Last night I hosted the Women in Film & Television Writers’ Group. A group I set up nearly 6 years ago to support and nurture female writing talent, which has always been underrepresented – a study by the BFI showed that women made up just 16.1% of writers on independent films released in the UK between 2010-2012.
As my flexible working time has been reduced since I’ve had children, and the need to be doing things that equal (or will hopefully lead to) cold hard cash to put food on the table for my little people, becomes ever more important, at times, I’ll be honest, it’s been hard to justify time spent doing something that can be time-consuming when there is very little time available, and equals absolutely zero ££ (WFTV is a not-for-profit organisation and I have always run the group on a voluntary basis).
But night’s like last night are the reason why I do it. Because women are amazing. Because the stories they want to tell and are telling, are brilliant. And because when you lose female voices you lose believable (and varied) female characters on screens. You lose female stories and issues on screens. You lose women on the screens that dominate our 21st century lives. There is a saying that you have to see it to want to be it. I want my daughter to grow up thinking she can be anything she wants, not just someone’s bit-part wife/mother/secretary/victim. And I don’t want my son to be thinking of women in that way either.
We all know that motherhood wipes out huge swathes of women from the workforce. That’s not to say that the women it wipes out from film & TV are any more important, all women everywhere being forced to leave work (if they want to carry on) is awful. But I do worry about the wider impact it has when our films & TV watching reinforce the idea of women as the second fiddle.
A report in the US done by The Centre for the Study of Women in Television and Film found, in 2015, that females comprised 22% of protagonists, 18% of antagonists, 34% of major characters, and 33% of all speaking characters in the top 100 domestic grossing films. That’s not anywhere near half. Sobering isn’t it? These are the films we all watch. The films our kids watch. “You have to see it to want to be it” got a bit more scary now right?
So I run this one Writers’ Group to help nurture female screenwriters, this is something I can do. My bit of help and support for these women who are swimming against the tide. If you are a film/tv person then do join WFTV, they run some terrific events and women helping women is such a great thing. If you are a female screenwriter please do come along one month to the Writers’ Group – you can book for events via the WFTV website (or email me if you want to just come along and see what it’s all about, I’d love to have you). There are no events in August but the next one will be Wednesday 7th September. And finally a shout out to Raising Films who are doing fantastic stuff to draw attention to the issues faced by parents in the industry, and how we might be able to start to fix them.
Women are amazing, but very few will say they are. They should, but they don’t, so we need to tell each other.
So whoever you are, whatever you do, please lift up the women around you. For no other reason than because you can. Because they won’t ask for it, and isn’t it just a good thing to do?