With two documentaries and a critically acclaimed film under her belt, writer/director Kitty Green looks to be starting a powerful career. “The Assistant,” released Jan. 31, is Green’s third film, and the first one to be released nationwide.
Green opened up about making the film as well as the route she wanted to take with the messages in her movie.
“The Assistant,” stars Julia Garner (“Ozark,” “The Americans”) as Jane, an assistant to a high-profile movie producer that has a toxic control over his workers. As she works through a normal day, she begins to have worrying suspicions that something vile is going on behind the scenes. Mundane and slow-paced, the movie simulates a more grounded and realistic approach than other films have with its topic about sexual abuse and figures such as Harvey Weinstein, who was accused of assaulting dozens of women in the film industry.
Green said it was a very delicate movie to be handled since the subject matter of sexual assault in the workplace is incredibly sensitive. She said the biggest challenge she faced was finding someone to fund the filmmaking.
“A lot of people in the film industry didn’t want me to make the movie,” Green said. “We had a lot of trouble getting it financed straight out of the gate because people, often women at these companies, wanted to do it but their male colleagues shut it down.”
3311 Productions eventually provided funding, and the film took just 18 days to shoot. Most of the film takes place within one setting, as the audience sees Jane doing more of the mundane tasks around the office.
Whereas her male coworkers are on business calls and taking care of the boss’ clients, she’s seen cleaning up and making lunch runs. This is a significant parallel as Green wanted to make clear that women are barred from certain opportunities in the industry when compared to their male colleagues.
“There’s a few issues I was interested in,” Green said. “One of them was a gendered division of labor in the workplace with women: getting the coffee, ordering lunches, looking after the boss’s children. And while they’re doing that, the men get to sit in on the meetings and the fact that helps men get promoted more easily and women aren’t.”
However, the worst of Jane’s problems lay in her uneasiness and psychologically claustrophobic life in the workplace. Within the office itself, Jane seems trapped in a dilemma of both morals and general well-being. She knows about the unethical actions being committed by the head of the company, but there’s no one and nowhere she can turn.
“The film is bleak, it’s set in that time when there was no way out, and people felt trapped in this position, and they felt there wasn’t anyone they could speak to about these concerns,” Green said. “But today I’m sure there’d be a place where she can go and report what she’s seen.”
The film has a dreadful tone throughout to emphasize the horrible events that occurred within the industry, but Green wanted to emphasize that there has been a giant step forward. Though a lot still needs to be worked out, there has been a significant change for women within the field of film and production.
“My female friends are getting more work and it’s getting better,” Green said. “I feel like we’re getting opportunities that we weren’t getting a few years ago, so I do think things are changing.”
“The Assistant,” rated R, is showing in Century 12 Evanston and Century Centre Cinema.