Kevin is joined by Martha Coolidge, a celebrated American film director and producer known for pioneering work in the film industry.

Coolidge has directed a wide range of films throughout her career, including the iconic 1983 teen comedy Valley Girl, the critically acclaimed drama Rambling Rose, and the romantic comedy Introducing Dorothy Dandridge. She has received numerous awards and accolades for her work, including the Women in Film Crystal Award. She has served as the first female president of the Directors Guild of America, making her one of the most influential women in Hollywood. Throughout her career, Coolidge has been a trailblazer for women in the film industry, inspiring a new generation of filmmakers with her innovative storytelling approach and commitment to diversity and inclusivity.

An Actor’s Director

Martha has the reputation of being an actor’s director. Having worked with such stars as Nicolas Cage, Val Kilmer, Halle Berry, Laura Dern, and Robert Duvall, Martha shares her directing process with Kevin Goetz. Her goal is to figure out what an actor needs to be relaxed.

Coolidge on working with actors:

I really care, and I want an actor to be their best. And therefore, whatever that actor needs, which is the great fun of directing, is trying to figure out what do they need to be relaxed. Do they need to have fun, or do they need to be tense? Because there are a few who do.

Early career and turning trauma into a documentary

Martha gained early directing experience at the Rhode Island School of Design and spent her early years as a documentary filmmaker. She shares the story of how she was raped at 16 and how she turned that trauma into a unique documentary film within a film. This got the attention of Hollywood.

“Gag me with a spoon.” On self-producing Valley Girl

Martha’s first job in Hollywood was financing and directing the iconic teen comedy Valley Girl. She shot most of it in New York and captured the idiosyncratic voice of the movement. Martha shared how Brian Grazer saw Valley Girl, liked it, and how that led to her directing Real Genius starring Val Kilmer.

The screening process and being a literal nervous wreck

The test screening process tends to make filmmakers nervous, and Kevin and Martha discuss how Martha has been involved in multiple car accidents on the days her films are to be tested. She now refuses to drive herself to a preview. Martha shares her experience with the audience preview of Valley Girl and how they pulled people in off the street to preview the film.

Martha on the Valley Girl screening:

They came and they really liked it. And it was a great screening. I was really happy with it. I learned a lot about humor, what kind of time you need on a joke, and stuff like that. And it was great. It was great.

Love for directing and making a movie several times

Kevin asks Martha about her favorite part of filmmaking. Martha talks about her love of directing and her special relationship with actors. She also shares her passion for post-production and how you make the movie several times in post.

Martha Coolidge on directing:

You have layers of background of emotional growth and development. You have friendships and relationships which are very strong and dictate people’s personalities in a way. And I love figuring out how I’m going to let certain clues out and how we’re going to reveal certain things without making them obvious.

First woman president of the Director’s Guild of America

Kevin and Martha discuss women in filmmaking and the underrepresentation of female directors. Coolridge was named the first woman president of the Director’s Guild of America. She talks about how some were not ready for a woman president, but most welcomed the diversity.

Martha Coolidge on being named the president of the DGA:

When I first went there, it was actually one of the men who’d been president, and he just said, you know, you’re going to be president someday. I’d never been in a corporate structure where they groom you for this or that. And it was great. I felt good about that.

Martha’s superpower

Kevin asks Martha about her superpower, and Martha shares the skills that make her a good director. She talks about her ability to be calm in a crisis and thrive in complex situations. Kevin has seen this in Martha’s movies. Kevin notes that Martha is a treasure and pioneer in the film industry.

Please tune in to hear Kevin and his special guest, pioneering film and television producer Martha Coolidge, discuss Martha’s early years in Hollywood, women in film, and where the industry is headed.

Don’t Kill the Messenger, hosted by movie and entertainment research expert Kevin Goetz, brings his book Audienceology to life. This bi-monthly podcast takes a peek behind the filmmaking curtain as Kevin talks with famous filmmakers, studio executives, stars, and other creatives about movies, filmmaking, audience test screenings, and much more.

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