Oscar Artists: Gyllenhaal, Maggie (Lost Daughter) on How Women Filmmakers Are “Used to Working With Less”

Gyllenhaal: How Women Filmmakers Are “Used to Working With Less”

The Lost Daughter director-writer joined a Neiman Marcus Women’s History Month panel with the Zola director to talk honestly about entering the male-dominated ranks behind the camera.


Actress-turned-director spoke alongside Zola director Janicza Bravo at a Women’s History Month panel hosted by Neiman Marcus at Spring Place in Beverly Hills Tuesday afternoon, March 23.

The event, moderated by journalist Melissa Magsaysay, highlighted “innovators inspiring this generation and the next to be a force for positive change.”

After the panel, Gyllenhaal explained that she and Bravo were working on relatively “tiny budgets.” While Bravo, along with many critics, believes The Los Daughter “doesn’t seem to be lacking” where it counts, Gyllenhaal was frank about the messy working environment behind the scenes.


Olivia Colman’s Leda and Paul Mescal’s Will sit down for a meal, several glasses of wine and some sexual tension in Netflix’s The Lost Daughter.
Photo: The Lost Daughter
“We needed another day and a half,” Gyllenhaal said the shoot. “I like wildness. I don’t like insanity. And there was a little bit of insanity.”

She added, “Even when I made films as an actress [with stories] about women, when we had no money: ‘Fine, fine, we’ll just make do with what we have.’ I really hope we can have a little more space and time in the future.”

Gyllenhaal and Bravo have featured on the awards circuit for their breakthrough movies: Gyllenhaal in her feature film directorial debut with Netflix’s The Lost Daughter, nominated thrice over at the Academy Awards, and Bravo with the brash, decidedly raunchier indie darling Zola from A24, which took earned best lead actress at the Spirit Awards.

“It’s not a family movie,” Bravo deadpanned of her work at Tuesday’s panel.

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(L-R) Maggie Gyllenhaal, Neiman Marcus Group SVP of customer engagement and West Region integrated retail Stefanie Tsen Ward, Janicza Bravo, and Melissa Magsaysay speak during the Neiman Marcus Beverly Hills Women’s Panel at Spring Place on March 22, 2022 in Beverly Hills, California. STEFANIE KEENAN/GETTY IMAGES

Both women have also been candid about the limits they’ve faced entering a male-dominated, intensely competitive space, and how they want it to expand.

“What was frustrating for me was, in that moment, there wasn’t a list or even a person that I could really look to where I could see myself,” Bravo said of her time studying directing at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts as a teenager.

“It’s not to say that there were no women directors at the time, or women directors of color. It’s just that when I had seen their work, I hadn’t necessarily seen me in them. And I didn’t know how to translate that,” she continued. “There’s a multitude of shades of what a woman director can look like.”

Gyllenhaal semi-jokingly brought the theme back to “shopping.” Even on the red carpet, “there’s no precedent for what a woman director wears to their premiere … Do we dress like men? How much does femininity play into it?” She noted that fellow awards favorite Mike Mills of C’mon C’mon “put on his regular clothes” for a recent event. (She and Bravo were quick to add their admiration for the director.)

Earlier in their careers, the two filmmakers felt the pressure of vying for limited number of spots reserved for women in the industry. It could get ruthless. Gyllenhaal mentioned that there were “women I looked up to so much who could have helped me,” but instead, they “broke my heart.”

Bravo nodded along. “I was so worried about my own place. I just am less worried now,” she reflected.

On the set of The Lost Daughter, Gyllenhaal reminded her actresses, especially the younger ones, that they’re “successful” and to approach their performances as “starving, hungry women.” But not greedy. She includes herself among them. “I actually don’t know any women who aren’t starving.”

She and Bravo might be eating up much of the accolades for women in film at the moment, but they see more real estate opening up.

“We get to invent what it means to be a female filmmaker,” Bravo said. “The biggest thing I try to pass on to younger directors is, ‘There’s more land that they’re telling you.’”

The discussion is part of a series of panels happening to honor Women’s History Month that also features Fashionphile founder Sarah Davis; Actress and Co-founder of Studio 189 Rosario Dawson; emerging designer Autumn Adeigbo; and A Girl Named Carrie author Jerrie Marcus, grand-niece of Neiman Marcus co-founder Carrie Marcus Neiman.

“As a woman co-founded, majority-women-led organization, female leadership is paramount to who we are,” Marjon Zabihi Henderson, senior director of brand experience and special events at Neiman Marcus, said in a statement.

“These panels allow us the opportunity to connect and uplift women in communities across the country, which for us is extremely powerful.”


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(L-R) Maggie Gyllenhaal, Neiman Marcus Group SVP of Customer Engagement and West Region Integrated Retail Stefanie Tsen Ward, Neiman Marcus Beverly Hills VP & General Manager Gretchen Pace, Melissa Magsaysay, and Janicza Bravo attend Neiman Marcus Beverly Hills Women’s Panel at Spring Place on March 22, 2022, in Beverly Hills, California. STEFANIE KEENAN/GETTY IMAGES