When I started delving into screenwriting about 18 months ago, Tuesday quickly became one of my favourite days of the week. And, every Tuesday still, we are gifted with a new episode of Scriptnotes.
Last Tuesday’s episode deals with the weirdness of the Austin Film Festival (I mean, I know Austin is supposed to be weird but the AFF was truly weird. For me, at least. Though I added to that weirdness, I am very sure.) and the goodness of T-Bone Burnett (who makes a very valid and relevant point that should be paid attention to…).
But the bulk of episode 116 is devoted to discussion of the death of Damseling. The call for change starts around the 14 minute mark. Much like the rest of us, though August and Mazin are incredibly great at their jobs, they don’t have a solution to retire this old chestnut for good. But at least they’re calling it out and talking about changes in their own work. Or, John August so eloquently puts it:
“It’s simple, it’s lovely, but it may not be the right choice.”
I loved the way this episode was going, until John and Craig absolved themselves of responsibility for the problem, making excuses for including damsels in their own work. It’s like they said, hey, everyone else should do this, but not us. It’s too much work for us. It’s really easy to point out a problem (although people are still hesitant to do that), but it’s much harder to take action to solve it. If they can’t be bothered to change their writing, why will any of their subscribers?
I think it illustrates a really interesting aspect of what can happen in screenwriting, though. You’re often in a work-for-hire situation, and sometimes you can only try to best shape the lump of clay you’re given. The live Scriptnotes from AFF really brought that point home for me. They played a game they called That’s One Way To Go, incorporating terrible ideas into pitches because, often, someone with clout wants that horrible idea in the script. And they were real ideas! Sadly, I think all any writer can do in that situation – regardless of the professional level you’re at – is try to get your two cents in. It’s unlikely things will change because John August or Craig Mazin try to force it down the throats of their respective employers. Things will change when the change becomes the obviously culturally acceptable thing to do.