Kitty Green’s film ‘The Assistant’ reveals the faces of the #MeToo movement and the pains behind them

The tweets. The movement. The conversation. Kitty Green’s film “The Assistant” takes the #MeToo movement, and the conversation around it, to a place where it began. Julia Garner plays Jane, an assistant to a producer of a major production company in New York. The environment is eerily too familiar, and the name Harvey Weinstein floats through our heads as Jane’s life revolves around her work for this man. We see a day of her work through various tasks, which include picking up a woman’s earring left on the floor of his office, spraying down the “casting couch” of any fluids, and escorting a girl to a hotel that has also been hired as an “assistant”.

We see the pains behind the #MeToo era through Jane’s eyes. Kitty Green wants you to feel uncomfortable throughout her film, and is contributing to the conversation of the hashtag that’s been waking us up, finally. The hope is that the boy’s club mentality will cease to exist and that Kitty’s film will reflect a culture that is behind us, as opposed to one that is extremely relevant to our current climate.

“The Assistant” opens in theaters nationwide this weekend. Learn more.

Kitty Green, director of The Assistant, an official selection of the Spotlight program at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute.

REBECCA MARTIN: I was fascinated by the female dynamic. Like in most male dominated industries, the women need to be stronger and better, it seems, to get ahead. Also, in the past, before #MeToo, there seemed to be a lack of morale between women. It felt more like, ‘every woman for themselves.’ I saw that kind of dynamic in this film. Can you comment on that?

KITTY GREEN: Yeah, that’s tough. I think that the environment that we’ve depicted is very gendered, so anyone who had gotten into any position of power, they had to fight tooth and nail to get there. Oftentimes that process is dehumanizing enough that you end up losing a little bit of yourself in that. So I wanted to display the way that they all have different ways of coping with the behavior that they consent, or that they see is wrong. Whether that’s looking away, or making a joke about it, or rolling their eyes, or brushing it off, just finding a way of not having to directly talk about it. All of those dynamics are interesting to me. I didn’t want to make a film that was like, men are bad, and women are good, it’s more gray in their-

MARTIN: -complexities.

GREEN: Yes. It’s very complex, that situation. 

Director Kitty Green and actor Julia Garner attend the Premiere of The Assistant by Kitty Green, an official selection of the Spotlight program at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival. © 2020 Sundance Institute | photo by Lauren Wester.

MARTIN: What was your intentions in your editing process to support the film?

GREEN: The editing went quickly. We shot the film in eighteen days, and we didn’t have a heap of material to use. The editing process was more about trimming and lengthening things, to see how things played out. We had a few test screenings with audiences. My co-editor and I would examine when people got a little restless, when people were getting a little bored, and we’d trim based on their reactions. It’s a normal process in that you see how it plays, and you tweak it.

MARTIN: I really liked the flow, how you follow Jane, and her many tasks throughout the day. The editing flow got me involved with the drama, and almost created a suspense with how things played out.

GREEN: Thank you. The sound also affects the editing. It plays differently, so you just have to keep tweaking until it feels right. By the end we were like, “We think it’s working.”

Julia Garner appears in The Assistant by Kitty Green, an official selection of the Spotlight program at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute.

MARTIN: Knowing your past work, it seems that you are very female focused, and have covered fascinating characters. I’m curious what brought you to this specific project.

GREEN: I’m drawn to stories about women, the exploitation of women specifically. These are themes I’m always attracted to, and I can’t exactly explain why. But I always start with the issue first, and then I figure out the form it will take. With all of those projects, it was just something that I was interested in. I’m always interested in approaching an issue in a different way. It broadens it out and then we can have conversations about systemic and culture concerns. 

MARTIN: That’s so important, thank you. My audience is emerging female filmmakers, so what advice would you have for those who are just starting out?

GREEN: It’s a lot of hard work. You just have to really want it and do the work. These days you can do things online or put things up for your friends to see. Getting a lot of feedback is the first step. When I was just starting out, I took my camera, moved to the Ukraine, and shot a feature-length documentary without anyone helping me or supporting me. So I’m very much for just going out there and doing it. Find something that is interesting, cool, and just follow it, and see what you can make and create. People respond when they see that kind of work. 

MARTIN: When you’re passionate about the work, it really makes a difference. Are you seeing change in the film industry, since the #MeToo movement started, for female filmmakers getting more opportunities to show their films? Are you hopeful?

GREEN: Yes. I think it’s getting better. It’s slow, and we have a lot of work to do, but I do see my friends getting opportunities that I don’t think they would have gotten a few years ago. I think people are slowly coming around to the idea that women can do it too, which is exciting. For the next group of filmmakers coming up, there will be more work. I do think it’s getting better. But I do think we still need to keep having these conversations. 

MARTIN: Conversations are so good, and that’s why I love your film, because it’s creating and being a part of the conversation. 

GREEN: I hope so, shining a light on how we can improve things. 

Matthew Macfadyen appears in The Assistant by Kitty Green, an official selection of the Spotlight program at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute. All photos are copyrighted and may be used by press only for the purpose of news or editorial coverage of Sundance Institute programs.

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