements if they agree to union demands, this year’s festival has seen few American filmmakers and actors doing promotion. Despite that, “Woman of the Hour” still landed the first major sale of the festival in a reported $11 million deal with Netflix.
Considering that the stability of Hollywood itself is in question, it is hard to determine whether directing confers more security than having to hang around waiting for an acting job. Neither of the producers I spoke to were able to give a definitive answer, with Yoon saying the industry was still finding its footing in “a landscape that is going through a seismic change.”