Systemic gender inequality is Hollywood’s worst-kept secret. But like the most insidious sexist tropes, it persists, plaguing generations of women filmmakers, actresses, writers, and producers, as they seek to break through the glass ceiling that their foremothers have gradually cracked — only to watch it seal right back up again.
Those frustrations are front and center in This Changes Everything, a new documentary executive produced by Geena Davis (who is also featured) and directed by Tom Donahue, which focuses on the underrepresentation, poor messaging, and ill-treatment of women throughout a century of Hollywood history.
Rather than rely on dry numbers to make a point, the movie dynamically juxtaposes footage from some of our most beloved film classics alongside interviews with Meryl Streep, Reese Witherspoon, Lena Dunham, Sandra Oh, Yara Shahidi, Natalie Portman, Shonda Rhimes, Callie Khouri, Rose McGowan, Amandla Stenberg, Tiffany Haddish, Tracee Ellis Ross, to name just a few.
Their words are candid, and often shocking, even in the context of an industry infamous for stories about rampant discrimination and misogyny. Even more striking are the montages of dozes of famous, often-iconic scenes, proven to further harmful tropes: Women are bad at sports, women are ditzy, women are sex objects, women are less than, women are…women.
In an exclusive clip from the movie, actor Chloë Grace Moretz shares the moment she first realized that, as a woman, her opinions or skills weren’t as valued as those of her male peers.
“When I was 15, I did Carrie. That movie was directed by Kim Peirce, who was my first female director, but it was a massively male crew,” Moretz says in the clip.
“The biggest part of the movie is when she gets her period for the first time in the shower, and she doesn’t know that it’s her period because she had never been taught that by her mother. To have these conversations with men who were like, ‘Well, I don’t think you should depict it that way, and I think you should depict it this way.’ And Kim and I were sitting there like, ‘Well, respectfully, I don’t think you know what you’re talking about.’ That was just the first time where I was ever like, ‘I guess men don’t see women as equal in this industry.’”
Director Kim Peirce, who had previously directed Boys Don’t Cry, a movie that earned Hilary Swank an Oscar for Best Actress in 1999, adds: “I was being talked to, and treated, and questioned constantly and differently.”
Moretz isn’t the first actress to have been made to feel uncomfortable during a period scene. Earlier this year, Sophie Turner shared that filming Sansa getting her first period as a teenager in Game of Thrones’ second season was “so embarrassing.”
“I had to keep pulling up my dress, and the director would [say] ‘Blood, blood,’ and like keep chucking blood on me,” Turner told Dark Phoenix co-star Jessica Chastain in a video for Vogue Paris in June. “They had a camera right there in my crotch.”
Moretz’ story is one of many shared in the full documentary, which will screen for one-night-only with Fathom Events on July 22 in select cities, with a theater expansion to follow. All — from Streep’s recollection of certain indignities suffered on the set of Kramer vs. Kramer, to the powerful interviews with the “Original Six,” a group of women directors who challenged discrimination in the courts as far back as 1979 — point to the same idea: Hollywood been on the brink of real change for years. Now, it’s time to make that happen.