Spring 2019 Director's Profile: Lauren Greenfield
Lauren Greenfield
A natural progression

Just a couple of months ago, director Lauren Greenfield, along with her partner Frank Evers, launched Girl Culture Films. The new venture is designed to amplify female and diverse directorial voices in the advertising world. Greenfield is creative director of the shop while continuing to direct spots and branded fare via Chelsea Pictures. 

Girl Culture’s directorial roster includes such accomplished filmmakers as Catherine Hardwicke (Miss Bala, Twilight, Thirteen), Karyn Kusama (Destroyer, Girlfight), Amy Berg (West of Memphis), Maya Forbes (Infinitely Polar Bear), Marina Zenovich (Robin Williams: Come Inside My Mind), Rachel Grady & Heidi Ewing (One of Us), Yance Ford (Strong Island), Lana Wilson (The Departure) and Nonny de la Pena (known as the godmother of virtual reality).

“These are established directors, not artists starting out whom we’re asking agencies and brands to take a chance on,” affirmed Greenfield who assembled the predominantly female lineup in direct response to a profound discrepancy in a couple of key percentages she ran across.

Greenfield explained that Harvard Business School found that some 86 percent of global consumers are women. Meanwhile only eight percent of commercial directors are female. Women are being sold to by a preponderance of male directors, which is not only inequitable but bad business. “We have female consumers who are not being talked to by the people who truly are in their shoes, who understand what they’re experiencing and what is important to them.”

Doing something tangible to narrow that gap is a natural progression for Greenfield who’s shed light on detrimental gender stereotyping of women throughout her filmmaking career while herself gaining recognition as a major director spanning short and long-form fare, serving as inspiration to aspiring women filmmakers. 

Greenfield, for example, made her first major mark at the Sundance Film Festival in 2006 with Thin, a feature documentary based on her book of the same title which chronicled four women as they struggled to fight eating disorders, trying to live up to media representation of what the female form should ideally be. Thin found a receptive audience at Sundance where it also sparked interest from the braintrust at the aforementioned Chelsea Pictures, which signed Greenfield for commercials and branded content, a relationship which continues to flourish today.

That Chelsea relationship has yielded assorted pieces of lauded work over the years, perhaps most notably P&G/Always’ #LikeAGirl initiative, a social experiment from Leo Burnett. The centerpiece was a video that captured how people of all ages interpret the phrase “Like a girl,” in the process helping to combat the attached stigma (“you throw like a girl,” or “you run like a girl”). Emerging from this viral video--which generated a staggering 4.5 billion online impressions worldwide--was a redefinition whereby behaving and performing “like a girl” came to mean something amazingly positive. 

A broadcast version of the video ran during the 2015 Super Bowl telecast, marking a major departure from male-dominated Big Game fare. “#LikeAGirl” went on to win the primetime commercial Emmy Award, 14 Cannes Lions, seven Clios and was designated by YouTube as one of the top “Ads of the Decade.” #LikeAGirl was also an AICP Show honoree and became part of the Museum of Modern Art’s permanent collection.

#LikeAGirl landed Greenfield a DGA Award nomination in the commercials competition. This was an historic accomplishment as it made Greenfield the first solo woman to garner a DGA nomination in the spotmaking category. Up until then the only female DGA commercial nominees were half of directorial duos (Amy Hill of Riess|Hill, and Katina Mercadante of The Mercadantes). This was Greenfield’s second career DGA nod--the first coming two years earlier for the feature documentary The Queen of Versailles, which tells the story of a couple losing their home amid the mortgage meltdown crisis--except in this story the residence is a 90,000 square foot mansion inspired by the extravagances of France’s Palace of Versailles, and the beleaguered couple consists of Florida time-share condominium entrepreneur David Siegel and his wife, Jackie. When the real estate bubble burst, the Siegels took a hard fall from their world of extreme wealth and privilege.

The Queen of Versailles also earned Greenfield the Best Documentary Director Award at the Sundance Film Festival and was named by Vogue as one of the top documentaries of all time. 

Thin, The Queen of Versailles and #LikeAGirl are part of a filmography that has led to Greenfield being regarded as a leading chronicler of gender, consumerism, and youth culture. Other breakthrough projects include documentary fare like Generation Wealth, Kids+Money and her photography books such as “Fast Forward” and “Girl Culture.” Generation Wealth opened the Sundance Festival last year, was nominated for a Writers Guild Award for Best Documentary Screenplay, and debuted on Amazon Prime last month.

Creating opportunities
While Greenfield has been able to translate her documentary success into commercialmaking and branded opportunities, she was concerned that the same wasn’t happening for other deserving women. 

Hence Girl Culture Films was born. “I knew from my experience in documentaries, at Sundance, in the indie narrative film community that there is plenty of incredible female talent. But I kept asking myself, ‘Why doesn’t that talent get into the commercial arena?’ We want to remedy that.”

Additionally she’s hopeful that remedy will extend beyond the advertising arena. Greenfield noted, for instance, that Girl Culture Films will be developing both unscripted and scripted television series. 

There’s also much in the offing for Greenfield herself, including a new documentary for Showtime which she isn’t at liberty to publicly discuss; it’s expected to come out in the fall.

Furthermore Greenfield is attached to direct her first scripted narrative feature. And at press time she was slated to direct a campaign being produced by Chelsea in association with Girl Culture Films.

Meanwhile her Generation Wealth companion exhibition--which includes the film, photography and other material--continues its worldwide tour and is about to open at Deichtorhallen Hamburg followed by the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art in Copenhagen this fall.


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