Myers, Yellin Discuss Women in Hollywood, Politics at Canon Club Event8 May, 2015 By: Stephanie Prange
As a Warner Bros. executive and a former White House Press Secretary in the Clinton administration, Dee Dee Myers has a unique perspective on working in both Hollywood and Washington — and Hollywood gets her vote in the current climate.
“At Warner Bros. we’ve got to make something people want to buy or we go out of business,” Myers observed. “In Washington no one is making anything people want to buy, and yet it goes on and on."
Myers, EVP of worldwide corporate communications and public affairs at Warner, and Jessica Yellin, veteran journalist and former chief White House correspondent for CNN, discussed the business of politics and entertainment, as well as women’s status in both arenas, in a chat at the Peninsula Beverly Hills Hotel May 7. The event was organized for the Canon Club, a group “where women in home entertainment meet,” by DEG: The Digital Entertainment Group and media partner Variety.
Washington and Hollywood are similar, Myers said. “They are two towns that think they are way more important than they actually are, and they are both company towns [populated with] big personalities and big egos,” she said.
Before joining Warner in the executive suite, Myers was a consultant on “The West Wing,” allowing her to see Washington through the prism of Hollywood, and she said the show got it right, for the most part.
“It really is mostly good people trying to make things better,” she said, noting that the series is a Warner property.
She did, however, see a little more fiction in Netflix original “House of Cards” and its hyper-calculated shenanigans.
“It’s not that mean,” she said. “People are not that organized.”
The status of women in both politics and entertainment isn’t what it should be, Yellin and Myers noted. As the first female White House Press Secretary, Myers was a groundbreaker, but she found it hard to be taken seriously in Washington.
“Being young and female is challenging,” she said. “They think you don’t know anything. It’s easier when you are older. When you’re old, maybe you might know a little.”
Discussing the upcoming election, Myers and Yellin pointed out the political minefield that Hillary Clinton has to walk through as a woman running for president of the United States. In her previous campaign, she had trouble getting credit for her experience, while Barack Obama was a novice by comparison.
“They would say, ‘Well she’s only been First Lady and a United States senator. She doesn’t have the experience to be president,’” Myers said. “Meanwhile, three years ago Barack Obama was a state senator in Illinois.”
Her physical appearance also attracts more barbs from pundits, Myers noted. Her advice: Keep the image static, with similar outfits and hair, to cut down on the flak.
But the most important advice for Hillary Clinton, Myers said, is to “connect us to the future.”
“If I learned one thing from Bill Clinton it’s that campaigns are always about the future. Don’t stop thinking about tomorrow,” Myers joked, referring to the Clinton campaign theme song.
On the Republican side, Myers said Marco Rubio is most interesting in that regard. He’s young and comes from a hard-scrabble background, she said.
Hillary Clinton has to find that kind of powerful biographical connection to the electorate, Myers said.
“If she could run as if she’s willing to lose and be who she is … just let it go … I think that’s the name of another song,” Myers quipped.
Similarly, women have a harder time in Hollywood, Myers noted. There aren’t enough female directors and writers, though women are making inroads, she said, pointing to Best Director Oscar winner Kathryn Bigelow (The Hurt Locker) and TV creator/producer Shonda Rhimes (“Grey’s Anatomy,” “Scandal”). Images of women in entertainment are also improving, she said.
“There’s a tremendous diversification of roles,” Myers said, pointing to shows such as “Veep,” “Madame Secretary” and others. There are more roles for women as doctors, lawyers and law school professors, she noted.
Both Yellin and Myers applauded role models they have encountered.
Yellin recalled the unflappable Helen Thomas, who sat with her in the White House press corp and was the first woman to break into that arena.
Myers said working for politician Diane Feinstein gave her insight into how to receive a compliment. Feinstein would say “thank you” rather than downplay her accomplishment, Myers said, adding “she never diminished herself.”
“Always own your accomplishments,” Myers advised.
Next up for the Canon Club is a discussion with another role model, Sherry Lansing, the first woman to head a Hollywood studio.