Effie Brown is a film and TV producer who produced projects that include Real Women Have Curves, Things You Can Tell Just By Looking At Her, and Dear White People. I admit, I hadn’t heard of her until several weekends ago, when I stumbled across the 4th season of Project Greenlight on HBO. (2013) I know, it took me 4 years to watch it… but that is off topic. Effie was the producer on the film they were making on the show. She left an impression on me. I have imagined what I would say if I were ever fortunate enough to meet her. Since those chances are slim, I thought I would settle for writing “to” her.
Dear Ms. Effie Brown,
I feel compelled to start this letter out with a thank you. You took the risk of taking on a job that would launch you into the spotlight of a white male-dominated world. For some, that may seem like nothing compared to the potential for fame and recognition. However, for those of us who have lived and grown up in a similar, though not identical, world, we know the risk was greater than the reward.
I knew, instinctively, the minute you walked into the room in that first episode, to discuss the finalists, you were going to find yourself in a battle for respect and fairness. Many women have walked into similar rooms. Granted, Matt Damen, Ben Affleck and Peter Farrelly were never in the rooms I entered, but the atmosphere was the same. You were the only woman in the room.
As you made a valid point about diversity in the choice of director, I shrunk into my couch. I knew you would be viewed as combative. I have been there as well. I even looked into the full story of that now famous interaction between you and Damon. I know there was more to the story. I still think you weren’t treated fairly. A group of white men chooses a pool of finalists made up of mostly white men. Was that their intent? I would like to think no. However, that is why your presence and a diverse presence from the beginning is critical.
They didn’t see what a woman would see. They didn’t notice what a black or latino or asian person would notice. They just saw themselves in the finalists.
Your voice was so important in that room, yet it was silenced. You made up for it in staffing. However, your staff was not in charge.
I had no idea what you would face next, but I braced for it. For me, you became the focus of the show. How would you handle situations many women faced? Would you go silent like so many who did so because they once had a boss who interpreted their passion as pushiness? Would you lose your temper, as your anger at being dismissed boiled over? Would you hide in a bathroom stall so you could release emotions other would interpret as weakness? (I have done all of the above.)
First, I want to touch on the situation that I am sure you haven’t forgotten, but for others’ sake I will explain. You found yourself in a very common situation for producers. I was in it so often, I can’t count them all. You were doing what your bosses told you to do, only to get circumvented by someone else. Not only was the plan changed, your were accused of being difficult, only because you were following orders. It is a TV show, made for drama, so I am not 100% positive you weren’t apologized to. However, I know for a fact producers (and most likely people in other positions) often find themselves in situations where they are told not to allow something to happen, only to have another person go around you and get that mandate taken away. You then get labeled as difficult for following orders.
People were upset and blamed you for the loss of you-know-who on the show. If it is true no one talked to you, asked what was going on, or tried to hear your point of view, I am not surprised. If he did just pick up his toys and go home, he is not original, especially because he still consulted the white male director throughout the making of the film, just behind your back. Dismiss the woman. Go around her. What are they afraid of? Or, is it a woman doesn’t get his respect?
The way you handled it made me so jealous and equally in awe. Did you cry in private? I imagine you didn’t. I would have. Stall 4 of the 1st floor bathroom of a place I worked was a frequent place for me to lose my sh*t. The frustration would have boiled over on me. I watched you closely. You were angry, but, man! were you under control.
I can clearly see why you are sucessful. You easily take the reins, you control budgets, and you have thick skin. You stick to your beliefs and do not apologize for being strong, even though you did apologize when you were wrong.
Since this is a public blog, it won’t surprise you that I am actually writing this to all women who can relate to any of this.
The tide is shifting, but in 2013 it wasn’t moving much. Yet, you stood up and did not allow others to destroy you.
To you, Ms. Brown, and all women with your strength, I applaud you. I thank you. I respect you beyond all measure.