Just a few short months after HBO announced a writing fellowship program for minority screenwriters (“minority” including all women, in this case), New York Women in Film and Television (NYWIFT) has announced that Meryl Streep will be funding a writers lab exclusively for female screenwriters over the age of forty.
With more Academy Award nominations than any actress or actor in history, Meryl Streep appears to be the perfect voice to lead a rising tide of female presence in film and television, two connected industries that have a reputation for catering to white, male writers. While many programs designed for screenwriters are encouraging minority and female participation (like HBO’s new fellowship), they tend to lean toward younger talent. Streep’s lab takes a unique approach by encouraging female writers over a specific age, particularly an age that isn’t often encouraged in an environment that places emphasis on young, “emerging” voices. While young voices do lead to diverse shows with compelling characters that reflect a modern age and ideals and values, the result can often mean our television shows and films are full of characters designed to mimic the experiences of a younger audience.
According to Women Make Movies (wmm.com), “in 2012, women comprised 18% of all directors, executive producers, producers, writers, cinematographers, and editors working on the top 250 domestic grossing films. This represents an increase of 2 percentage points from 2010 and an increase of 1 percentage point from 1998.” 18% percent is a low number, especially considering that when it comes to the Academy Awards, there have only been four female Best Director nominees in the Academy’s eighty-seven year history. And of those four women, Kathryn Bigelow remains the only female Best Director winner for her The Hurt Locker (2009). The push to include a new demographic of writers (and of women) is likely a result, in part, of the success of certain female writer titans in the industry at the moment. These titans include Kathryn Bigelow (who is sixty-three, pictured above), as well as women like Shonda Rhimes (pictured below), who is also in the age bracket above forty, and whose work includes hit television shows like ABC’s Scandal and How To Get Away With Murder.
The writing lab will open to applications on May 1, and the deadline will extend to June 1. More information can be found on NYWIFT’s website, nywift.org. Statistics about women in the industry were taken from Women Make Movies. For more information about female presence in film and television, visit wmm.com.