“Austenland”: How 3 “Chicks” Made a Movie Despite Hollywood’s Mancentrism

by Katharine Ernst

So Hollywood took a big leap when it released Austenland, a movie directed, written and produced by women. Finally! I haven’t seen it yet myself, but it sounds damn funny.  It’s an offbeat romantic comedy based off the 2007 novel written by Shannon Hale. In Austenland, a single, 30-something Jane Hayes (played by Keri Russell) travels to a English resort following her obsession for all things Jane Austen. After spending all her money to stay at this Jane Austen theme park, Jane Hayes meets the Regency-era equivalent of Mr. Darcy (played by JJ Feild) and finds herself caught in a love triangle.  

Hale combined forces with first-time director Jerusha Hess and Stephenie Meyer, author of the Twilight series, who produced the film. When male studio executives looked for similarly male “suits” to work on the film, Hess replied, “We didn’t have any suits. Stephenie was the suit.”

And with that, the first all-lady team made a successful Hollywood movie. The film turned out to be a collaboration of each woman’s ideas, blending into something that none of them would have been able to create on their own. According to Hess, “In Austenland, all the characters are ridiculous, but two of them do realize it eventually, and I think that helps the audience members make a connection. Jerusha and I both wanted to tell a story that is the very thing the story is making fun of. You get the fantasy while getting to laugh at the fantasy.”


Along with Russell and Feild, Flight of the Conchords’ Bret McKenzie also stars!

The collaboration between the studio bigwigs was equal to the collaboration with the actors. Hess said that her directing style was relatively traditional in terms of shooting, but each shot she would allow the actors to really get deep into the characters and go wild. She encouraged all of them to ad-lib, with the exception of JJ,  because he was supposed to be the tight laced Mr. Darcy type in Austenland.

While it seems a little late in the game for an all-female production team to have come together to create a movie, the truth is that Hollywood films rarely allow for this kind of pure-women collaboration. Even 2011’s Bridesmaids, widely acclaimed as the lady-centric film to end all lady-centric film, was directed by a man, Paul Feig. It’s high time that a movie be made entirely by women, giving a new, less derisive meaning to the term “chick flick.”

Austenland, like the theme park it depicts, is a celebration of women working and succeeding in a male-dominated field, and, like Austen’s novels themselves, looks to be damn funny, sexy and fun to watch.

Watch the trailer below, and look for Austenland in a theater near you!

Thanks to The Salt Lake Tribune and YouTube

Photos via imbd.com and IndieWire

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