My husband Eric and I began our filmmaking journey together in 2006. We didn't know if it would work at first. Prior to shooting our first feature film, RULE OF THREE, we kind of looked at each other sideways and wondered if we'd both want to kill each other by the end of it.
To be honest, we were terrified. We had been together for nine years, but had never actually created anything together. This would either be an absolute blast... or the thing that broke our marriage.
So it happened. We dove headfirst into the process. Raised the funds ($50K) in six weeks. Assembled the best crew and cast we could find. Booked a couple of rooms at a cozy motel tucked in the north end of Sepulveda Boulevard in L.A.'s San Fernando Valley.
Eric came up with a brilliant story about the disappearance of a girl who'd just graduated from college. It took place in one room at a motel, depicting what happened to the girl in the present, and how the occupants in the room before and after tied into her disappearance. (I was set to play the role of the girl.)
The thing was absolutely genius. We both decided that I would write it. Since I was in love with the premise, the words flowed onto the page. It took me just shy of a week to write. I handwrote it first, then typed it out on my laptop the following week. I had never been more creatively fulfilled by something I had written. In my gut I knew that the shoot was going to be a success.
And it was. The cast and crew were all top-notch players who brought their A games, even though the film was ultra-low-budget and many of them had worked on sets a zillion times bigger.
After the film was edited and ready to go, it had no trouble finding its legs. We started traveling to film festivals to do Q&As after the screenings. We started winning awards. We started getting distribution offers.
It was everything we'd wanted.
But one devastating thing kept on happening:
Many people couldn't wrap their minds around the fact that I'd written the film.
Even though it said "Written by Rhoda Jordan" at the end, they still didn't believe it.
When I said I was the writer during all the fancy Q&As, I'd get a bunch of stares that had the words "YOU wrote that?" tattooed upon them.
My heart (and soul) sunk every time this happened. And it happened quite frequently.
My husband directed the hell out of this movie. He was a first-time director and did the most beautiful job I could imagine. He's also a published author and ghostwriter. At the time, I was working as a ghostwriter, too. But people just assumed that my husband must've been the writer who'd come up with the script. Because how could a woman come up with such words?
How could a woman create such badass art?
How could a young actress who looks the way I look create such sharp, dark, rude fits of expression?
I remember one day, we were getting ready to board a flight home to Los Angeles after a long week at an awesome festival in Montreal. Before we got on that plane, we read a review in one of the local papers that praised Eric for the writing, once again. And this review compared the movie's dialogue to David Mamet's.
My eyes welled up with tears. I felt sick to my stomach. Like my voice was being ripped away from me. This was the 70th time it had happened, and I just couldn't take it anymore.
My husband felt so bad. He kept trying to comfort me, telling me he'd get them to fix it. But I didn't care about fixing it at the time. It was already so heartbreaking to know that nobody thought I was capable of writing that film, simply because I was a woman, and an actress, and under 30...
Now, if it had been a romantic comedy or something, I'm sure everybody would've taken the words "Written by Rhoda Jordan" seriously when they read them. But it wasn't a romantic comedy. It was a raw, dark, and devastating slow-burning thriller, and to entertain the mere thought of a woman writing something like that was simply out of the question.
Hollywood has remained a man's game for far too long. TV shows and movies often don't realistically depict the many shades, nuances, tones, and textures of what it really means to be a woman. Instead, we're served up zero-dimensional characters who're there to pretty up the frame.
By force of habit, many of the film critics, festival organizers, and audience members must've figured I was just there to pretty up the frame, too. They saw me as an actress and nothing more.
And here's another interesting fact: All of the people who made this error were men. (Keep in mind: I'm in no way implying that all men think that women aren't capable of creating badass art. There were also many men who did believe and acknowledge that I wrote the film, and I love them for it.)
So look: I see a paradigm that needs quite a bit of shifting here. We've got to start giving it up to the women who have the courage to stand in their creative power and birth their visions into reality. 'Cause that's not easy stuff, considering all they're up against. Considering how many times they're told how to be and what to say and how to feel.
So tell you what: Let's do big, crazy things to create change that our kids can be proud of, okay? Because the small, sane things are taking too long.
Let's pour wads of cash into financing female-made content. Let's hire more women to direct TV shows and films -- and especially music videos. Let's give actresses roles that they can sink their teeth into. Let's cast older women, disabled women, women whose bodies aren't stick figures, women who don't conform or bend or blend into the background.
Let's hire women writers who are ready to roll up their sleeves and tell the stories that our daughters' and sons' souls will be nourished and empowered by.
Because: Why wouldn't we?
Why would we just nod and smile and keep things as they are?
Why would we let our girls believe that their voices (and bodies/minds/spirits) aren't worthy enough? Why would we let our boys believe that girls' voices (and bodies/minds/spirits) aren't worthy enough? This kind of backwards thinking hurts us all.
I would never want any girl or woman to experience what I experienced during that exciting flurry of screenings, film reviews, traveling, and awards. Being second-guessed was a total buzzkill, to say the least.
There were lots of great interactions, though. There was one, in fact, that I'll never forget...
We were doing a Q&A at Fantastic Fest in Austin. During that Q&A, the same old confusion reared its ugly head. Eric was introduced as the writer of the film. But we were prepared by then. We made sure to set the record straight and let the audience know that I wrote it.
But for the rest of the Q&A, I felt the confusion lingering in the air -- once again. I tried not to let it get to me, but it was hard.
Later that night, the festival threw a party at this club. When I walked in, one woman's eyes lit up. She beelined over to me. Threw her arms around me and gave me the biggest hug that I had ever received from a complete stranger.
She had been in the audience for the Q&A. Had seen what had happened with the writer credit mix-up. Knew that it hadn't been a simple error. Knew that it'd happened because I, like her, was a woman.
After the hug, she stepped back and shook her head. She was shocked by what had transpired. (If only she knew it hadn't been the first time.)
"I can't believe that," she said. "Your name was in the credits as the writer. They were saying you were just the actress."
"I know," I said.
Then she looked me dead in the eye. In a spirit of pure sisterhood, with emotion ringing through her voice, she said the words: "You -- wrote -- that -- fucking -- script. You -- wrote -- that -- fucking -- script."
The way she said it. It was like a power mantra. I felt instantly stronger.
There's nothing like a soul sister reminding you of who you are. And reminding you, in the process, that you must press on, no matter what.
Because the women of today pave the way for the women of tomorrow.
Yes, I wrote that fucking script. And if you don't believe it, the problem's not with me.
Women: It's time to show the world that we can do anything. Join my free feminine power bootcamp. It starts on April 6th. Details here: The Feminine Power Bootcamp