There’s no denying the fact that sexism runs rampant in the film industry writ large. Reports from 2021 claim that if nothing is done to fight inequality, the gender pay gap won’t close until 2059. Fortunately, there are people—read: women—who are doing something about it. Hollywood in particular is one of the more visible industries that highlight blatant disparities. Top-earning actresses are earning 25 percent less than their male counterparts, and in the Academy Awards’ 93-year history, only five women have ever been nominated for Best Director (2021’s winner Chloé Zhao is the second woman to have ever won, and the first woman of color). Fortunately, entertainment is also a forward-facing platform that can help create real change. And one of the most powerful ways to dismantle the systemic issues affecting those within it is by telling their stories.
“It’s always conversations with women artists that are really catalytic and inspiring for me,” Lucy Boynton told ELLE.com over email. “Everyone’s art and ambitions are so different, and with the industry being historically male-dominated, there are so many stories and creative avenues that have yet to be explored. I’m really excited by the prospect of more female filmmakers and creatives finally getting more opportunities to showcase their work.”
When she’s not starring in Bohemian Rhapsody, Sing Street, and Netflix’s The Politician, the actress is creating similar opportunities by championing rising talent through her work with Chanel. For its seventh year, the fashion atelier is partnering with Tribeca for a women’s filmmaker program, Through Her Lens. The program not only funds projects created by women writers and directors—it creates a support system of dedicated mentors. Former participants include Lucy Boynton, Angela Bassett, Angelica Ross, Glenn Close, and Hari Nef. Boynton served as a judge in 2020, and this year lent her personal experience. In conjunction with Through Her Lens, Tribeca and Chanel are also presenting a photo series of 40-plus industry leaders as well as three-part series titled IN DEVELOPMENT, which gives an intimate glimpse behind Boynton and Alisha Boe’s character development, in addition to a peek into the making of Hannah Peterson’s first feature film, as the winner of the 2019 Tribeca Chanel Through Her Lens production grant.
While the work to create a more equitable stage for women in film remains to be done, Boynton stays positive while creating space for fresh talent. Read on for her best advice to up-and-comers, her experiences with Through Her Lens, and her thoughts on Chanel’s latest runway collection, below.
What was the biggest lesson you learned while partnering with Chanel’s Women’s Filmmaker Program?
Something that is continuously requested of the entertainment industry is more variety and diversity in the stories told, and my experience with this program was such a beautiful and tangibly informative example of the necessity of that. When I sat on the panel last year we had to judge five finalists’ projects, all of which were very very different in tone, content, and takeaway. For those of us on the panel, it was really informative and, at times, surprising just how different all of our tastes were. What stood out to each of us or spoke to each of us was so different. Some felt very drawn to one story while others didn’t feel that same pull, some felt a script really resonated while others didn’t feel as connected to the very elements that brought others to tears. Talking through it all was such an education and the education was a perfect example that not every piece of art is for everyone. It reaffirmed the notion of always staying true to your art because there will be someone who doesn’t understand or feel it, and on the contrary, there will be others who could be potentially changed by it. It was deeply inspiring and energizing. I’m so grateful for that experience.
What’s the best advice you can give to a woman hoping to make it in the film industry?
Decide your own definition of success. With this internet era that seems to so often conflate opinion with fact, I think it’s easy to have your parameters and benchmarks defined for you. I think it’s a wonderfully liberating piece of advice to define your own markers of fulfillment and “success” and to set your own goalposts because it ensures you stay on your own path which I do believe leads to more personal happiness. I think it also relocates your energy from an end goal and allows you to better enjoy each process and each chapter.
What do you hope will be the biggest takeaway for the audience from Chanel’s inside look into your process?
I’m not sure. I suppose my preparation might look or be quite different in comparison to someone else’s, so I think it exemplifies how personal the preparation process is to everyone, and therefore there’s no right or wrong way.
Are there any women in the film industry who empowered you to keep going?
The conversations I have with two of my agents who I’ve been working with the longest, Olivia Homan and Ali Trustman, have most often been the catalysts that keep me going. I’ve been acting since I was 12, so it’s been necessary to keep finding new versions of this job and industry that I’m motivated by as I grow and as my ambitions, both within and outside of this job, evolve. These women are so brilliant, interesting, and insightful, so being able to process it all with them while also seeking guidance from them is inspiring and empowering.
Which item of clothing makes you feel the most empowered?
The clothing that makes me feel empowered always changes based on what kind of empowered I want to feel. Sometimes it’s just something that allows me total freedom of movement, other times it’ll be something that celebrates more skin and body. An all-black outfit is something I often return to though—that always feels so self-possessing and powerful to me.
Chanel’s SS22 collection just debuted this week. What is on your wish list?
I loved this collection, and I really loved how the show felt like a celebration. It was really playful and alive. I loved look 34, which is a very short dress with sequin detailing. I love wearing that shape, which feels freeing but the length is playful and feels quite ’60s. And the shoes with that look feel like a cool Chanel twist on the Mary Jane. I also loved the classic flap bags with the thick chain—they feel grunge-femme.
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