Only in comedy does an obedient white girl from the suburbs count as diversity. – Tina Fey
Screenwriting is like writing in the sand with the wind blowing. – Frances Marion
Why didn’t they ever make Screenwriter Barbie? Was it because she didn’t have a uniform that required heels? Screenwriter Barbie would love heels (her Studio Pitch Meeting Outfit would come with a really cute pair of Marc Jacobs wedges, and her Movie Premiere Outfit with a killer pair of d’Orsay Louboutins). But while working she’d most likely be barefoot, sitting at her desk at home, wearing her own quasi-uniform of American Apparel leggings and slouchy tees (think writing, think loungewear). She’d come with a clip to pile her hair on top of her head and a cute pair of glasses. And maybe some teensy 3×5 cards that could be pinned on an equally teensy corkboard – but no scripts because the brads would just be microscopic.
We girls can do anything, right Barbie? Yes, we can. But, Hold On.
That song has been in my head ever since I saw Bridesmaids. Have you seen it? Go. Now. I’ll wait until you get back and we can discuss how SNL’s Kristin Wiig and co-writer Annie Mumolo are totally breaking the rules. They’re writing things that aren’t, supposedly, funny for girls to do. And they’re doing another thing girls aren’t supposed to do – make box office hits.
When ticket sales soar, other studios are apt to follow suit. This could be quite the time for women writing in Hollywood.
Reason #4,324 as to why I hope this whole 2012 prophecy thing doesn’t hold water.
In addition to Wiig writing/acting/producing Bridesmaids, women in film and TV are making headlines both onscreen and in print. The top five nonfiction New York Times Best Sellers this week include books by Tina Fey and Chelsea Handler.
Women are writing and acting and producing and winning awards. They are getting things made.
But women only make up about 17% of film and 24% of TV writers. With the ratio of working female screenwriters to male screenwriters, there’s a common misconception that women are working hard to join some boy’s club. Perhaps ‘reclaim it’ it is more like it.
My family has been making movies since before the HOLLYWOODLAND sign went up. It’s a history I know pretty well. But in college, I was amazed to learn how powerful women writers were in the early days of film, especially in the 1920s and 30s. Thrillers and dramas and comedies – women weren’t just writing women’s films. They were writing movies. Period.
(Something to sprinkle into your next dinner party conversation: From 1916 through the 1930s, Frances Marion was the highest paid screenwriter in Hollywood. A lady writer. Now, go watch Dinner At Eight. Or The Champ.)
I find it puzzling when it’s reasoned that more films by women aren’t being made is because women only write about ‘women’s issues.’ Writers make stuff up. It’s probably the best part of our job.
Screenplays about alien invasions, espionage, and nuclear meltdowns are generally written without firsthand experience. I’ve seen incredible films about a mother’s loss or relationships between sisters written by men. Making stuff up is not gender-specific. If we’re really good at it, you give us trophies.
And so, maybe, if the studios see that women can write male comedy (or whatever you want to call it), and that films about women sell tickets, then perhaps they’ll start reading more stuff by women, regardless of genre.
As three wise women once sang from mountaintop to shore, “Don’t you know things can change? Things’ll go your way. If you hold on for one more day.”
Maybe, just maybe, that day has come. xo a.