The success of “The Mandalorian”, the latest TV series of “Star Wars”, has shown the world that women directors can handle big-name franchises just like their male counterparts do.
No matter if you are into sci-fi, romance, action, or comedy films, you have probably seen or — at least heard — about Star Wars. Star Wars has been known as one of the most lucrative and respected movie franchises in the world since 1977. With the recent purchase of Lucasfilm by Disney, fans across the world and across many generations get to enjoy new installments of their favorite fantasy space saga. The most successful Star Wars project is no doubt the franchise’s latest television series, The Mandalorian. While most of its audience knows about big-name producers like Jon Favreau and Dave Filoni, few recognize the individual directors who lead each episode. In contrast to Star Wars’ history of hiring male directors, there are two women who are actually behind the camera of The Mandalorian — Bryce Dallas Howard and Deborah Chow. These two women in the movie production industry prove that women are just as qualified as men at contributing to major franchises. So sure, Hollywood may have a history of being criticized for the lack of female directors, but Bryce and Deborah are turning that narrative upside down.
With the release of the show’s new season, Associated Press News interviewed the two talented women about their experience working on The Mandalorian as the first female directors of the 42-year-old space saga. AP News also consulted some of the actresses Bryce and Deborah worked with on this matter.
Bryce Dallas Howard, the eldest daughter of Ron Howard (the acclaimed director behind “Solo: A Star Wars Story” and “The Da Vinci Code”), has been around movie sets since a young age. Before taking the lead in The Mandalorian, Howard has taken part in various films, such as Jurassic World. Based on her previous experience, Bryce indicated that movie sets can potentially be intense or dangerous. Because of this, people tend to “protect” a female director in those situations. However, Bryce argues women do not need protection and that being respected is more than enough. According to Bryce, that is what makes the set of The Mandalorian different. Since Lucasfilm is committed to providing opportunities for more female talents, Bryce felt that she was respected as a director on the set. She also saw her role as a way to empower other women in the film industry.
Gina Carano, the lead actress of The Mandalorian, said she was impressed by how Dallas balances her character Cara Dune — a former rebel soldier and a resilient shock trooper — with a feminine perspective. How Bryce Dallas handles the Star Wars TV series shows not only her co-stars but also the entire world that women can manage a major franchise just like their male counterparts do.
Just like Bryce, Deborah Chow believes that women’s directorial endeavors on The Mandalorian can demonstrate a woman’s ability at the peak of a big-name franchise like Star Wars. Deborah is a Chinese Canadian filmmaker who has previously worked on TV shows, such as Better Call Saul. She sees directing a “splashy Star Wars property” as both a challenge and a privilege. Deborah said it is important for the world to see that female directors have a fair chance at leading a big project excellently. She hopes that The Mandalorian can open people’s minds and prompt them to recognize the capability of women in her field.
Deborah’s hope has come true.
As stated by the Directors Guild of America’s Episodic Television Director Inclusion Report covering the 2018-2019 season, there has been a lot of progress regarding female representation in the television industry. The report suggests that the amount of TV episodes directed by women has increased by 31%, which is more than double in the past 5 years. Among the major players, Disney — the parent company of Lucasfilm — has offered the most directorial opportunities to female talents, as 40% of their TV episodes are directed by women. Moreover, due to Deborah’s success as the director of The Mandalorian, she was offered a directorial position in more Star Wars television projects. One of which is the upcoming Obi-Wan Kenobi series, which will release in 2022.
As a Star Wars fan and a member of The Women’s Network, I could not be happier about Bryce Dallas Howard and Deborah Chow’s recent success. Even though I am not pursuing a career in the film or television industry, I still feel empowered by how they show the world that women are equally capable of directing a major franchise just like men. If you happen to be currently studying film-related disciplines, I hope to see your name on the closing credits of Star Wars—or any other acclaimed series of your choice—one day!