Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Male/Female writers

Q: I was wondering from your experience of script-reading if male and female writers tend to write different kinds of scripts? Is it rare, say, to have a woman writing a thriller or an action movie? Would the industry take the script less seriously because of it? I heard JK Rowling used her initials so boys wouldn't be put off reading her books because she was female.

To be perfectly honest, I rarely know or acknowledge what sex a writer is before I read the script. What I look at is the title of the film and then check how many pages the script is before I start reading. And then when I do the report, I’ll type in the writer’s name and that will usually be the first time I’ll know who’s written it and what sex they are (unless I’m told before hand like: “I’m sending you over Richard Curtis’s new script” or the name is of an androgynous nature like “Nicky Pearce”. I made that up but if there’s a Nicky Pearce out there, hello!).

But it’s an interesting question and I would have to say that most scripts I read are from men. There seems to be considerably fewer women screenwriters or wannabe screenwriters than the plethora of Alpha Dogs who grunt themselves on to paper in the hope of Hollywood glory. And like you point out, it is uncommon for a woman to write a thriller or action movie. I’m sorry if this fulfils a stereotype here but the scripts that I do read from women are usually romcoms or relationship dramas.

More important however is your query about the industry taking a script less seriously if it was written by a female. This, I can categorically state, is nonsense. I don’t know if it exists in publishing or any other writing field but in screenwriting I don’t think the producers or execs care where it’s come from as long as it’s a good script. JK Rowling may have used her initials so boys wouldn’t be put off reading her books but let’s face it, JK has a cool ring to it and makes a much better moniker.

If a woman has written an action film or thriller and has doubts whether the industry will take it seriously, then she has nothing to fear. Getting your script in the hands of someone in the industry who’s willing to take a look is a hard enough task as it is (sometimes even with an agent) but you can be rest assured that all scripts are judged and considered on their content only.

Occasionally, if a script has a woman protagonist and the female characters are well-written, I may check to see if it’s written by a bloke or not. I realise that this isn’t really done the other way around (if a women writes good male characters, no-one says a thing) but it is a general tendency for the industry to give a male writer extra credit if he writes well for women, something which is unfair and no doubt frustrating for female writers and actresses everywhere (in a recent Creative Screenwriting podcast, the female cast of Rodrigo Garcia’s “Nine Lives” took issue of the question as to how they felt a male writer captured the female characters so well).

So while there’s a growing equilibrium between male and female in society, you will get the inevitable bias in some areas but in screenwriting terms, it doesn’t matter if you’re Matt or Martha. If you’ve got a good script, no matter what genre or gender bending nature, producers are going to want it, and you.


Lincoln lass said...

Thanks Danny. The script I'm working on started out as a romantic drama and has now evolved into a thriller - so at least it'll have novelty value!!
Thanks for the blog, lots of useful stuff.

Fran Perillo said...

Interesting one this Danny. As someone who often gets mistaken for a woman because of my name (Francesco but mates call me Fran) I've often wondered whether it would be a profitable point of difference. Almost all the writers I know are men yet a lot of women seem to work in the industry - certainly in 'reading' positions. I even wrote a script called How to Murder Your Husband And Make A Profit just to see what it was like generating something with a female lead. My wife certainly found it entertaining.

On a separate note: as the festive season approaches, are you planning a Xmas drink in town with your readers? As your blog is one of the best things I've had from two years of Shooter's membership (the other being a good deal for Lovefilm) I for one will be happy to buy you a beer.

Danny Stack said...

Thanks Fran. Too kind.

All Xmas drinks will have to be of a virtual kind as it's going to be pretty hectic between now and the holidays, and I'm not going to be in town much, if at all, truth be told.

But I'll take a raincheck for the New Year.

Anonymous said...

Hey Lincoln Lass - there's a real shortage of girly screenwriters out here on the town. Come out and 'network' with us all! tee hee!

Danni-with-an-I said...

Hi Danny, Am loving your blogs. I'm also a screenwrietr and attemptng to write my first feature whilst looking for script reading jobs. (Trying to save money from my 'sensible job' 1st b4 I start 'living the dream.') Anyway wondered what you knew about animation. I have written a few sketches and an ani sitcom and apart from sending it to contacts I already know within ani companys wondered if you knew of any other/better routes I could take. Cheers Danni-with-an-I ;)

Danny Stack said...

Sounds like you're doing the right things Danni. Although, again, any kind of sitcom (animation or otherwise) would have a better chance of going through the top comedy production companies or at least doing a co-production with them to give it more clout. C4's Comedy Lab usually like to do at least one animation project amongst the chosen five or six so that would be a good way to go but if it's for kids, then any of the bigger production companies and/or take it to Cartoon Forum and the like. It's hard though.

Anonymous said...

Heck, guys,gals, I'm knee deep in a script-film project which opens with a lady (an engineering professor) narrator. AND, because the subject-content demands realism, that portion of the script MUST be written by female, although the concept itself, originates with a male, me.
Surprisingly, finding a willing female apprentice hasn't been a simple task.