They Got Dolly Parton & Jane Fonda in Their Movie... a Blessing & a curse

Tim Molloy and Eric Steuer • July 19, 2022

Still Working 9 to 5 co-directors Camille Hardman and Gary Lane say it’s a “blessing and a curse” that Dolly Parton, Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin agreed to be in their documentary.

The filmmakers were grateful that the stars of the iconic 1980 comedy 9 to 5 agreed to reunite to talk about the making of the film, and the still-vital issues it raised — like pay equity and stopping sexual harassment. The only problem? Their presence gave potential investors the false impression that the production was awash in funding.

“It was a blessing because they said yes, and they were in it. It was a curse because everybody thought we had money when we were approaching other people for money,” Hardman told MovieMaker. “It was like, ‘Oh, you’re going be okay — you’re gonna get other people funding this.'”

Their reason for passing, Hardman said, was that Still Working 9 to 5 seemed to have too many advantages already.

“‘We want to fund more disadvantaged documentaries,'” she recalls being told. “Every group that we went to for funding we’re very much like, ‘No, this isn’t for us because it’s a big star film.’ So we ended up really funding this entire thing ourselves.”

In the end, they did find one financial backer. But Hardman and Larry Lane, brother of her co-director, believed in the project enough to bank on themselves.

“We got one funder involved, which was Artemis Rising, and that’s Regina K. Scully. She was absolutely amazing. But the rest of it we funded ourselves,” Hardman said. “The majority of it was Larry, and then I put in quite a large chunk of it myself.”

The film has not yet found a distributor — someone to buy and release the film — because some potential theatrical releasing companies and streaming services believed it might skew too old.

The filmmakers believe their film can inspire today’s activists, and that they could also benefit from some of the pragmatism Fonda, Tomlin and Parton enlisted to tell their story 42 years ago.

In addition to the original stars, the documentary also features activists including Zoe Nicholson, who is known for campaigning for the Equal Rights Amendment. She spoke about the timely nature of a movie about women’s rights coming out so close to the Roe v. Wade reversal.

“I don’t want the lives of women resting on what happens in politics. I want the lives of women resting on their access to their own agency, their physical economy,” Nicholson said.

Right now, she’s most focused on how women can help each other, she said.

“You and I are going to go out and vote on November 8, and the people we voted for [will] hopefully win and they’re going to get sworn in in January, and maybe they’ll introduce a bill by mid-March. That bill will sit in the House, probably pass the House, and not the Senate. In other words, I think it’s really important that we form pods as we did when COVID hit,” she said, “where we actually take responsibility for 25 friends that we know we will pool our money or resources and find our aunt who lives in a free state to get our friend who lives in a locked state an accessible, safe abortion.”

Co-director Gary Lane was happy to give activists like Nicholson a platform.

“These women like Zoe and Lily Ledbetter and the younger generation of women that are in the film,” Lane said, “these women have given their lives to this fight, and this new generation are continuing this fight, so that’s a big part of the Still Working 9 to 5 message as well besides just the fun fandom of 9 to 5.”