Last week we looked at some of the statistics regarding women in film and discovered that they’re pretty pathetic. And we looked a bit at the people running the studios—primarily men—and began to wonder if women had a chance, if the deck wasn’t sort of stacked against making films in which women figure prominently… or even, gulp, in which a woman was the lead character.
It can be depressing to look at the statistics I laid out last week—like women figuring into the top two of the three roles in a film only 18% of the time. It can make you feel hopeless. And the scarier thing—it can make you, the writer, feel like your script won’t have a chance unless you have a male in the lead.
But, as I said, we kind of look at those statistics and just accept that, hey, that’s the lay of the land, that’s the era I’m living in, those are the people I’m writing for, and we move on and create our male-driven scripts.
So here’s the killer question: what if we didn’t just accept that and move on? What if we drove the game rather than let ourselves be driven by it?
Take a breath. Think about it.
As many a film industry pro will tell you, ‘it all begins with the script.’ And who writes those scripts that begin everything?
Take a look in the mirror.
So how is change going to come? It’s going to come because we writers start writing the scripts that need to be written—scripts that tell the whole story of what it means to be human and that means stories that feature women.
Let’s do a bizarre, never-could-happen, hypothetical.
What if all the screenwriters wrote ONLY films with female leads in 2018. No male leads allowed. Think about it, think of all the female-driven screenplays pouring into the studios and to the production companies all over town. And if a studio or producer came to a writer during this year and offered him/her a pile of money to write a script with a male lead, every screenwriter turned that producer/studio down? Said, “Hmmm… can’t do it this year. Maybe next.”
Imagine that universe—where all the stories were female-driven. Where men played only supporting roles. Where as much as the powerbrokers kicked and screamed, no one would write a film with a male lead.
It almost seems silly, doesn’t it? It seems so arbitrary, cutting men out of the picture, relegating men to a second-class status. All the poor male actors with so much talent—and no lead roles for them to take! How unfair!!!
Are you grinning yet?
Because that’s exactly how women are treated in the business today—just as unfairly.
So wait a minute, maybe that is the answer. I mean, if Spielberg approaches you with a big seven-figure contract to write a male lead for him, I recommend you take it! But otherwise, what if we screenwriters focused our writing lives for 2018 on female-driven stories?
What if we led the industry, what if we created the trend instead of following someone’s else’s trend?
Think about it.
Copyright © Diane Lake