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Jill Soloway's Leadership Philosophy On 'Transparent' Is As Simple As 'Feminism'

The Huffington Post The Huffington Post 20/10/2015 Matthew Jacobs
ATHENA IMAGE © Grant Lamos IV via Getty Images ATHENA IMAGE

Some of the best movies and TV shows have emerged from tense sets ruled by difficult directors. "I Love Lucy" was a famously acrimonious environment, while ornery behavior is a hallmark of contemporary auteurs like David O. Russell and Lars von Trier. Jill Soloway would call that "bullshit." In fact, she effectively did on Monday evening during a panel at the Paley Center for Media in New York City. 

Joined by the cast of her Emmy-winning show "Transparent," the writer/director used frank terms to define the harmony that exists on the Amazon series' set. Soloway responded to Gaby Hoffmann likening the cast's mutual affection to a "cult" and Jay Duplass calling their dynamic "wildly surprising" when compared to the tense atmospheres on most sets. 

"There isn't a cult. I think the unspoken thing that we're experiencing at work is the power of feminism. I bring to work a feminist and feminine way of leadership where I'm not trying to get a shot. I'm not attempting to get my words said right. There is no right. I'm not trying to capture something. I literally go with the feeling of 'I'm here to pump air underneath this thing to make the balloon rise.' I'm here to let everybody know that I know we think we're making a TV show, but the most important thing is to have fun and treat each other well. There are no excuses for treating each other poorly on the set. We don't talk down to background artists. I don't want the ADs to be difficult to people. Everybody knows that the most important thing is that we have fun, and that, to me, is bringing feminism to work because I think there's something about a feminist style of leadership that's a little bit inspired by, like, what mom would do if the kids brought their friends home and they were going to put on a play in the backyard. She would just make sure that they all had fun and had enough to eat and were treating each other well and that they know when to take a break and that whatever play they do is right. So I like to try to bring feminism and feminists things that come naturally to me to a professional setting. That's the thing where everybody goes, 'Oh, this is so surprising. What the fuck is it? Is it a cult?' No. It's just feminism. That's all."

Monday's hourlong panel followed a screening of the show's Season 2 premiere, which, unsurprisingly, is a delight. Set at Sarah and Tammy's wedding, the episode finds the Pfefferman family in typical forms of wry, soul-searching disarray. Get ready for some family history this year, too -- the episode flashes back to 1933 Berlin, teasing a glimpse of the clan's lineage.

Soloway's comments about feminism echo the cast's warm sentiments about their experiences in making the show. "I'm telling you, people are dedicated and people are really getting this on every single level: in the production house, in back of the camera, in front of the camera," Jeffrey Tambor said shortly before the panel ended. "And there's no reason it has to be otherwise. There is no reason except fear, male superiority and horse shit." 


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