The Weekend Reader – February 21ish

First and foremost, a late addition (but a welcome one). Chelsea Handler gave us all a reason to love her even more. Read No One Puts Baby in Parentheses RIGHT NOW

Once you’re done with that, don’t worry, there’s lots more to read:

BUT WHAT ABOUT LIAM NEESONS, THO?

(Have a great weekend everyone!)

Advertisements

Colour And Gender-Blind Casting… What’s The Real Issue?

Ladies and gentlemen, lock up your internets!

Someone made the mistake of announcing the cast of a comic book movie.*

To quote the great Ben Affleck: “NOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!”**

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Reaction has been… er, mixed. (HA HA. NO PUN INTENDED.)

As an aside, I would like to take this time to come really, intensely clean on this topic. I generally don’t care who gets cast in what. Anything can happen between casting and opening weekend. The only time I have ever really been openly peeved about casting was when they announced casting for…

Captain America.***

And I was wrong about that. I was so wrong. I could literally not have been any wrong-er and survived until now. I am still sorry. Chris Evans won me over… In approximately 38 seconds.

It bothers me to this day that I was so judgmental and harsh on a process I wasn’t privy to or involved in. I had no idea what was going to happen, and I still felt the need to complain. Loudly.

But it seems no one really admits to this wrongheadedness- before, during or after filming.

Especially the pseudo-trolls. Listen, I know enough to not read comments on the world wide web but, wow, I’ve been feeling like I can’t get away from them in the last 24 hours. The biggest online complaint?

Michael B. Jordan isn’t white.

Usually followed up with “Now, I’m not a racist, but…”

Oooookay.

The mighty Mister Jordan (from my favourite movie of 2013, Fruitvale Station) will supposedly be playing Johnny Storm, brother of Sue Storm. Sue Storm, if you believe the hype, is to be played by Kate Mara.

Most of the online chatter seems to emanate from the fact that the two don’t look closely related… But, as many others have countered, Jessica Alba and (in a strange coincidence) Chris Evans didn’t look enough alike to play siblings in the previous incarnation of the FF. Nor were the two actors even of the same ethnicity/background.

“Now, I’m not a racist, but…”

Oh, wait, I got ahead of myself. Did I mention that The Fantastic Four is A STORY ABOUT PEOPLE WHO GO TO SPACE AND COME BACK WITH SUPER POWERS?

I won’t go into detail (the backstory is on Wikipedia if you’re not familiar) but, yeah, this is the root of the story we’re talking about. Based on this, why would anyone argue about who’s not supposed to black or not supposed to be a woman?

Oh, yeah, also forgot that the main FF villain might be re-imagined as a woman. Though to some, a female Doctor Doom is still less credible than A STORY ABOUT PEOPLE WHO GO TO SPACE AND COME BACK WITH SUPER POWERS?

Wait, ladies can be DOCTORS?! When did that happen, y’all?

OK, it’s now serious time. Please listen to my plea, nerds, geeks, fans and lovers of comics and movies and everyone in between, however you may self-identify:

I am one of you. I hear you. I really do. You love these people and you love their story they way it was first told to you. You want them to be exactly the way you’ve always known them to be. You are invested in these characters and what becomes of them.

Being against change, in the context of any form of fandom, makes total sense.

But it doesn’t change the fact that what you’re ultimately advocating is really against the spirit of the characters and, honestly, the medium itself.

I’m not going to speak on behalf of Stan Lee, co-creator of The Fantastic Four. I’ll let him speak for himself:

“For just this once, I would do the type of story I myself would enjoy reading…. And the characters would be the kind of characters I could personally relate to: they’d be flesh and blood, they’d have their faults and foibles, they’d be fallible and feisty, and — most important of all — inside their colorful, costumed booties they’d still have feet of clay.” -Stan Lee (Also, ironically, a quote reused on the FF Wikipedia page.)

The characters in The Fantastic Four were created to allow readers to enjoy the adventures of people they could identify with. People can read the stories and see themselves in them. That’s what the best comics do, after all.

So, can we allow the next generation to have the same experience? Maybe even do it up a bit better? Can we expand the mirror image of characters to blacks and hispanics and women and minorities of all shapes, sizes and stripes? Why can’t Donald Glover be Spiderman? Why can’t Sam Jackson be Nick Fury? Why can’t Idris Elba be Heimdall?

Why can’t Kate Mara and Michael B. Jordan be siblings?

Why can’t we expand the characters we love to encompass other realities and make new fans feel mirrored and welcome in spaces that have always been safe for white boys? Why can’t women see real representatives of themselves in comics? Why can’t people of colour be whoever they want to be in comics? Why can’t we, when it comes to casting the films, be open enough to re-imagine the characters we love into something new?

Why can’t we be generous enough to transform art we love into a gateway for someone else to enjoy it as much as we do?

Any story, even one re-imagined with a black superhero, blended family and a female villain, shouldn’t be more foreign to any of us than A STORY ABOUT PEOPLE WHO GO TO SPACE AND COME BACK WITH SUPER POWERS.

Just a thought.

*Based on the Variety article, this doesn’t necessarily seem to be firm casting. (Offers seem to still be pending for just about everyone.) Are these notices leaked to try and scare off talent? It scared that guy off 50 Shades.

**No disrespect to Ben Affleck.

***No disrespect to Chris Evans. I owe that man a beer. Or a case. Or, honestly, a brewery. (Or a Wahlburgers franchise? I’m open to negotiations on this.)

The Up And Downsides Of Women Writers And Step One Of How To Be The Change

The upsides?  The Black Board and Go Into The Story have been keeping the issue of diversity in screenwriting top of mind. This is a great thing. If you don’t regularly read/post to those, they are great screenwriting resources.

In fact, Go Into The Story recently had a post about female screenwriters and for names of female screenwriters to further the discussion. Feel free to go over there and add to the list. A few off the top of my head:

  • Aline Brosh McKenna
  • Tina Fey
  • Katie Dippold
  • Annie Mumlo
  • Terri Edda Miller
  • Shonda Rhimes
  • Jane Espenson
  • Dana Fox
  • Vanessa Taylor
  • Greta Gerwig
  • Amy Jump
  • Melissa Stack
  • Melisa Wallack
  • Maggie Carrey
  • Nia Vardalos
  • Lake Bell
  • Dee Rees
  • Emma Thompson
  • Julie Delpy
  • Nicole Holofcenre
  • Rashida Jones
  • Jennifer Lee
  • Jennifer Westfeldt
  • Everyone who made The Athena List this year

(By the way, if you start typing in female screenwriters into Google, you’ll get “female serial killers” as a recommend first. Nooooice.)

There are more screenwriters than these. Lots more. And the best way I can think of for any writer to get attention is genuine old-school hype. Anyone can be a hype machine for female writers. I think women are lacking in hype. So, that’s an easy fix.

For outlets like Go Into The Story who talk to filmmakers , whenever you interview a female writer, ask her about other writers she loves. I imagine that should lead to more writers who deserving of the attention. And so on. Writers are talking about this in all kinds of forums, including Done Deal Pro. That’s a great thing.

Every little bit helps.

The not-as-far-upside? I’ve noticed an… interesting trend. I get the hype emails from The Black List (not the weekly pro versions but the general hype ones for all members that are published biweekly… I think?) There haven’t been many of them as of yet, and I do think the email is an awesome idea… but haven’t all the hyped scripts been written by men?

I am a big fan of The Black List and this doesn’t feel like anything deliberately structured to exclude women, but it’s still tough to understand. Is the quantity (or quality) just not there? I feel like the deals and the folks who’ve gotten attention from the (let’s call it non-industry) BL have generally been men. Feel free to correct any of this- I don’t have any stats in front of me…

I feel like this is a good time to expand on where I’m coming from a little bit, and a couple of reasons why I’m hyper-aware about any/all of this. I don’t like to talk about my personal experiences much. I’ve lived a life that I’ve really enjoyed, though it’s probably woefully boring to many. But you need to understand a tiny bit about me at this point. So, here goes.

First, a crazy fact: When each of my grandmothers was born, continuing even past the time they were old enough to marry, they were not people. The law didn’t recognize them as human beings. Think about that, just for one second. My parents’s mothers couldn’t vote, drive, choose a vocation or living arrangements. A short century ago, women like me (and any woman reading this right now) existed only as property.

Kaboom.

Honestly, I can’t even fathom this. This is not even a thought that registers in my brain. I was always told I could do anything if I worked hard enough. I believed that. I don’t even think I grasped gender inequality as a concept for a very long time.

I admit, I was extremely lucky- I certainly didn’t experience any kind of treatment that registered as institutional gender inequality until I was in my 20s.

But, when it happened, it washed a tint over my whole understanding of life. It became the horror you cannot unsee.

It started off innocently enough. An upper-level manager at a part-time job made a comment to my manager that I didn’t smile enough. Weird, right? I did a good job- I was helpful, efficient and polite. Lots of customers and those I’d worked with had communicated to management how happy they were with me. I was further confused because the men who worked there were far more dour than I. They hardly smiled, but they got better shifts. They got more and better hours, and promotions to management. And I was still being berated at every turn for things no one could ever properly explain, as were many of the other women who worked there.

Being oblivious as I was then, I set up a meeting with the manager in question to ask how he thought I could improve. The issues he was raising about me were getting worse, though no one else noticed these things. His advice? Go out and get another job, get more experience, and come back and work in another department. That was his advice. Not joking.

I was already the most experienced worker there by far, but it took that meeting for me to finally understand- I was never going to be treated equally. The men were treated well across the board. The women were not. That’s how it was and everyone knew it. Still, I fought against it, and it took a ton of discriminatory action against me before I finally walked away from that toxicity.

That is certainly turn-of-the-century behaviour but, you’d hope, not turn of the 21st century. Keep in mind, this happened in the 2000s. Still, I thought to myself that’s got to be an aberration. That’s one person in one place.

But moving into a string of big-deal corporate jobs did not help that viewpoint, unfortunately. I think back to two different corporate-type female managers I’d had during that time, and I better understand their poor-management paranoia now. Their incompetencies were constantly magnified through the lens of their gender, and they may have wondered privately (as often as those around them openly did) if they were promoted into their position because they were legacy hires, or diversity hires, or because they were easily manipulated yes-people who were sleeping their way to the middle. Their gender never had anything to do with their paucity of management ability, but their own fear of how they arrived at their position might have done them in.

Though, in the ironic twist to end all ironic twists, it was none of these things that started me down the road that begins and ends here at The Twelve Percent. It was my last 9-5 (as of this writing, at least), that was fronted with the look of progress but was grotesquely sexist under the surface. That was my last step before this one.

It was a place where plenty of women worked, but all the managers were men. The vendors were all men. The leaders and innovators were all men. I was told I was intimidating, but it wasn’t my fault, because “some cultures just don’t respect women”. I lost count of how many times I ran into a woman either crying or raging in a semi-private space at that job, upset that they were not being treated fairly.

My memory is probably faulty on the timing, but I recall it as if it all hit me at once- Why on earth is a 21st century corporation run entirely by men? Why are women still so expectantly ghettoed into talking about spas and nail polish so frequently? Why is someone treating me, a dependable and hard worker with nearly twenty years of editorial experience, like I’m the group secretary because I’m the only woman in this department?

What on earth is going on?

After telling you all this, I’m not going to lie now- it was this job that finally shattered my heart. I thought I had found the place I would spend a massive chunk of the height of my editorial career. Instead, it was the place where my 9-5 life ended. I threw myself into writing screenplays and comics, and I put my house up for sale. I got used to being (very) broke and that some of my so-called friends were suddenly nowhere to be found. I decided that if I was going to be treated like a failure, I would at least give myself a job that would allow me to fail fairly. On my own terms.

So, being totally honest, even if screenwriting ends up being the most sexist, vile, worst of the worst place to be… Well, it won’t be. I’ve seen things go wrong, and it hasn’t killed me just yet. I’ll keep looking for the upsides and finding ways to be the change.

I don’t think we need to wait for two more generations to pass until we realize how far we still need to go. It doesn’t matter if it; a hill or a mountain, you can still make progress with every single step.

Hillary Crosley Says What We Are All Thinking (AKA WE ARE NOT IDIOTS)

Forgive me if this sounds a bit all over the place, but I’m still recovering from reading this:

Hollywood Promises Female Director forExpendaBelles, Hires Man

And, admittedly, that is not shocking. Not even a little. Happens all the time. I’m still working my way to the WTF??!!!!!??? part.

Oh. Here it is! A Synopsis:

When America’s Navy SEALs are wiped out trying to penetrate the island lair of a deadly despot who has captured one of the world’s top nuclear scientists, it becomes clear that there is no such thing as the right man for the job and that this is a mission so impossible that only women can handle it. The only way in: some of the world’s deadliest female operatives must pose as high-class call-girls shipped in by private plane to satisfy a dictator–and instead save the scientist and the day.

Oh. Wow.

The plot of the ExpendaBelles (which is a classy enough title alone, let’s face it) has the kick-ass heroes posing AS HIGH-CLASS CALL GIRLS. Folks, the shitty run-on sentence in the middle of that shit idea DOES NOT HELP IT. AT ALL.

WE CAN STILL SEE WHAT YOU’RE DOING. WE ARE NOT IDIOTS.

Ask yourself- has a hero male in an action flick EVER posed as a prostitute? LITERALLY, EVER!? DID I MISS SOMETHING?!

You wanna know what’s wrong with women in movies. THIS. THIS IS IT. We can do better. We have to. We are half the population. We cannot seriously be spoon feeding this shit to our daughters, our sisters, our mothers. No more. Tired of it. Done.

Listen to @MysteryExec already. It’s time. Be The fucking Change.

The Athena List And Why It Matters

Thanks to the brilliant Ava DuVernay, who tweeted this:

That link is to Time Magazine and an article about the inaugural Athena List. In case you haven’t heard of it (which I hadn’t until today), it is a list that has grown out of the Athena Film Festival comprised of 3-5 screenplays that feature a strong female protagonist. All the scripts on the list (at least for the current year) are based on true stories and the lives of real women. I don’t really know of the people or scripts involved, nor the methodology of how these particular screenplays were chosen.

And you know what? I don’t care.

I don’t care who’s on the list or why some great script isn’t on it or my great script isn’t on it. I am just really, very happy that this list exists. And I’m excited to see whatever comes of it.

The Weekend Reader – February 7ish

Folks, just a reminder that everything really is awesome:

In very brief yet larger and non-animated news:

How to get ahead in filmmaking (via The Guardian)

A career-spanning interview with producer Jeremy Thomas (who’s helped to make way more movies than you realize), right on the heels of the confirmation of High-Rise, led by the brilliant Ben Wheatley with the screenplay to be provided by Amy Jump.

Oh, and you know women- the people who make up more than half the population? Yeah, them. Well, in Hollywood, pay for women overall declines rapidly after the age of 34. Awesome. Hello retirement!* (via Indiewire)

*As an aside to this, if one more person equates a woman’s sexual desire/reproductive age with her ability to do a job- ANY JOB- there will be consequences. Just sayin’.

Until next week, a shout out to the Fat Girl Food Squad for making life more awesome. Awesome is the word of the week. Pass it on.

Woody Allen And A Strange Twist Over Broadway

Don’t forget, there is always more strangeness to be had…

The Wrap asks a fair question, given the talk around town: Will the Woody Allen Scandal Torpedo ‘Bullets Over Broadway: The Musical’?

I don’t know what has happened, or what will happen, in the portion of the universe that Woody Allen occupies. I’m going to be really honest about what I do know- he’s not my favourite filmmaker. So many people raved on how much I would looooooove Midnight In Paris, for example. I admit, it’s as close to loving a Woody Allen film as I’ve ever gotten (Come on- Set in Paris? Corey Stoll as Hemingway?! Tom Hiddleston as F. SCOTT FITZGERALD?!!!!1 Ahem.) But I didn’t love it nearly as much as the chorus of recommenders thought I would. But this?

Yes, please. More.

And that’s all I know for sure.

But, randomly (and the real point of this blog post), I noticed the article included this related link: Broadway Audience White, Middle Aged and Female, Study Finds and I went all WHAAAAAAAA?

If you read the entire article (and I recommend that you do), it basically states the Broadway audience is in their 40s and female. My question is what, exactly, is the “Broadway Audience”? There’s a pretty heavy divide between musical theatregoers and those who see plays, for example. And using selective surveys at 34 productions that only amounts to a cross-section that includes 5,000 or so voluntary respondents? How accurate is this data, really?

Considering it’s taken from 11.58 million attendees who saw a Broadway show last year… Ummm…

I like to think everyone sees live theatre as often as they can. It can be tough, based on where you live and what your life involves, but I know you want to.

And admission is always the first step on the right path.

 

Carrie Underwood On Women In Music Today, Plus The Downside Of Goldieblox

“It’s been difficult, because we know there is a need for products like this. I appreciate what she is trying to do, but I don’t agree with the execution.” – Melissa Atkins Wardy on the GoldieBlox controversy (via Forbes)

“I don’t think women can get away with the partying, beer-drinking, hung-over, truck-driving kind of music that a lot of the guys have gotten away with lately.” – Carrie Underwood (via Billboard)

If you think the music industry is ever any more kind to women than Hollywood is, you’d be sadly mistaken. Carrie Underwood’s comments in a recent issue of Billboard, along with a related column from last year, really got me thinking. The appearance of new female artists across many genres- including, and especially, country- seem to be of smaller number every year. Obviously, less money is being spent on old school A&R, but new male artists don’t seem to have declined in similar numbers.

On the musical flipside, we’ve got GoldieBlox. Yup, that company that ripped off The Beastie Boys, GoldieBlox. The whole situation makes me sad, honestly. It’s sad that there is so little progress degendering toys that we have to latch on to any little thing that seems to promote the tiniest scrap of progress. The company apparently scored with a big Super Bowl ad and, as much as it makes me happy to see girls and women portrayed in a positive context no matter where and when, it sucks that it has to come from a company that has shown absolutely no regard for copyright laws.

I don’t agree with the execution.

For the moment, let’s leave it at that.

Sexism- Call It Out or Tune It Out? (Also, A Shakespeare Sunday Chaser)

I keep an eye out for freelance writing gigs of many kinds, mostly because freelancing for ages makes it a hard habit to break. But, hey, you never know what you’re missing if you don’t look around, right…?

Recently, I saw a very legit posting on a very legit website for a seemingly legit freelance gig. I went through and started work on the application process, part of which was going to the site in question and looking at some existing entries. That’s generally a good idea, even if it’s not required, I’d say.

In this case, it might have saved me time even just filling out the application.

You see, two of the reference articles on the very first page were 1- types of women that are easy to hate and, well, there’s no nice way to say it…

2- The first article on the first page was a list of girls who look hot with jizz on their faces.

Not joking. Needless to say, I’m not naming the publication, which was supposedly an all-ages/demographics kind of site.

Now, my original plan was to do the application and say “By the way, since you’re aiming for a wide audience, you may not want to alienate 50% of the population with misogynist content like that. And that’s not the type of content I’m interested in writing. Ever. But here are some cool factoids about Tom Hiddleston…”

So I thought about it and started the application. And then I walked away. I went back. And walked away again. Repeat x3. I think I’ve pretty much decided, aside from this commentary, to just leave it alone.

But still I wonder- Is it crazier to engage or to walk away from something like that? I know you have to engage when it’s in your face. But, when it’s online and could just die off with a lack of attention, is silence the better treatment?

In the meantime, I guess I’m going to have to post all my cool Tom Hiddleston factoids on here, instead. Thankfully, it’s Shakespeare Sunday, so I have a further excuse. Enjoy.

(Bless that man for taking the ick out of the interwebs…)

Megan Ellison And 2013 Spec Script Sales

Sigh.

I started off to post merely some very general observations about spec sales in 2013. But then I saw that tweet and thought to myself, man, if someone who is out there working and making a difference feels like this, the rest of us should feel…?

But we cannot fix the system, can we? No one person can. All we can do is the work. Mini-revolutionaries. Change from the inside. Small steps. Big hearts. Can’t lose. (Did I rip that off from elsewhere…? Ha ha.)

So, let us get the good/bad news out of the way. The good news? Lots of awesome writers sold spec scripts in 2013. Congrats to all.

There is an exhaustive list at Go Into The Story of 2013 spec sales. To be fair, I only did a quick scan of the 100+ title list, so I might have missed some nuances.

The not-so-good news? By my rough count, 15 women are on the list. Keeping in mind, of course, some of the scripts have more than one writer. Working out the percentage of female writers who sold spec scripts in 2013 to be right around 12%.

I really can’t explain this. If anyone can, I’d love to hear it.