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.