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Are women shut out of screenwriting?


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#1 CrimsonLine

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Posted 25 October 2005 - 09:23 AM

The Wall Street Journal's online edition is carrying an article today by Bridget Johnson, a Hollywood screenwriter, bemoaning the gender inequity in film and TV scriptwriting.

http://www.opinionjo...a/?id=110007453

It's not a good article, but it's a good question to ask - women are among the best and most popular writers in history: Jane Austen, Anne Rice, the Bronte sisters, and more. Why are women so underrepresented in Hollywood screenwriting circles?

It's not because of lack of talent, I'll warrant, but could it have anything to do with women wanting to have and raise kids? I don't know.

I say it's not a good article, because Johnson makes arguments like this her bread and butter:

QUOTE(WSJ article by Bridget Johnson)
Maybe women just aren't writing as much. Writers Guild spokesman Gabriel Scott told me that scripts written by women make up about 25% of their registry. Are women and minorities just not interested in the business? Hardly. As long as there are agents, managers and publicists--and beyond--there will never be a shortage of people with a story to tell. And Hollywood dreams cut across red states and blue states, all ages and backgrounds.


Way to mow down the objections of your opponents! I wish I could resolve all arguments with a quick, "Hardly." But regardless of the quality of this article, what do you all think about the question?

#2 finnegan

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Posted 25 October 2005 - 09:35 AM

That is an interesting question. I don't think it's because Tinseltown is sexist (although every year, more and more studio films are released that reduce women to objects) any more than the NFL is racist. The majority of [American] football players are black, yet most of the quarterbacks are white.

Could just be a "subconcious" connection for producers that screenwriters are and always have been men. Of course, I'm not so sure that this is only screenwriters. Women directors and producers are a definite minority, too. The Kathleen Kennedys and the Sofia Coppolas of the biz are few and far between.

#3 Peter T Chattaway

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Posted 25 October 2005 - 10:50 AM

FWIW, finnegan, your football analogy reminded me of this article. But while there seem to be genetic reasons for the racial make-up of football teams, I am not so sure that genetics would explain why there are comparatively few female screenwriters.

I do think there are quite a few female producers out there, though. James Cameron, Steven Spielberg, Martin Scorsese and other directors have consistently worked with female producers -- though the situation may be complicated by the fact that these women are sometimes their (ex-)wives, so there may be an element of nepotism that over-rides the gender bias. Likewise, one of the female screenwriters that Peter Jackson has worked with happens to be his partner (technically not his wife, IIRC).

When I try to think of female screenwriters, the first two examples that come to mind are Carrie Fisher (who has done a lot of script doctoring but, AFAIK, has never had an onscreen credit, except maybe when adapting her own novel) and Nora Ephron (who can do okay stuff if she's got a good director shaping her work, but otherwise, ugh).

Hmmm. Ridley Scott worked with a couple of female screenwriters on Thelma & Louise and 1492: Conquest of Paradise in the early '90s.

#4 Plot Device

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Posted 09 February 2007 - 11:49 AM

I don't believe it has anything to do with women prefering to have children. I think it has to do with:

1) how girls are raised vs. how boys are raised

and

2) the greater likelihood of adolescent boys to get into film technology, and the lesser likelihood of girls to do so

and

3) a lack of EARLY exposure to the art and science of cinema to school children in this country

and


4) a dialog-heavy focus by girls (this is, I think, the only truly genetic differenfce whiole all the othrs are cultural)

Girls are more "bookish" than boys during elementary school--test scores bear this out, as do the observations of children's librarians. And girls are also more prolific at writing notes in the classroom (which I have confiscated dozens of times from my fifth graders back when I used to teach school). Girls are also more prone to keep a diary than boys. So the reading/writing skill set starts off earlier and more powerfully in females in our culture than in males. Males have more of a "techy" bent than girls, evidenced by video games, erector sets, Transformers, and even messing around under the hood of a car. Many girls become proficent in adopting the style of writing NOVELS, since so many American reading text books for the elementay grades are heavilly tilted toward prose. But few children--boys or girls--ever get exposed to an actual script. Some reading text books have stage plays in them. But even those rarely have the play printed out onto the page in the correct format. The even rarer instance of a screen play or teleplay being found in a children's reader is also not liekly to have the correct fromatting to it.

Then the teen years set in.

Adolescent boys from the 1970's were more likely to receive a Super 8 camera for Christmas than girls were.

Adolescent boys from the 1980's were more likely to get a video camera for Christmas than girls were.

Adolescent boys of today are more likely to get a digital movie camera for Christmas than girls of today.

And thus we have teen boys who become home film makers. Most eventually lay aside this amusing hobby by the time they hit college. But a few can't shake the bug and will go on to become professionals. Spielberg, Lucas, M. Night, Kubrik, Jackson--all of them were adolescent boys playing around with cameras they got from their parents. The Cohen Brothers and the Wachowski Brothers (why oh why are there never and film-making SISTERS??) also had similar early hands-on exposures to film technology.

Boys are more action-oriented, and girls are more relationship-oriented. Daytime soap operas are perhaps the most dialog-heavy example of American film/television we have. Girls are heavilly attracted to soap operas and tend to model dialog-heavy stories rather than action-heavy ones (just get a lok at the Lifetime Network). And good cinema is far more visual and motion/action oriented, thus most good scripts --and thus most green-lighted scripts--are rarely the dialog-heavy ones.



I don't have any data to support this next contention of mine, but I suspect that the vast majority of profesional female writers of fictitious works in this country (thus journalists are not included here) are novelists. Screenwriting is almost exclusively a boy's club.


If we wanna see more females who write screen plays, we need the following to start happening:

1) to have the publishers at Scholastic and McGraw-Hill start including CORRCETLY FORMATTED screenplays in their public school reading text books

2) to have entry-level classes in cinematic art and technology in the elementary grades (heck! it would be great to even see them in the high schools!)

3) to encourage girls to pick up a camera and start shooting, and giving them cameras for Christmas too is a great start

#5 Jana Segal

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Posted 25 December 2007 - 11:02 AM

I agree with your assessment that more boys get cameras for Christmas. (I wish I had gotten one!) That may help explain why there are more male filmmakers out there, but not why there are not as many professional screenwriters. I recently attended the Screenwriting Expo in LA and of the probably 4000 filmmakers just as many seemed to be women. There is no lack of aspiring female screenwriters.

I think a big contributor is that Hollywood's biggest market is 16-25 year old guys. Hollywood makes most of it's movies for these repeat movie goers. Some of these guys inevitably go on to become filmmakers (if they got that video camera for Christmas) or screenwriters.

As far as "Chick Flicks" go, most of them seem written by men as well. Of course, women can also write action, Oscar worthy films, and comedy.

I'm sure it has something to do with the film industry being a "men's club" and even some to do with women being the ones who usually raise the babies. Personally, I choose to write a spec script at home in Tucson, so I can also raise my kids.

Jana Segal
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Edited by Jana Segal, 25 December 2007 - 11:04 AM.


#6 Thom Wade

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Posted 12 July 2008 - 08:02 AM

QUOTE (Jana Segal @ Dec 25 2007, 11:02 AM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
I agree with your assessment that more boys get cameras for Christmas. (I wish I had gotten one!) That may help explain why there are more male filmmakers out there, but not why there are not as many professional screenwriters. I recently attended the Screenwriting Expo in LA and of the probably 4000 filmmakers just as many seemed to be women. There is no lack of aspiring female screenwriters.

I think a big contributor is that Hollywood's biggest market is 16-25 year old guys. Hollywood makes most of it's movies for these repeat movie goers. Some of these guys inevitably go on to become filmmakers (if they got that video camera for Christmas) or screenwriters.


Exactly. Hollywood producers think women will write movies that are outside their target audience. Women will just write women movies. Where as we me? We write movies for everyone (not that different from how a movie with an almost entirely white cast is just aimed at everybody...but a movie with a mainly black cast will almost always be seen as an "urban audience" film and not marketed towards a general audience).