An ally of strong independent cinema and females on and off camera, Australian film reporter, host, and writer ALICIA MALONE is geared to put women back where they belong — at the forefront. So set up the lights, hit record on the camera, ‘cause this classy cinephile is ready to take action!
Alicia Malone once asked the audience at her TEDx talk to picture a movie director. The fact of the matter is, most of us would have a man in mind, even Google Images’ algorithm works the same way. They’ll show only two women at the first page of its results. You could do the quick experiment yourself if you still believe that gender inequality in Hollywood is a myth. Along with her unwavering support of indie movies, helping out girls in the film industry has been Alicia’s ongoing campaign. “I was so naïve [back then] that it wasn’t until I started to learn about supporting women on YouTube that I realized not everyone felt the same way about gender equality as I did. I was shocked at the level of anger I encountered for supporting women,” she recalls. She might’ve grown up on the classics, but she’s certainly no backwards thinker.
Since making the leap to LA from down under in 2011; Alicia has hosted for Fandango, CNN, MSNBC, and NPR, has traveled the world to cover the BAFTAs, the Oscars, the Cannes Film Festival, Sundance Film Festival, and SXSW, and has interviewed hundreds of movie stars and filmmakers–including her future husband Jake Gyllenhaal, whom she has spent a cumulative 32 minutes over the past seven years via press junkets. Yet despite this honorable film roll, Alicia still felt like an outsider in the industry. This only fueled her passion further. “After starting to get pushback for supporting women online, I decided that I should do it even more. I saw that I had a platform that could have an effect on people, so I wanted to use it for more than just building social media follows,” she adds.
“We may not all agree on what feminism looks like, but if we can feel supported by one another, we can change the world.”
Her latest weapon in this ongoing battle comes in the form of a book entitled Backwards and in Heels, which delves into the history of women in Hollywood. Even though it was glitz and glamour of old Hollywood that reeled her into the film industry, Alicia Malone is powering through the outdated workings of the movie business with class and some red fury.
STATUS: Being a go-to gal when it comes to classic Hollywood, what’s a little known fact that you love telling people when it comes to the women working in Hollywood around that time?
ALICIA: A fact which surprised me when I first heard it was that at the very beginning of Hollywood, there were more opportunities for women than there has been ever since — and this was before women had the right to vote! From the late 1890s, right up until the mid 1920s, there were many women who were directors, producers, writers, and even studio owners. Then when the Great Depression hit, studios started forming and sound came in. Women began being pushed out.
The change was so swift that in the 1930s, there was only one woman working as a director in Hollywood — Dorothy Arzner.
S: When was the moment that you realized that Hollywood didn’t really respect the women you admire in the same light as you do?
AM: I didn’t quite realize how out of balance Hollywood truly was until I started doing research. The work done by Dr. Stacy L. Smith and her team at USC Annenberg opened my eyes to this. They look at the top 100 highest grossing films of the past year and study them for inclusion. The statistic that really set me on the path to be an advocate for change was how few female directors get work at the top level — just 4%. This means 96% of the movies Hollywood exports to the world are told through the male perspective.
S: Were you already aware of feminism around that time? If not, when did you become more involved in women’s rights?
AM: Actually I never called myself a feminist until a few years ago! Quite blindly, I thought that everyone would want equality for women and I just accepted the sexism, discrimination, and sexual harassment as the way things are. I was so naive that it wasn’t until I started to speak about supporting women on YouTube that I realized not everyone felt the same way about gender equality as I did. I was shocked at the level of anger I encountered for supporting women. That made me want to own the word feminist like never before and to speak up even more. I’m stubborn like that.
S: When did you decide to make a stand and start a conversation about the misogyny happening in film?
AM: After starting to get pushback for supporting women online, I decided that I should do it even more. And I started to get thank you notes from women who appreciated me having the conversation. I got the nickname “Red Fury” because of how angry I would occasionally get about the injustice and people started sending me fan art of me as a superhero! I saw that I had a platform which could have an effect on people, so I wanted to use it for more than just building a social media following.
“It takes a lot of rejection to get anywhere, and you really have to be able to back yourself up. You have to know that it may take years of hard work, but it will be worth it in the end.”
S: Knowing that the patriarchy is alive and well in the film industry, what made you put your big girl pants on and pursue a career in it?
AM: When I was younger I wanted to be a film director, but subconsciously through all the film books I read and all the films I watched, I took on the message that it was too hard to be a female director. Turns out, it’s also pretty hard just being a woman in the film industry in general, but my love of film trumps any hate I get. Film has always been a big part of my life, it’s an escape for me. And I get so much joy from talking to fellow film geeks, interviewing filmmakers and getting to fly around the world to go to film festivals. I wouldn’t give it up for anyone.
S: With Harvey Weinstein’s sexual allegations being aired out and with it having a domino effect with other Hollywood predators, do you think that the industry is moving forward more?
AM: It really feels like we are on the brink of a huge change. For the first time, women are speaking up about things they had to keep silent on for so long. Right now, it’s messy and empowering and ugly…but it’s so necessary. The lack of women in powerful positions behind the scenes plus the objectification of women on screen have led to this culture of the boy’s club where horrible people could abuse their power. This isn’t going to continue. I feel so excited with the swift way companies have taken action, even against the really powerful men!
S: What do you think should the industry take on next?
AM: The culture which allowed this to happen needs to change. There needs to be a serious top-down approach with the way women are treated on and off camera. I’d like to see inclusion ratios for hiring, and proper legal (and emotional) support for women in the industry, so they don’t feel alone.
S: How badly do you think Hollywood needs feminism, especially the women working in it?
AM: Really badly. We need the sisterhood! We may not all agree on what feminism looks like, but if we can feel supported by one another, we can change the world. The patriarchy have tried to pit women against each other for so long, but women are truly stronger together.
S: With women who are in love with film and would want a career in it, what’s the one trait that they would need to survive in the industry?
AM: Persistence. It takes a lot of rejection to get anywhere and you really have to be able to back yourself up. You have to know that it may take years of hard work, but it will be worth it in the end. As I like to say, “It’s all part of your E! True Hollywood Story!”
Backwards and In Heels by Alicia Malone is out now on your local bookstore and in Amazon Kindle. Watch her make your favorite celebrities laugh or maybe get awkward in Filmstruck. Watch her critiques and nitpick her mind on her opinions on film at Fandango and in her own Youtube Channel. Her TEDx Talks are available in TEDx’s Youtube Channel as well.