Navigating sexism and finding killer content

by Molly Gibbs

April 6, 2018

Christine Vachon speaks candidly about what it’s like to be a female producer in the film industry and how she found success.

A photo of Christine Vachon
Christine Vachon Saniya More

“I think producing requires a kind of fearlessness,” said Christine Vachon, film producer and co-founder of Killer Films, when she spoke at Newhouse on March 26 in a conversation moderated by television, radio and film professor Tula Goenka. “An ability to think about a lot of different things at the same time. An ability to not care what other people think. An ability to have confidence in your gut.”

Vachon started Killer Films in 1995 with fellow producer Pamela Koffler. Since its creation, the company has produced over 60 films and shows, including “Carol,” “Boys Don’t Cry” and “Still Alice.” Productions from Killer Films have been nominated for 8 Academy Awards and 25 Emmys.

When asked what makes a film right for her production company, Vachon said, “We know it when we see it. We try to create content that is provocative and original.”

An avid supporter and producer of LGBT cinema, Vachon also stressed the importance of creating content that provides a voice for audiences that have been largely overlooked. She said that when she was first starting out, there was a large audience of people who were underserved and desperate to see themselves and their stories on screen.

“But now, if you want to see yourself onscreen, chances are you can really do it,” Vachon said. “It means that many more people get a chance to [hear] those voices that didn’t usually have a voice.”

However, Vachon did not disregard the existence of sexism in Hollywood. She emphasized the importance of female mentorship and support, and discussed how actors, simply by being male, are seen as more valuable and are usually paid more. That’s not the case with her company.

“I don’t think there’s ever been a case in Killer Films’ history where we have paid a man in any field more than a woman doing the same job,” she said.

Vachon also spoke about vision, which she believes is essential to storytelling. “I don’t care if a first-time director knows what a grip stand is or knows how to load a camera,” Vachon said. “What I really want them to be able to do is convey their vision effectively to a lot of different people.”

At the end of her talk, Vachon advised aspiring filmmakers to keep an open mind and take on as many opportunities in the television and film world as possible. She advised students to focus less on doing what they went to school for immediately after graduating college.

“Get yourself in the world,” Vachon said. “Get your foot in the door in any way possible and just see what happens when you work hard.”

Molly Gibbs is a freshman photography major at the Newhouse School.