The Weekend Reader March 28ish – (The Stuck In An Airport With You Edition)

Did anyone else notice March went by really, really quickly?

Also, did anyone else spend an inordinate amount of time in March reading about Chris Evans?

Just me? Alright…

All the Captain America-related reading will be found in next week’s Reader. As a result, you might notice a dearth of reading material this week. I’ve been on the road working, I swear. Not just swooning over Chris Evans. In fact, as I write this, I am stuck in an airport lounge waiting  for a delayed flight. As far as I know,  Chris Evans is not here, nor is he responsabal for the flight delay. So I think I need to stop thinking about him…

 

Ahem. Anyway:

Attention female filmmaker! There’s grant money out there to finish your films.

Are there differences between writers and the mentally ill? Not so much.

New York state may give incentives to encourage diversity in writers rooms.

David Goyer really doesn’t care what you think (umm… and maybe he should? Possibly? Perhaps?)

The Black List has TONS of partnerships happening right now. Be sure to check them out!

Jason Bateman’s BAD WORDS opens wide this week. It’s a filthy, funny adult comedy that you should see if you haven’t

And the best thing I saw this week (or, possibly, in 30 years…)

 

More next week. Until then, Chris Evans! Um… OK, I did honestly think that. I’m not gonna lie.

 

 

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.

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.

 

ICYMI: Roundup of Must-Reads from 2013

You`ve been busy writing. You`ve spent a huge chunk of the year, brow furrowed, trying to figure out what will happen to imaginary people who live in places that don`t exist. It sounds crazy, but it`s true. So, be sure to sit back and take a moment to celebrate your accomplishments.

And, as soon as that moment is over, get your ass back to reading and writing.

Here`s a (very short and quickly assembled) list for your holiday reading pleasure. Of course, you can scan back over the (brief) history of this blog and (hopefully) find more content, links and reading of interest to you.

Most importantly, no matter how measured your success in 2013, keep chasing your passions. Remember that hard work will always get you somewhere.

And all the other crazy cliches you can think of… Or:

The Black Board Presents Everything On Women Working In Film and TV

From Go Into The Story: Read (and learn from) 2013 Screenplays

Listen to the Scriptnotes Holiday Spectacular

Vulture and The Toughest Scene I Wrote

A list of Movie Cliches You Must Avoid

Read the wisdom of FILM CRIT HULK

Practice what [Mystery Executive] preaches

(Though there is really nothing better on Twitter than Stay Puft.)

Get thee to thy Black List

Even though Hollywood ain`t perfect, don`t forget that the tech sector is a sexist timesuck for women (especially as board members)

So always be thankful for what you got. Now drink up, and let`s boo boo. Happy Holidays!

 

Happy List-Mass Everybody!

(Haha! GET IT? Because it`s holiday time and there are lots of lists… No? Why am I wasting my delectable puns on you then?)

Well, it is that time of year. Again. Both The Black List and The Hit List are out. And lots of other lists, I am sure… But lists make me tired and, after too many of them, I get rage-y. So, let`s just stick with these for the moment, shall we?

(For a detailed breakdown of The Black List stats, THR has a good-un.)

I haven`t really officially counted, and I certainly don`t have an infographic (I`m much more of a Venn Diagram girl, for anyone still looking to get me a gift!) but there are trends. There are always trends. For example: 

-Lots of overlap on both lists (but lots of change in rankings from list to list)

-Lots of women on the lists are already employed on TV and a couple have been Nicholl Fellows (high fives all around)

-Lots of the writers have some kind of representation (I would say all of them do but, again, no hard numbers)

-Lots of the scripts are by established (and well-represented) writers, and a few have appeared on said lists in previous years 

-Lots of horror, sci-fi, thrillers and dying children (not necessarily all together… or separate)

-Lots of bios (two on Mister Rogers alone?!) and based on true stories (so, so many)

-Lots of the loglines for these are terrible (so, so terrible)

But have you noticed that some of these points seem to go against advice that`s perpetuated quite often to young writers? Including:

-If you write a great script, Hollywood will find it (apparently, representation needs to find you first)

-Don`t chase trends (Based-on-true stories seem to always be ranked so high on these lists, so wouldn`t writing a biopic generally give you a better chance at getting industry attention?)

-You need a great logline to pitch your script (Apparently that`s not true. At all.)

And so on.

Also, and I do hate to have to say this, but not a ton of ladies on the list…

Which brings up the age-old question- It is because of fewer scripts written or a lesser-quality of scripts submitted? Either way, it sucks. And it needs to change.

So, let`s all work on it. Let`s all try and Be The Change in 2014. Always quality over quantity but, yeah, let`s work on quantity too.

 

Don’t Do What Johnny Dont Does

I should probably say upfront that I am a fan of The Black List. I know there are complaints about… whatever they’re about, but I’ve gotten great guidance from the group over there. Plus, there’s The Black Board, which is a great place for screenwriters to discuss topics at hand (Bested only, I think, by the forums on Done Deal Pro, which I’ll save for another post).

But, for now, an interesting post from The Black Board that leads back to a Tumblr post by Jill Pantozzi.

It’s a couple of quick reads, and will leave you nodding your head and thinking all this makes sense… But if this all makes so much sense, why on earth does it still happen? The objectification of women in comics should have ended… I dunno, forever ago? But it persists in such blatant, inexplicable ways.

I spent days at a con earlier this year, sitting across from an artist with a portfolio that seemed to only consist of barely clothed women. He didn’t seem to get a lot of people stopping at his table, and I suspect that’s because the crowd at the con seemed to be more than half comprised of women. Which shouldn’t shock anyone. I hope. (Except maybe that guy.)