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What the Hell is a Co-Director Anyway?

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Slumdog Millionaire is the feel good movie of the season. It's generating a lot of good reviews, great word of mouth, award nominations and award wins. Critic and blogger and all around expert on things women and film, Jan Lisa Huttner has raised a question about the directing credits on Slumdog Millionaire that is worthy of further conversation.

If you look at imdb (the film data bible), Danny Boyle is the director and right below his name it lists Loveleen Tanden as co-director (India- where the whole film was shot). So the question that Jan is rightly posing is, if you are a co-director should you also be nominated when the director is? And, what is a co-director and how does that credit come about?

If you look back to last year's Academy Awards nominations the Coen Brothers are both given a directed by credit (and won) for No Country for Old Men. And in 2006 Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris are also both given directed by credits for Little Miss Sunshine. Both of those teams have worked together as teams for years. That's just how they do their work.

Jan pointed me to the film City of God which was directed by Fernando Meirelles and also has a co-director Katia Lund listed. The film did very well in the 2002-2003 cycle winning numerous awards at film festivals and in getting nominations from the major awards organizations. While Meirelles alone won numerous awards for his directing, there are two instances -- the AFI audience award and the Washington DC Area Film Critics association -- which gave the award to both Meirelles and Lund.

The point is that awards and nominations matter A LOT. Think of the the career that Meirelles has had since his nomination. He has directed The Constant Gardener and Blindness which won the top award at the Cannes Film Festival. Talent aside, think he would have gotten those gigs had he not been nominated for a foreign film like City of God? No way. What would it have meant to Katia Lund's career had she been acknowledged in some way as the co-director of City of God? We'll never know.

But, since I don't know how credits are negotiated and it looks like festivals and critics kudos all have different rules its hard to 100% say that Loveleen Tanden is not getting her due because she is a woman. Tanden is very supportive of the film and has been on the press tour with Boyle and others. And, Huttner spoke with Boyle about the issue and he was very complimentary of her work.

Since women have such a hard time breaking into the directing ranks at the top level -- only three women have ever been nominated for an Oscar for directing -- this is a really interesting conversation to be having this year when women's films have been so successful at the box office.

Yesterday, Slumdog scored Golden Globe directing nomination. Jan Lisa Huttner is requesting that people send a letter to the HFPA asking them to add Tandan's name as co-director to the nomination. Get the letter here. I'd love to understand what the hell is a co-director and if women get put into the co-director position more easily than men.

Originally posted on Women & Hollywood