In The Mix

Easy Does It

Jamie Babbit has risen through the industry ranks to become a director dedicated to helping the next generation.

Anne Easton
  • Jamie Babbit (center) with executive producers Clay Tarver and Alec Berg of HBO’s Silicon Valley

    Ali Paige Goldstein/HBO

A stream of unsavory characters traipsing through her childhood home helped Jamie Babbit become a much sought-after television director.

"My mom ran a rehab facility that was right next to our house," Babbit explains. "We had drug addicts chained to our bookshelves, because my mom was in the process of transporting them to a different hospital or to prison."

Babbit has risen from working as an assistant to Martin Scorsese's assistant, to working as a script supervisor, to helming episodes of Silicon Valley, The Orville and The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. She didn't hear "no" a lot when directing independent films and small network shows, but Babbit says she had a hard time getting jobs on big studio features and non-teen TV shows.

"The big decision-makers have a harder time taking a chance on an up-and-coming director who's a young woman than on a young guy director. Those guys got big studio movie meetings immediately after their indie films debuted."

Today, Babbit is committed to guiding the next generation of female auteurs. "I know that I've ridden on the backs of people like Jane Campion and Allison Anders. They made it easier for me, and my goal is to make it easier for the next generation."

An out lesbian who's married with two children, Babbit aspires to bring more realistic LGBTQ–oriented material to television. "There's so little really true queer content. I've always thought it's important to show the true lives of queer people using my life experience."

The chaos that often comes with directing is part of what draws Babbit, she says. "I get this weird adrenaline rush when things fall apart. It feels incredible to somehow make it work and create something new."

She says she thrives in this type of environment thanks to her mother.

"I didn't understand it then, but my job is similar to hers, just with a different set of people. She was managing the patients, who are like actors. She managed other doctors, who are like the producers, and then she was managing nurses and the high-level corporate hospital people, and that's like the crew and the studio executives. I see it now."

This article originally appeared in emmy magazine, Issue No. 7, 2018