DIRECTORS // Fran Rubel Kuzui

Director, Producer and Film Distributor

Fran Rubel Kuzui

Excerpts from this interview appeared in Millimeter Magazine, 1992.


A graduate of NYU's Master's program and an associate producer and production manager at PBS, Fran Rubel was working as a script supervisor when she met her husband, Kaz Kuzui, on the set of a Japanese film called PROOF OF THE MAN, on which he was First A.D. They eventually co-founded Kuzui Enterprises, a noted purveyor of independent films between Japan and the United States.

Apart from acting as a sales agent, Kuzui has become one of the leading distributors of U.S. and foreign independent films in Japan (and a major exporter of Japanese films to the US). Recently Ms. Kuzui returned to her hands-on filmmaking roots, writing and directing her first feature, TOKYO POP.

The following is a transcript of a telephone interview conducted on June 10, 1992 — sporadically, that is, given that Ms. Kuzui was in the midst of putting the finishing touches on the comic-horror BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER. ("We're doing everything simultaneously — locking reels and looping at the same time"). She talked about the vicissitudes of independent film distribution, the Japanese market for American films (and vice versa), and the difficulties facing independent filmmakers trying to break into the ranks of Hollywood directors.

Morgan: Can you give me a brief outline of your film background?

Kuzui: I'll make it really, really brief! I worked for ten years as a script supervisor in New York, and that was how I met my husband, working on a film actually. I'd done a lot of independent film, but it was the late `70s and there wasn't really that much happening. And then during the `80s we would go back and forth from Japan to New York. We had a lot of friends who were filmmakers, and they'd go, `Do you think you can sell my movie in Japan?' Or `Do you think you can sell my movie in the United States?' And so I became a producer's rep. I started selling a lot of independent Japanese films and studio product in America, and most of the films in the `80s (except for the Kurosawa films) were sold by me. Everything that was sold to all the independent distributors was brought here by Kaz and me, like CRAZY FAMILY, THE FAMILY GAME, GO-MASTERS, IRIZUMI and COMIC MAGAZINE.

I sold a lot of films to Dan Talbot at New Yorker and to Ben Berenholz at Circle, and to Cinecom. And that's how I got to know a lot of those people; plus, at the same time, I had a lot of friends in the United States and acquaintances who were trying to get their films shown in Japan. At that time there were no independent films shown in Japan at all. There was no outlet for them.

Did Japanese film distributors think there wouldn't be an audience for them?

Primarily. Obviously, if distributors think that there's an audience for a film, oh they'll try to show it.

It's very easy to underestimate an audience.

I couldn't agree with you more, and that's exactly what happened, because most distributors were older people; and because there were only 4, 5 distribution companies in all of Japan, you know, there were three majors which produced and distributed films and owned all the theatres, and there were very, very few independent distributors — as a matter of fact, the only one was the Shibata Organization who distributed European films.

I met Jim Jarmusch and Otto Grokenberger, and he had just made STRANGER THAN PARADISE and he asked if I could help sell it in Japan, and at one point they suggested that perhaps Kaz and I should distribute it [there]. And we didn't have the money to do it, and it was sold and opened in Japan, and Kaz and I decided that somehow we had to become film distributors. Because to have been one of the first people to have seen STRANGER THAN PARADISE and really believe in it, to not be able to do anything about releasing it, suddenly whetted our appetite. And one day Amir Malin called me, at that time he was head of Cinecom, and he said he had this film STOP MAKING SENSE, and he really wanted to sell it in Japan, he had no idea how to go about it, and I tried to sell it and nobody was really interested in it. And again he said to me and Kaz, why don't you distribute the film yourselves in Japan?  And we said, well, we really don't have the money. And he said I'll give you the theatrical rights for nothing, I'll even give you a print; try and open it yourselves. I said, Kaz, we've got to do this.

So Kaz invented independent film distribution in Japan by going to a theatre and saying, Listen, I'll give you half the door if you keep your doors open past the 7:00 show (which was the last show every day) and let me show STOP MAKING SENSE at 9:00 every day.' And the guy said, Okay, for half the door, sure.' And then he went to a fashion company and he negotiated to put their logo on a poster, and show a little short for their company before the film, and that's how we raised the P&A money, and the next thing we knew we were distributors. And this film was the most successful independent film released in Japan.

How many theatres did it play?

It played at one theatre in 10 cities. We only had one print, but then when we made more money we had more — I think the most prints we ever had was 3. And it grossed, I don't know, a lot, over half a million dollars I think. And we made a huge video sale for Cinecom, and the rest was history.

And then everybody kept saying, Well, what's your next movie?' And we didn't have a movie. We went to Cannes because we represented COMIC MAGAZINE, which had been accepted into Director's Fortnight, and when we got there I ran into Spike Lee who I had known from his early days, and he said, 'Well, why don't you distribute my movie?' And so the next thing we released was SHE'S GOTTA HAVE IT, cause Spike really wanted us to have it. And the next thing we knew we were the independent film distributor in Japan, and it just grew from that. And over the last 10 years I think we've released some of the most wonderful independent films produced; and it was the heyday of independent film, 1983 — we released a lot of the Cinecom and Goldwyn and Island product in Japan.

How many a year?


Right now we average 10. One year we did 20, and we always had our own home video label. Last two years we released BARTON FINK, WILD AT HEART, and now we do European films, too — THE INTERROGATION, TAXI BLUES, we're about to release THE DOUBLE LIFE OF VERONIQUE.

Do you get into pre-sales of films or wait until you can see the finished product?

We pre-bought everything I've ever mentioned to you, which is how we had planned to get into production ourselves. We put up usually 10 percent of the budget as a pre-buy, and in order to be supportive we will offer an unconditional letter of credit to filmmakers in order to get their films off the ground, and sometimes we'll do that in the form of a deal memo, which they can use. That's how TOKYO POP got made.

One Japanese major said to Kaz, we really want to see you guys make a movie, so we'll give you a quarter of the budget for the Japanese rights; it turned out to be a lot less than a quarter but they offered to put up a certain amount of money in the form of a deal memo which they said we should try to use in the United Sates to set up the film. And another investor came along and said that they would put up the same amount of money as cash in the bank, so that Kaz could show people we had raised a certain portion of the budget — it turned out to be a third. We then went to Spectrafilm, who were people we had bought movies from, and they came in with the rest of the money.

How long did it take for Spectrafilm to agree?

Three days. It took me three years to write the script and figure out how to do it, and then it took me three days [to sell it]! At the time I made TOKYO POP, I really just wanted to see if I could make a movie, but I didn't know any writers so I had to write the script myself, and I'd never written a script before. I was in Japan and Kaz rented a typewriter and brought me to a hotel and left me there, and said, Don't come home until you've written it!

At least he was understanding, or else you'd have been stuck there for three years.

Yeah, well, that was like the first pass at it. And we were just about to release OLD ENOUGH and Marisa Silver was in Japan and I asked her to take a look at it, and she was very encouraging to me. And then I did another pass — that was how I got started — and then I did another pass and showed it to a friend that I knew from film school and it turned out that she was this very fancy script doctor and she said Why don't we just rewrite it together?' And that was Lynn Grossman, she and I rewrote the script, and at that point, after that it took like three days for Spectrafilm to decide to do it.

Having worked in the capacity of supporting other directors, and having been involved in the financial side of production, you obviously had an understanding of what the job entailed and what was required of you; but what did you find you needed most in terms of support from other people when you became a director yourself? What was the easiest and hardest to get?

Uhm, that's very interesting. The easiest was directing. So far I think that for me that's been the easiest job I've had. The hardest thing was getting feedback from other people.

Were people deferring to you more than you wanted to because you were in the position of responsibility?

You see, when you make an independent film it's very different than making a studio film. When you make an independent film you really become the auteur, you become the only one making the film, because investors don't come and watch dailies. And I have a partner who is Kaz, but Kaz and I are frequently of a like mind, and so I found, making TOKYO POP, everything was exactly the way I wanted it to be, and that's really nice if you're making an art film, and I really enjoyed it, because TOKYO POP was an art film. But I think what I discovered about myself is that I have a tendency to really want to reach a broader audience. And what I do is a little more mainstream than some of the films that I distribute.

Such as Jim Jarmusch's.

Yeah. And so when I was making an independent film, aside from the feedback I was getting from Kaz, it was very, very hard (because you're so involved in the process) to get the right feedback from people. And that's not to say that everybody doesn't want to give you their opinion, but when you're making a film you have to turn off most people's opinions.

And the experience of making BUFFY, you know, most independent filmmakers are absolutely petrified of making a film inside the "system," and I found that this was kind of a hybrid, because I found the project, I developed the project, and I brought it to Fox already in script form. I didn't develop it inside of Fox, and they wanted to make it. It started out that they were just going to pick up the domestic, and as it was cast and packaged and developed they became so enthusiastic about it, that they wanted everything. But it was structured very much [like] an independent film as they went along, and I found Joe Roth and Roger Birnbaum's comments and input really invaluable. I almost missed that as an independent filmmaker. And they have been really generous in not forcing me to have a lot of people's input — I was very lucky to deal just with them. I hear stories of other people who are making studio movies and they wind up getting 30 people's opinions on everything.

Now Fox has been releasing some esoteric work of late, such as BARTON FINK and NAKED LUNCH, so they're showing a fearless side. But when their interest in BUFFY increased, did their desire to have it become more of a mainstream film increase as well?

I found working at Fox really rewarding and I think it's because they have a certain respect for the creative process and the director, I mean Joe Roth is a director. And yeah, uhm, they have been making these esoteric films, and I think that's part of their agenda, is to pick who they want to be in business with, and what filmmakers they want to work with, rather than the package and the deal. And yet I think they've done those kinds of things, too.

If somebody gives you money to make a movie, and they're going to spend God knows how much money on prints and advertising, I want to give them what they need from me, too. Which is maybe a little bit different than, say, Joel and Ethan Coen, because their visions are much more specific than mine, and I'm much more into being an entertainer.

Working within the studio system, what have you been called upon to do on this picture that you did not have to do as an independent?

Well, it's interesting because TOKYO POP I really didn't do for myself, I tried to do it to show what I could do. And after I made it, I knew I could make movies, so I wanted to make a movie for myself, and I wanted to make a movie as much inside the system as I could, to see whether I could do that, too. And oddly enough the day before I started shooting, Joe Roth said to me, 'Make the movie you want to make, that's what we want.' So, it's kind of an irony.

I could hear Louis B. Mayer turning over in his grave.

Well, yeah, but they're very careful who they say that to. I mean, they know that I'm a distributor.

You have experience in the marketplace.

Right, and they've seen my other film, and I was working with responsible producers, and they looked at dailies every day, and so the irony for me is that when I was working outside the studio system, I didn't feel I had enough direction, and found I had to work more for myself than I wanted to. And when I wound up making BUFFY I was told to work for myself! And they never ever interfered while I was filming, never once. In the case of BUFFY, I had five really high-profile actors, and they gave me all the freedom to work with them, and them the freedom they wanted, which was pretty amazing.

And actually, perhaps because I knew that it wasn't a given that they would allow me to do everything I wanted, when they did, I felt encouraged because I knew that if I did what they didn't like they'd tell me, and I kind of liked working under those circumstances a lot. Because I knew that there was a lot of money involved, and I feel a lot of responsibility for that, I can't help it.

So when you didn't hear anything from them, you assumed your work met with their approval.

Sure. When I'm spending that kind of money, believe me, if it isn't, they'd tell me.

How did you staff the crew of BUFFY?

Well, the crew on TOKYO POP was all Japanese, and the only Americans, aside from the script supervisor, were the editor and the DP, and I worked with the same people again. Because they really knew my work and what I wanted to do, and that was really helpful because I didn't have a lot of prep time, and I don't have a lot of post time, and so Jim Hayman and Camile Antoniello were very, very helpful. Jim Hayman was the cameraman and Camile Antoniello was the co-editor along with Jill Sabath, who she brought in because we knew that one editor couldn't finish the film in this amount of time.

But you know, I'm listening to what I'm saying and it almost sounds like, you know, like I might be kind of like out to lunch, it all sounds really good, doesn't it?

A love-in on the Fox lot?

But I have to tell you, that as an independent filmmaker, I never expected to be saying things like that.

What did you initially fear about this process? When Fox was considering optioning it, did you think, 'That's very nice, but . . .'

I spent a long period of time thinking somehow I was going to get replaced before I could start the movie, because I was so low on the food chain that I figured that eventually they would just bring in somebody that was more high-profile than me.

Had you accepted that possibility? Did you ever think, well, for the good of the project, to ensure it getting made, I would relinquish that role and maybe step back into the producer's seat?

No, of course not! The 'good of the project' never occurred to me. I had lived in Los Angeles for two years and I had been up for other movies, and I'd had that happen to me.

Pictures you had marshaled along yourself?

No, I was for hire, but I'd spent two and half years as a director for hire on a picture that I had actually gone out and raised the money for, even though I didn't own the rights, and it was stolen away from the person who owned the rights, and I was kicked off it. And that all happened two months before I found BUFFY.

What was the picture?

Well, I'd just as soon not say that the rights were "stolen," so I'm not going to tell you. It was a picture that didn't get made. But I'd spent two and a half years [on it], I'd rewritten the script, I'd raised all the money and I didn't own the rights. So if I'm saying really nice things about Fox, I have to tell you that I got, pardon me and you can quote me, I got fucked every way you can possibly fuck a director, okay?

That's saying quite a lot.

Well, it's really true. Okay, I mean I got removed from a movie and I got told that they had decided that it was a guy's story, and they better have a man direct the film, okay? And not before I'd done any creative work, but while it was in the process of getting financed and everything. I had never started a movie and then not [finished] it, I'm talking about in the fray while it's all coming together. I have found myself suddenly standing outside many, many times. I could tell you some really ugly, disgusting stories. So maybe I think that Fox was wonderful because no one's hitting me over the head. It feels real good. I'm being really honest. But you know I have been really mistreated by a lot of people because I was an outsider — I had made one film very much outside the system — and because I was a woman. But BUFFY was a film that I owned, this was the first time I owned a film, but I was afraid that that same thing would happen to me.

Did you do anything to help ensure against that happening, aside from being particularly close to one of the producers?

Well, there were two producers, and I was very close to both of them, and that was the only protection that I had.

The other thing that I feared when I started the movie was, let's face it, TOKYO POP cost $1.7 million; on this the stakes — pardon me, since it's a vampire movie — the stakes were really higher. And I thought I could fuck up. TOKYO POP is a really little canvas, and suddenly I was painting on a large canvas with big strokes. And TOKYO POP had two very wonderful actors, but neither one of them had really done a feature film before, and I suddenly had Donald Sutherland and Rutger Hauer staring at me. I was working with two actors who between them had made close to 150 movies. That's like pretty daunting.

How was working with more experienced actors?

Well, they taught me a lot of about acting, because I had an opportunity to work with two people who had refined their craft a lot. And they made me understand that I'm not the only crazy person in the world. You know, because when you work with younger actors as I'd done on TOKYO POP, you know, they're kids, and I'm a mature director — I'm not 25. Although Donald and Rutger are older than me, it's nice to work with mature artists. And to see what the creative process is with more mature...

But also filmmaking can be a very insular process, where you tune out the world and become obsessed with only the project. And to work with people who had gone through that before must have been grounding for you.

Yeah, that's exactly what I'm saying. Working with younger people is much more of a vigorous one-to-one thing than watching Donald create this role, it's really interesting.

And his character is?

Merrick, the Watcher.

How has dealing with the studio's marketing arm been for you?

They consult me on everything they do, and I come up with some marketing ideas which they've used. One day Paul Ruebens and I were on the set and we were kidding around, and I came up with the idea of a BUFFY HOME SLAYER kit. I told Fox about it and that's what they're sending out to the press. And actually Paul offered to do an infomercial for it, but I think Fox drew the line there.

To finish the other thing we were talking about, I was thinking about the difference. If you interview me probably a month from now I'd probably have a different perspective. But right now I'm very much in the throes of finishing the film, so I see everything pretty much from the inside of my work rather than being able to step away from it. And I'm very aware of that. But to me the difference, it's very clear from where I stand, that there are different agendas, working for a studio and working independently. When you're working for a studio there is a studio agenda, and it's very clear, and you have the choice to go along with it or not. But it's very clear. When you're making an independent film, you're not dealing with any agenda but the film's and the work at hand. And I can't say that one is better than the other; perhaps for me because of my distribution and marketing experience as well as my experience being a member of a crew for so many years, I seem to see the filmmaking process from different perspectives, and I understand the different agendas. Whereas working independently I wondered what the marketing agenda was, [because] you are not having a constant dialogue with marketing people when you're making the film.

Because people are not coming to you with their agenda.

Yes, exactly, and before I started making TOKYO POP, we never had a discussion on what rating they wanted. So when it got an R rating they were very shocked. And to me an independent film, you kind of want an R rating if it's a limited release. But BUFFY, Fox was very clear to me what kind of rating they wanted me to try to get. I mean, you can't know beforehand especially if you're making a vampire movie what the rating's going to be. And to me that's been the only difference.

What are they aiming for, PG-13?

Mainly because it's a kid's story. But I think that to me that's the difference. People are people along the way; you have to deal with people whether you're making an independent film or a studio film. I think sometimes people choose to make a certain kind of film independently — you can't satisfy too many agendas when you're making something like THE PLAYER, for example. With something like BUFFY, it's just a broader look.

But some filmmakers may argue that keeping an eye out for those other agendas is a distraction, regardless of any positive feedback the studio might give.

I agree with you and that's why I think there are certain films that need to be made independently, and other films which don't suffer necessarily from the studio process. I also think that personally, once again, I mean even as a distributor coughing up the money, once you get above say an $8 million budget there are considerations like that. There just have to be unless it's just some great work of art. It's a collaborative process — I'm talking about entertainment, I'm not talking about art films. I'm being very specific. But as a distributor if I'm going to pay let's say for the Japanese rights over a million dollars, I'm taking a certain risk and I can feel the difference if I'm spending $350,000 for the Japanese rights or $1,350,000 for the Japanese rights. I have different things to say about the casting, the script and things like that. So you know, sometimes for me as a director it's really hard, because I can really understand what the distribution needs are. I'm not necessarily (and it's really important for me to say this), I'm not necessarily going to change anything, but I understand it, that's what's really sometimes very painful.

In terms of the films you've helped distribute in Japan, what surprised you in terms of what became successful and what did not?

Hollywood entertainment, the real same sort of high profile directors like Scorsese and Coppola, Spielberg. The surprise now and this is more recent than ten years ago is they seem to be attracted to classics, like we just released Claude Chabrol's MADAME BOVARY which audiences loved. And before that we opened Krzysztof Kieslowski's A SHORT FILM ABOUT LOVE, which just somehow didn't find an audience.

Do they have a particular preference towards a national cinema, say French films or German films?

Yes, I think of course American films and French films as foreign art films are the most popular, and there's a Mexican film now which we would really love to buy, and everybody says to us 'Oh, no, nobody in Japan wants to see a Mexican film.' People don't think that those are valuable films or something. It is interesting. Italian films were not very popular until CINEMA PARADISO opened and did very well, and now we're about to open MEDITERRANEO which should do very well. But Italian films in the past ten years have not really found an audience. And yet unlike in the United States, Russian films and Polish films do occasionally find audiences.

But we opened TAXI BLUES on the first Saturday of the Gulf War, while there was a tremendous problem between Japan and Russian over the Northern Islands, and people just did not set foot in that theatre. You know it was really grim. there were like ten people there the first day. And it got great reviews. So I think that they do really judge by national theatre.

What considerations do you make towards advertising a film in Japan that differs from the U.S.?

We tend to market these films mainly by directors. And we tend to support the directors and go back to the directors again for their other films.

Do audiences in Japan tend to follow a director's work?

Yes. And they also have a tendency, the surprise which was part of what we helped create, was films as events. Art films as events. It's kind of like what happened in the United States at one point. If you went to a party and you hadn't seen the film, you look kind of like an outsider. And that's how we marketed STOP MAKING SENSE, as a sort of must-see film. And most of the films we release, we release like that. We made a great success out of BARTON FINK, which you would never think a Japanese audience would understand. MILLER'S CROSSING found no audience whatsoever in Japan, and we made BARTON FINK very successful.

Why do you think was one more successful than the other? Because MILLER'S CROSSING was more commercial.

Or more accessible to Japanese people. MILLER'S CROSSING was marketed as a gangster film and not an art film. And we marketed BARTON FINK as the film that won the Palme d'Or at Cannes, a sort of must-see event.

As an American, what specific contributions do you make to the distribution business in Japan?

My first contribution is understanding that I am an American, and that I'll never exactly understand, and allowing the Japanese people who work for me to do their job. Please quote me! Seriously, it's very important. Everybody in the United States has [the idea], "Okay, now the Japanese have bought MCA and Columbia Pictures, and [now] they should let us do our job.' Well, it goes the other way, too. And that is if you want to do business in Japan, you should let them do their jobs. And they understand the Japanese market far better than I ever will. And my partner, Kaz, is the person I'm talking about. He supervises and is the boss. My job is to identify pictures that we would be interested in, by reading scripts and talking to producers. And then following through in acquiring and then acting as a go-between [with] the producer or sales agent and my company so that the producers know, for example, that we know exactly when their film is going to open, what theatre it's going to open in, making sure that if we invite a director to Japan, to make sure they're taken care of, that you know a David Lynch or somebody like that is given the treatment that they deserve. And just following through, making sure that my office sends first weekend grosses, and things like that. There's an open communication between us and the filmmakers all the time, mainly on my side. And then I allow Kaz to run the company. Because he understands far more than I will. I mean, I have a good eye for what's going to work in Japan, but how to sell it to them is really Kaz's job and his great talent.

What is your proudest success?

Two: WILD AT HEART, which nobody in Japan wanted to go near, nobody wanted to know about it, and recently THE BEST INTENTIONS, which I read a treatment for and then a script a year-and-a-half before it was in Cannes, and I passionately pursued the producers, and was the only one who was as passionate about it; everyone else was, you know, `How much?' But I know I got the film just by being very passionate about it. And I'm real proud of that too, because I think it's one of the finest, finest films we've released. I'm really mad for it. And BARTON FINK, which I also read in script stage, and stepped up for probably just as Fox was stepping up for it.

I presume you make the round at film festivals.

My favorite is the Toronto Film Festival, and of course I have to go to Cannes, it's the most fun. But Cannes is about parties, [and] Toronto is about seeing films. And of course the New York Film Festival, because of my family, that's where I'm from.

How about the Tokyo Festival?

I've been there only twice. That's Kaz's territory.

Is that a good showcase for young talent from Japan?

Well, what saddens me is that they's never a good showcase for young Japanese talent. I mean, they have all these sales agents that come from foreign countries to sell films to the Japanese and they never really make an effort to involve young Japanese filmmakers with the filmmakers that they involve from the foreign countries. And I always wish they would do more of that, and try to sell Japanese films to the foreign sales agents who come there. I sold a lot of Japanese films in the United States, and I really believe that unless somebody champions these films they're never going to be shown, and I'd like to see the Tokyo Film Festival make more of an effort to do that. Although it's a really terrific festival for showing films to Japanese people.

So what is the ultimate result of a festival like that? Japanese rights to foreign films are bought but Japanese films are not sold?

I guess so, to tell you the truth I don't know that much about it, because it's only a few years old.

How would you describe the difference between shooting a film in Los Angeles and shooting one in New York City?

The difference is that in L.A. it's an industry, and in New York it's an act of love. And it's less organized in New York, but totally organized in L.A.

Is it over-organized, perhaps?

It depends who you're working with. And it's overly dis-organized in New York depending on who you're working with! But you know, I've worked crews all over the world — a grip's a grip, a script girl's a script girl, and they're all great for the most part. You know, sometimes people in L.A. mainly work in television, so when you start working with them they're sort of used to, you know, 'Heigh ho heigh ho, it's off to work we go.' And being in New York you have to do more kind of guerilla filmmaking.

Is it that, in New York, 'It's more than a job, it's an adventure'?

Exactly. I mean, in New York if you go to a party the chances of meeting someone else who works in the film industry are pretty slim. In L.A. the chances of meeting somebody who doesn't are pretty slim. When I bought my house, I'll never forget somebody said to me, 'Hey, I can get you Rob Lowe's pool guy.'

Is that a hindrance. whereby a filmmaker becomes so insular within the film world that you lose contact with the real world, with people who have no vested interests in the industry?

It depends what your job is. If you're a director that might be true. But directors have lots of time to go and be around other people. I spend a lot of my time in New York and Tokyo and Paris. It's important to get out and be around, pick up ideas.

And be inspired by people who have nothing to do with film.

Yeah, absolutely. And I don't think most directors hang out in Hollywood. I don't know that many.

If they did the suicide rate might be higher.

Or the homicide rate!

Was being a woman a hindrance to being acknowledged in the industry, especially setting up a business in Japan?

The greatest hindrance in being a woman was my own insecurity, I mean when you're a woman director the first thing you have to fix is yourself.

There isn't a large support group of women directors to go to.

No, and there's no one for me to look at, and say, 'Oh, that's how she did that, I'll do it like that.' There are no role models and we're creating, them, and for that reason I say we're the first people we have to deal with. I mean, I'm the first person I have to deal with about being a woman director. I guess if I'm clear, then everyone else can be clear.

I told this story very often: I'm getting on a plane recently, sitting in the first seat, and looking into the cockpit before the plane took off, and I noticed that the pilot was a woman, and the co-pilot was a woman, and I had a moment of actually thinking I might want to get off the plane. And I realize we all have those things we were brought up with that were ingrained in us by our parents and society. We're not going to change those. Even I'm not going to change those things inside myself. And I have to acknowledge that they exist in other people. And to demand that people give up those things is a foolhardy waste of energy. That's what I mean that I have to understand that in myself, and that it's a long process. And that in some ways I'm handicapped because I was brought up differently than the men I'm dealing with, but the first thing I have to understand is that they were brought up the same way, and I can't demand anything from them. I just have to work as hard as I can. And set examples for other women. I'm a minority. And I just don't think it's going to be fixed overnight. But I do think we've made tremendous progress, and I prefer to dwell on all the positive aspects of that, particularly if you put together the grosses of films put together by women, in the last two years, and found the average domestic gross of films made by women [and] compared it to the average gross of films made by men. We probably grossed more than men, because there were so few of us, ands we had WAYNE'S WORLD and PRINCE OF TIDES; probably, statistically we do better than men.


LITTLE MAN TATE. And you know, somebody asked me if I feel very bad that we don't get nominated for Academy Awards, that this is prejudice. And I said, hey, obviously we're doing something right: people are coming to see our movies. Look at RUSH. People come to see our movies. We must be doing something right.

What projects do you have lined up?

I have a long vacation lined up!


After BUFFY (and its morphing into a TV series, for which she was executive producer), Kuzui served as a producer on TELLING LIES IN AMERICA and ORGAZMO, and as executive producer for the series ANGEL.

copyright 1992, 1997, 2009 by David Morgan
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