Women, arguably, have been overlooked in film since the dawn of cinema – especially screenwriting. But this is all starting to change. Just recently, Meryl Streep revealed The Writer’s Lab at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival. It’s core initiative: to fund and promote female writing talent. Out of 3,500 submissions, which is an astonishing number, only 12 female screenwriters were chosen. Streep is notorious for attaching herself to films written and/or directed by women. Note: this program is specifically designed for women OVER 40.
Women are making some great strides in cinema – especially in the screenwriting arena. And industry pro’s are now starting to reach out to female creative talent. Just in the past few weeks, we’ve had 3 SCREENWRITING LEADS that were ONLY looking for female writers (all were PAID):
- NYC-based Production Company (established in the 80’s) is seeking ONE female screenwriter to work directly with current director and cinematographer. All female applicants MUST have at least one verifiable produced feature credit (no shorts or commercials). This is a work-for-hire job. Payment: $6K upfront, plus 5% back-end points, and full writing credit. Compensation may be negotiated based off writing history.
- Our production company is looking to hire a female screenwriter to revise and extend our screenplay from 33 pages to 80 plus pages. Having familiarity with Blake Snyder’s “Save the Cat” beat sheet/structure is a plus. This is a work-for-hire agreement and fully-paid, with “screenplay by” credits in feature film.
- 5PMS needs a creative part time female video script writer to work with mostly women customers. We produce six types of videos and need an experienced script writer for producing commercial ads, employee orientation and training videos, documentaries, and more. $25/hour.
So I caught up with the well-known female writer/director/producer Farnaz Samiinia. Farnaz works for Sony Picture Classics. Some of her credits include “Charlie’s Angels”, “The Big C”, & “Justified”. Farnaz recently optioned a thriller script titled The Vault, which she’s hoping to do early of next year. She is also pushing an action/drama script forward called Magic Land. Here is a teaser, which she uses for promotional purposes only: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hbGmO7wJVVQ. Lastly, she is developing a crime TV Pilot called Trail by Fire.
SCREENWRITING STAFFING: Do you think women are equals in today’s Film/TV industry?
FARNAZ: I don’t think we are. There will always be a large divide between women and men in the entertainment industry due to types of projects female directors choose to create. The majority of female directors concentrate on drama, comedy, and romance genres, which appeal to a smaller audience than pictures directed by men, which are more mainstream and studio appealing.
SCREENWRITING STAFFING: Do you think there are a lack of women lead characters in today’s film market? If so, what kind of leads would you like to see women play? i.e., assassins, super heroes, soldiers, etc?
FARNAZ: Women are still treated like second-class citizens when it comes to most Hollywood movies. I’d like to see more women playing the lead in action Hollywood Blockbuster films. Females are underrepresented, not only on the big screen, but also behind the scenes (writers, directors, producers, and editors). In order to change this status quo in Hollywood, we need to have greater diversity behind the scenes as well as on the screen, and also focus on projects that are more mainstream.
SCREENWRITING STAFFING: As a successful writer/director/producer, do you lean towards hiring women writers/filmmakers as a means to bridge the gap in the industry? And is this subconscious or purposeful?
FARNAZ: As a producer/director, I like to work with women artists, depending on their vision and talent. It’s always important that you are on the same page with your talent and have the understanding in terms of what the producer or director are looking for. For instance, I’m more attracted to making commercial action/adventure films, and I always look for people who have the same vision as I do. In the end, it will be a business decision.
SCREENWRITING STAFFING: Should a woman screenwriter use her gender as a selling point in today’s industry?
FARNAZ: A screenwriter should use his/her talent as a selling point. If we use our gender as a “selling point” then we are devaluing and reducing our talent as artists.
SCREENWRITING STAFFING: Does being open about being a bold, professional female help or hinder a woman’s chances in today’s industry?
FARNAZ: I am a huge believer of honesty and being straightforward. I believe if we as professionals are straightforward with our intentions and goals and do not compromise our visions, the right people will respect and appreciate us more. Having a good reputation and great relationships in this business is a MUST.
SCREENWRITING STAFFING: Who are some powerful, successful women screenwriters/producers in this industry that we should follow?
SCREENWRITING STAFFING: Do you see the strong female lead in Hollywood (like “Gravity”) staying or dwindling, and why?
FARNAZ: I am hoping to see more female talent getting a chance to play strong female leads in Hollywood. I think women are more outspoken and independent now. It’s important that we stick to our values and believe in our talent as artists.
SCREENWRITING STAFFING: What advice can you give to women looking to find success in the entertainment industry?
FARNAZ: Go after your dream. It’s a tough business, and you need to learn how to have a thick skin. But anything is possible as long as you are willing to work hard, be persistent, and stay focused. Nothing comes easily, of course. There is price tag that comes with it. You need to be wiling to sacrifice a lot for your success.
Mickey Fisher, creator of CBS’s EXTANT, talks about strong female characters in a previous blog at The Backstory.
This interview/blog was organized by Jacob N. Stuart. Jacob is an award-winning, produced, and represented screenwriter, with OVER 15 scripts OPTIONED and/or PRODUCED to screen. He is the Founder of Screenwriting Staffing, the Screenplay Contest Director for the Cincinnati Film Festival, and a Screenplay Judge for the Universe Multicultural Film Festival.