The Weekend Reader – March 7ish (Toronto Comicon Apologia Edition)

First of all, even though it really slowed down the Weekend Reader, the weekend at Toronto Comicon was AMAZING. I will follow up with a post on some of the amazing artists but, for now, I will try and catch up on the week that was BEFORE the weekend…

And, of course, you probaly already know what John Travolta will call you when you meet him…

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.

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…)

The Weekend Reader – January 24ish

A short and late list this week/end… But some really good reads:

1- A really interesting article from The Guardian on live theatre versus recorded broadcast of theatre productions. The article is really thoroughly thought out and well-written, but I’d like to dumb down its conclusions:

Not everyone lives in a place where live theatre is common. And not everyone can afford to travel to see theatre. Conversely, there are people who live in Brooklyn and never visit the Statue of Liberty. The stars aren’t always aligned for a live performance to meet an audience and, since we now live in an age where we can have live performances preserved, why does anyone feel the need to be an elitist prick about it?

2- An article from THR about Ride Along that seems pretty ho-hum, until you read the comments. There is a strange trend to break down movie demographics for films that appeal to women or minorities. Anyone know why that happens? Or if THR is more guilty than other outlets to do so?

3- The DGA, Lexi Alexander Getting Real and an Infographic. Women in Filmmaking at Sundance (via Indiewire) … I hate to say it, but the Sundance study seems to really lend some credibility to the hypothesis from many corners- including Lexi Alexander’s blog post- that women just aren’t given as much of a chance to work in Hollywood.

4- Yet another awesome ep of Scriptnotes. I know you’re probably already all over it but, in case you’re not, it was focused on female directors with guest Carolyn Strauss. Listen to it.

Do You Read The Articles You Publish, E!?

That punctuation is tricky to figure out- if something ends with an exclamation point and you have a questions regarding a BONEHEADED THING THEY PRINTED, what’s the proper etiquette?

I’m just gonna go with calling them on it. Hopefully, you have’t seen this.

In brief: Zooey Deschanel is on the cover of Elle Magazine Women in TV issue. In the article, she says lovely things like “If there’s one thing I’d like to graduate from, it’s girl-on-girl hate. I don’t believe in it.” and describes social media as being akin to “…the grown-up version of middle school nastiness…”

Now, I thought, that’s a bit harsh… But then I saw the writeup on the article via E!, including this:

“The New Girl actress joins Mindy Kaling, Amy Poehler and Allison Williams in being honored for her comedic skills (and, come on, good looks!).”

So her comedic skills aren’t really why she’s being honoured, then? And those other women, had they been homely as hedge fences, wouldn’t have been deserving of being celebrated either? Or is the inference that Elle wouldn’t bother to honour any woman, funny as she might be, if she were considered ugly?

Don’t get me wrong- I totally get the slavering froth pile that is E! and their desire for an LCD audience- but I’m not accepting that as an excuse. In an public forum, can a woman not do her job well and be recognized for it without how she looks entering into the conversation? Maybe a good question to ask yourselves, rather than being kind of idiotically sexist…

Best Bits of 2013 – The Year of Screenwriting Dangerously

There are a glut (a word I do not use lightly) of “best-of” lists that appear this time of year. Originally, I wasn’t going to add to the pile at all, but I wanted to recap the work of screenwriters I’ve enjoyed in 2013. I’ve been blessed to be on the receiving end of so much great wisdom this year, so I figure this is the least I can do.

(A disclaimer- I am not a movie critic, so my viewing isn’t as thorough as someone who watches movies for a living. I see a lot of movies because I write movies. I sometimes gravitate more to movies/genres/stars/writers I like. And there are still a handful of unseen films on my must-see 2013 list, as listed below. So, better yet, don’t even consider this a year-end list. This is just a collection of films I liked in 2013 that had awesome writers and creators that I’ve learned a whole lot from. Enjoy.)

1-Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg – The World’s End

The only film I can ever imagine seeing in a theatre 13 times (which I really did do) because I am so much in love with the Pegg/Wright aesthetic. Shaun of the Dead turned me on to a whole genre and Hot Fuzz turned a genre I already loved on its head, but The World’s End was something… else. Something really beyond your average film-going experience. Something really smart,  invaluably sweet and utterly enjoyable.

Screenplays for all three films are available on The Ultimate Three Flavors Cornetto® Trilogy Blu-ray™ and there are oh-so-many how-to writing and filmmaking bits floating around online that the guys have shared in their decade-long writing partnership. A huge inspiration to me.

 

2-Ed Solomon – Now You See Me

My all-time favourite screenwriter since forever turned out to be the coolest, sweetest and most generous writer, possibly ever. Did I mention the smartest? Also, probably that. And did I mention I love his work. Swoon. Just swoon.

I was really enchanted by Now You See Me (remind me to post more about how great Mark Ruffalo always is) and I can’t wait to see whatever he works on next.

 

3-Katie Dippold – The Heat

I watched The Heat in theatres, on planes, in airports, in bed. I loved everything about it – including the performances and director – but I especially loved the funny and fearless script. It also prompted the realization that Katie Dippold was one of the few female screenwriters I could actually name… And that was part of the reason why this blog was created in the first place.

 

4-The Great Teachers of TX (Austin, to be exact)

I have been promising myself every year, literally, for nearly 20 years that I would make the trek to Austin, Texas to spend a week of sun and fun there during SXSW. Finally, this year, I made it… almost. I made it to Austin just in time for the 20th Austin Film Festival. I do not regret that choice. Those folks aren’t kidding around.

They say it’s a writer’s festival and they mean it. I spent a lot of time and money on screenwriting events over the past 12 months and, though Austin was kinda pricey, a lovely bunch of people made it worthwhile, including:

Craig Mazin – Identity Thief

Craig Mazin is really, really good at his job. Aside from the weekly Scriptnotes podcast with John August, he wrote both this year’s Identity Thief and The Hangover Part III. But it was Craig’s A-Game at the AFF that floored me. Especially his panel Structurally Sound. I couldn’t explain it to you if I tried but, man, it felt like a whole screenwriting education crammed into an oh-so-brief session (in a very tiny room, even).

Listen to Scriptnotes

 

Shane Black (with Drew Pearce) – Iron Man 3

This year, after a long and flirtatious courtship, I really fell hard for Shane Black. At AFF, listening to him talk in such loving, dulcet tones about noir, hard action, insane thrillers and Iron Man… You had me at noir, Shane. You had me at noir.

Listen to the brilliant On Story Podcast with Shane Black

 

Vince Gilligan – Breaking Bad

This was the year of Vince Gilligan was capped off with the heartbreakingly brilliant end of Breaking Bad. I very nearly expected the AFF crowd would organize a parade to hoist and carry him through the streets. And deservedly so.  In the lead up to the AFF, I did some binge-watching of classic Gilligan-penned X-Files eps like Memento Mori and Drive. I have so much respect for someone working at that insane level of talent.

Listen to the lovely On Story Podcast with Vince Gilligan

 

(Side note: is it weird that I can’t find any of the video from the Austin Film Festival? They seemed to film everything, and there was so much good stuff… If anyone knows where I can point to, let me know!)

5-For Heroes, Thrillers and those Lost in Space

Joss Whedon (with a little help from William Shakespeare) – Much Ado About Nothing

Find someone Joss Whedon hasn’t inspired and I’ll give you a nickle. I have a lot of nickles and I’ve never had to give one away. (I forgot about Much Ado initially, only because I first saw it at TIFF in 2012. It was magic, though, no matter how or when or where you saw it. Enough with the Marvel nonsense Joss! Make more Shakespeare!)

 

Nicolas Winding Refn – Only God Forgives

Another early entry that may not be for everyone, but film I liked from a generous filmmaker nonetheless.

 

Scott Z. Burns – Side Effects

There aren’t enough straight-up adult thrillers. I don’t think Hollywood ever had an era where they cranked out an excess of these. There’s no time like the present…

 

Richard Linklater, Julie Delpy, Ethan Hawke – Before Midnight

I love these movies. Richard Linklater has written a bunch of other brilliant movies. Julie Delpy has written a bunch of other great movies. Before Midnight is a masterclass in everything.

 

Alfonso and Jonas Cuaron – Gravity

One thing I’ve learned in 2013 is that the more movies you watch, the more cynical you can get about the strained, cookie-cutter fare that seems to rerun endlessly. If you ever wake up feeling like that, watch Gravity. Or anything Cuaron, really.

 

7-The New Kid

Ryan Coogler – Fruitvale Station

I’ve already declared my Best Picture for 2013 because the only movie that made my heart stop in 2013 was Fruitvale Station. So, if you haven’t seen it, do. And if you’re the type who votes, take it under consideration.

Read the unlikely story of Ryan Coogler

 

Still playing 2013 catch-up (some are available for reading right now, thanks to Go Into The Story for the links):

Enough Said by Nicole Holofcener

Dallas Buyer’s Club by Craig Borten and Melisa Wallack

Saving Mr Banks by Kelly Marcel

Philomena by Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope 

Nebraska by Robert W. Nelson

Mandela: The Long Walk To Freedom by William Nicholson 

August: Osage County by Tracy Letts 

Inside Llewyn Davis by Joel and Ethan Coen

 

And, yes, this is still my favourite clip from 2013. No contest. Happy new year indeed.

Davis + Davis = Two Women Who Have The Secret to Slow Sexism in Hollywood

Two really interesting thoughts I wanted to share, from an acting point of view…

Geena Davis has Two easy steps to make Hollywood less sexist

Viola Davis says I will never see myself on screen

Both pieces are kind of sad and hopeful, somehow, at the same time. The (very simple) steps Geena Davis proposes seem to make sense… I hope every writer has tried the gender switch- in both directions- with at least a couple of characters at some point in their career. It`s such a worthwhile exercise. We can make change with quantity alongside quality.

As for seeing herself on screen, well, Viola Davis has a point there. She says, basically, that it`s because her range of humanity doesn`t mesh with the portrayal of black characters. I`d step that out even further and say almost nothing she mentions meshes with the general portrayal of women on screen, either. It`s a shame that an actor as brilliant as Viola Davis isn`t getting a flood of great roles that she has to turn down because there are just too many to choose from. It`s a shame that she`s still seeing the things we all see and that make us all scratch our heads.

And I don`t see why we can`t keep these things in mind as we strive to build the new normal. The more we write a quantity of women who are three-dimensional, the more everyone will get used to reading it. The more it gets read, the more it has the chance to get made. So, let`s do more of this. We can always do more of this. Go.

Aline Brosh McKenna on Scriptnotes and Gender Issues in Screenwriting

I love Scriptnotes. I`ve said it before and I`ll keep saying it- Scriptnotes is one of the most positive screenwriting resources I`ve found, and I rely on it (and on John August`s website in general) a whole lot.

And, even with all that love, I just caught up with last week`s must-hear episode on Positive Moviegoing.

(Read the full transcript or listen to episode 119.)

Aline Brosh McKenna has proved to be a great guest on the podcast (this was her fourth appearance). The trio covered a myriad of topics surrounding Positive Moviegoing, and it`s Aline who brings up the disparity in numbers of women working as screenwriters (if you`re listening, it comes up around the 59 minute mark).

Three very different (and very interesting) theories emerge:

John August – I wonder if culturally we have a different expectation about men in their 20s, it’s expected that you are broke, and you are sleeping on couches, and that your life is a disaster, but you’re doing all that stuff and so eventually you’re going to break through. And we perceive a woman who is doing that as being a failure.” 

I really identify with this idea. I think there is, still, a cultural expectation that women are expected to only be doing certain things with their time. Or wanting certain things, even. For myself, as I slogged through the ups and downs of being a professional writer in my 20s, I was practically surrounded by girls who seemed to care most about who they were dating or how lovely they could make their homes look. Honestly, I knew few women who identified themselves with anything even remotely resembling ambition for their own lives. And practically none who were willing to sacrifice relationships and home comforts to achieve any kind of dream they might have had that was their own. I have heard more than one woman say something like – Oh, I would love to take time out to write. After I`m married and I have a couple of kids, I`ll stay home and do that.

Wait, what?  Writing is not a hobby, or an abstract idea, or even a particularly strange way for a lady to make a living. Writing is a vocation. Some people work hard and sacrifice to make it a real job for themselves. I have never understood why women. generally, don`t always seem to take it seriously. I`ve honestly never heard of a man who says he`s going to wait until he`s married and has a couple of kids to start writing. I`m going to guess that he just writes.

Craig MazinI wonder if this is something in terms of the gender thing that women are trained by the world around them, if not by their parents, to not aggressively go after what they want because they themselves have an inherent desirability. That they are instructed to essentially play hard to get and to let things come to them.” 

Interesting. I kind of agree with this as well. Society really rewards women for very specific things, and desirability (as Craig so eloquently put it) it number one on the list with a bullet. So, if you focus your energy on making yourself desirable, or even likeable in some cases, that`s time and energy you`re taking out of your life. Poof, it`s gone, and you can`t spend it on other things. I think it`s fairly culturally obvious that women spend far more time worrying about being likeable than men do. And, as we all know deep down, the only way you can get ahead in anything is not listen to the haters. There will always be haters.

Aline Brosh McKenna – “I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about why there aren’t more female screenwriters and I think it’s this aspect of being an entrepreneur. You are really running a small business which is you. And you have to put yourself out there every day and wear your sandwich board of like, “I’m interesting. You’re going to listen to me.” And I think that women are attracted to things where they can demonstrate excellence in a somewhat prescribed fashion. That’s why women are killing men in colleges and graduate schools. But screenwriting is not like that.” 

… I think that it’s not a thing that we encourage women to do from childhood is to really say like, “I’m interesting…” 

“… it takes a leap of faith and a confidence in yourself to say, yeah, I’m a writer, I have something to say. Because essentially what you do as a writer is you say, “Listen to me.” 

“… what I didn’t know is you’ve got to have the goods, be good at what you do, serve that apprenticeship of becoming good at what you do, but you also have to say, “My point of view is valuable. Listen to me. I have something to say.”

But what I would say is if you’re trying to get into Hollywood screenwriting, which is a more Mandarin, closed system, you have to bet on yourself.”

I included a lot of what Aline had to say because, really, I think she`s landed on something that could (and should) be one of the great solutions. The equalizer.

It`s true for everyone, of course- you have to believe that what you have to say has value in order to say it. But that`s virtually impossible when you start out with little (or no) faith in yourself. If your society, culture, family and friends are all telling you that your value is limited (or even nonexistent) your voice is going to have to be loud enough, and faith in yourself strong enough, that you can drown out every bit of noise that comes at you.

And you know what? It can`t be done. Not every minute of every day. No matter how much support you have. At some point, someone is going to call one of your female characters a bitch and you are going to get bummed out, lie on the couch, eat Chicago Mix and not shower for a couple of days. And you know what else? That`s OK. Giving yourself permission to write is giving yourself permission to fail. So, when you`re ready to dust off the crumbs and start again, everything really will be OK. I promise.

Thanks to John, Craig and Aline for letting us listen in. (And thanks to Stuart for typing it all up!)

 

 

Lee Gordon, The First Woman In The DGC

Add this to the pile of things I knew nothing about. Well, two things:

1- The Director’s Guild of Canada publishes a magazine

and

2- The first woman admitted to the guild was Lee Gordon (The link goes to a PDF of the magazine, and her profile is on page 40.)

I shudder to think about the kind of prejudice she faced in mid-20th century movie making. So many women were discouraged from work in general, forget film making. Women like Lee Gordon are a big part of the reason why we can keep fighting for equality. So, when you have a minute, read her profile. Anything we can do to learn from history, we have women like Lee Gordon to thank, that we can take full advantage.

Show Of Hands: Yet Another Depressing Infographic, Anyone?

Sorry if this graphic renders huge but, hey, it`s worth seeing. In glorious, depressing detail.

The shocker for me was that Lena Dunham was the first woman honored by the DGA. It`s the 21st century and, really, this is just happening now. Really?

Bright side:  It`s great to be inspired by women who are really at the top of their game. Especially Ava DuVernay. I had a chance to hear her speak at TIFF this past year. She is awesome. All the women listed here are doing amazing and inspiring work. There`s lots out there to get inspired by. That`s the good news. So let`s focus on that for the moment.

Thanks to the New York Film Academy.

New York Film Academy takes a look at gender inequality in film