Tuesday, 6 December 2011

The 50%

I've been voraciously - almost vindictively - reading the daily Women In Hollywood column in IndieWire for months.  FINALLY someone is willing to put in numbers what has been so glaringly obvious  - women are ridiculously under-represented in entertainment, from script to screen.
It was hard to find a picture

The figures are staggering - from a 2 to 1 ratio of males on screen, to the latest figures on nominees and Sundance selections, if you do the math, it's decidedly unpretty.  Here's a sad list of all the facts and figures.

It's got to be more than end-user under-representation, though.  Something is wrong with the pipeline.  Women are simply not making enough projects for some of those projects to be great enough to dazzle the festival circuit and  awards season.  It certainly appears that enough women are trying to make projects, but those projects seem to have no support to get off the ground.  It's not because women don't go to the movies or watch television.  It's not because there's not a potentially lucrative market out there for this work.

Lately my inbox seems to be flooded with Screenplay Competition ads.  Occasionally, I actually look at some.  The judges - usually perceived to be industry heavyweights, are almost always exclusively  male.  Sometimes, there is a token female in a group of 4, 5, or 6 judges.  The winners are also usually all male, sometimes with a token female.

Now, screenplay competitions tend to be blind reads, so this is not discrimination per se.  It is more representative of the fact that, perhaps,  men and women gravitate toward different things.  In a competition where 80% of what judges read is terrible, 10% passable, and the remaining 10% represent the possible prizewinners, a lot will depend on taste.  That male judges pick male stories is not a big stretch.  But since women are dropping $50 or $75 to get noticed in these competitions, it seems more than a little unfair.

Even when you pay to play, you still can't get in the game.

There is one competition that has struck me as so weighted against women, I want to throw a tantrum.  A "top Hollywood screenwriter" comes up with a log line (actually this time, it's a producer).  You write the first 15 pages of a script for that log line, and the "top Hollywood screenwriter" will judge the entries.


Here's the log line:
“A father and son find themselves trapped in the Bermuda Triangle after embarking on a quest to discover what happened to the father’s missing parents."
This competition has come around several times, and there is always a male protagonist, in a decidely male situation.  Writers, male and female, must know how to write characters of both sexes, surely, but how rare must it be for a woman ever to have an edge in a competition that deals  expressly with the province of masculinity?  (Unless, of course, the Bermuda Triangle is some kind of euphemism.)

The scary thing is, the people (men) running the competition probably do not even know they are discriminating.  They take their point of view, the dominant one, as baseline -- normal.  Or maybe I'm being too nice.  Maybe they do know.

Either way, the results are always the same.  We need a new normal.  One that includes women.

Kudos to Melissa Silverstein for keeping track of the facts and figures of our discontent. 

P.S.  If you haven't read Molly Haskell's seminal work From Reverance to Rape, you might want to.

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