Kitty Green says she first thought about making a movie about women in the workplace when she was being interviewed at film festivals. The Australian filmmaker’s feature documentaries, Ukraine Is Not a Brothel and Casting JonBenet, have both toured the world to considerable acclaim. “But I could tell people were treating me differently as a female,” she says.
“Journalists would see me, then look back at the press person and say, ‘Oh, I won’t need the full 20 minutes’,” she remembers. Or people would ask her who she went to for her ideas: was it one of her male producers? Which one? “And I thought even when I’ve done all the work, will people ever believe I’ve done it? It’s so hard to make a film. The idea that I’m not seen to be responsible for it just kills me.”
She has ventured into fiction with her new film The Assistant, now screening at the Berlin Film Festival and opening in Australia in April. It is a quiet account of a day in the life of Jane (Julia Garner), a production assistant at a New York film company. Jane is factotum to a bullying, mercurial producer – never quite seen, but regularly heard shouting down the phone – who summons hopeful, young actresses to his office for closed-door auditions. As the young men in the office like to snigger, nobody ever sits by choice on the boss’s couch.
The real-world reference is obvious, but Green says she didn’t want to make a documentary this time around.