|Jill Golick, President Writers Guild Canada, at the Women's Resolution presentation|
Statistics from writers' organizations around the world show clearly that women writers are under employed. We write fewer scripts, receive fewer commissions, have shorter careers and earn less than our male colleagues. Women have the talent, experience and ambition to participate as equals in every aspect of the industry. What stands in our way is institutional gender bias. We the 30 guilds and writers organizations present at the Warsaw Conference of Screenwriters 2014 representing 56000 male and female screenwriters, call upon our commissioners, funders, studios, networks and broadcasters to set the goal of having 50% of scripts across genres and at every budget level to be written by women.The World Conference of Screenwriters also streamed a session called Gender, the Lack of Representation of Women Writers, with participants from Germany, Britain, Canada, Ireland, Sweden and France. There were a few streaming hiccups at the beginning and the first thing I heard was something about 'a population of 4 million', the same population as New Zealand's. And that was David Kavanagh, from the Writers Guild of Ireland. I loved hearing him discuss his research on the representation of women writers in Irish films. Here's a slightly blurry screenshot about the Irish numbers–
Investment in women's scripts falls once a producer is necessary in New Zealand, too. Does it happen everywhere? Do producers, women and men, have some kind of bias – conscious or unconscious – towards screenplays that men write? Do women write more often about women and are producers and funders, even now, more comfortable with screenplays about men (and with screenplays by men when the screenplays are about women)?
But bias – or as David Kavanagh describes it, discrimination – by producers and the Irish Film Board is only one of the possible hypotheses raised by these statistics. In the panel – where he didn't have much time to go into detail – he referred to 'angry debate' among those who'd discussed the research. As I understand it, some women insisted they write 'differently' and their scripts are therefore unattractive to producers and funders. Others counter-insisted that they write in the same way that men do. Do women write (and direct) 'differently'? I think some women do and some women don't and that there's probably more space offered to those of us who can assimilate into the various master narratives, but I have no evidence of this beyond the anecdotal. David Kavanagh also referred to the (perennial) issues around family and freelancing as a significant element for consideration. And talked about resistance to change from those who can make it, even when they are surprised by the statistics and appear at first to be supportive. This was the first time I've heard a man talk with authority and passion about the under-representation of women scriptwriters and the frustrations of making change and it was an extraordinary experience.
As I was thinking about this, this morning, a tweet came through from the European Women's Audiovisual Network. Women from Les Fées Productions (Sandrine Pillon) and Sensito Films, (Stéphanie Douet) have set up a new group, Femmes & Cinema, to develop a fabulous idea called Femmes Actives. This is another amazing response to the data.
|Presentation of Femmes Actives|
Is this fine idea one that could also be developed in other parts of the world as part of the necessary changes? Why not?
Femmes & Cinema
French research links, courtesy Femmes & Cinema
I haven't included a poem for a while, but fell over this from the closing remarks at the World Conference of Screenwriters, given by Chris Keyser. And loved it. Loved it also as an introduction to a woman writer I didn't know about.
The Joy of Writing
The twinkling of an eye will take as long as I say,
and will, if I wish, divide into tiny eternities,
full of bullets stopped in mid-flight.
Not a thing will ever happen unless I say so.
Without my blessing, not a leaf will fall,
not a blade of grass will bend beneath that little hoof's full stop.
Is there then a world where I rule absolutely on fate?
A time I bind with chains of signs?
An existence become endless at my bidding?
The joy of writing.
The power of preserving.
Revenge of a mortal hand.
Wislawa Szymborska (1923-2012) winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature 1996