Debra Hill is best known for movies like Halloween, The Fog and Escape from New York.
She co-wrote Halloween, was producer and script writer on the Escape from New York/L.A. and my favorite, The Fog.
Before she died of cancer in March of 2005, she had an extensive career and was celebrated for her ground-breaking work in film for women.
So, I wanted to honor Debra Hill’s memory as an unsung heroine who made an impact in many of our lives, and it was all behind the scenes of iconic films we’ve loved. She went on to become one of the most powerful pioneering female film producers in Hollywood.
Debra Hill began as a production assistant on adventure documentaries, working up to films as a script supervisor, a job that required sitting beside the director and keeping a record of each scene.
From there she landed jobs as assistant director and second-unit director and became associated with John Carpenter, who was then a rising young director (Halloween).
Here is what John Carpenter had to say about Debra: ”Unlike many producers, she came from the crew ranks. I think they’re the most under-appreciated people, and they work the hardest,” he said. ‘‘She had experienced the ins and the outs and had a thorough understanding of what it took to make a picture.”
In the early 1970’s, Debra came up in a time where woman were referred to as “babe, and honey,” especially in the world of the sometimes crazy film industry, but that didn’t stop her.
I say hats off, to a woman who stayed focused on what she wanted, and not on what other people said. Train people to treat you the way you see yourself. Doing it by just being you and going beyond others’ prejudices. Debra Hill didn’t make it personal but transformed adversity into empowerment.
Her early 1972 career start in the film industry always had her as a leader and shining behind the scenes. Carving out a niche for herself, her and close friend Lynda Obst, started their own independent film production company in 1986, which made “Adventures in Babysitting” and “Heartbreak Hotel,” both directed by Chris Columbus, and Terry Gilliam’s “Fisher King,” with Robin Williams and Jeff Bridges.
Here is a pair of my favorite quotes, one from Jamie Lee Curtis and one directly out of Debra Hill’s mouth. Once again it shows us who she was for women in film.
In a production meeting while talking about the character, Laurie Strode, Jamie Lee Curtis said, “She [Hill] was not going to have a weeping violet type as her heroine, no way.”
Hill herself explained Laurie as “a strong character who was very willful and feared nothing. Here was a woman who didn’t run from danger but stepped up to it.”
To me this said a lot about Debra’s character. It was also said that Debra was “a woman who helped other women. . . with boundless generosity,” I’ll leave you with one more quote from Debra Hill. “I hope someday there won’t be a need for Women in Film. That it will be People in Film.” That it will be equal pay, equal rights, and equal job opportunities for everybody.”
Thank you Debra, for leaving and weaving a path for so many women that never knew you!
She was honored by “Woman in Film” in 2003 and the Crystal Award.