Archive for the ‘women in tv’ Category

A Familiar Story

11th August 2009 by Maura McHugh

The Writers Guild of America (West) has published the 2009 Hollywood Writers Report, called Rewriting an All-Too-Familiar Story?, which looks at the statistics regarding the employment of screenwriters in Hollywood broken down by gender, race and age.

What’s notable is that the percentage of women writing for film/television is not improving, and there is some evidence that their earnings are decreasing (these figures only go as far as 2007 before the current change in the economy). The situation among writers from a minority background has improved by a barest margin.

The following are some highlights from the report:

Women Writers’ Overall Employment Share Remains Largely Flat

Between 2003 and 2007, gains for women writers have not exceeded one percentage point in any of the employment areas. Women, who account for slightly more than 50 percent of the U.S. population, remain underrepresented in television employment by 2 to 1 and in film employment by nearly 3 to 1.

Earnings Gender Gap in TV

Women television writers earned about the same in 2007 ($82,604) as they did at the beginning of the five-year report period in 2003 ($82,000), despite spikes in earnings in 2005 and 2006. The television earnings of white male writers, by contrast, increased by nearly $4,000 over the report period (from $84,300 to $87,984), after peaking at $100,000 in 2005 and 2006.

Earnings Gender Gap in Film

The gender earnings gap in film for 2007 ($41,724) was the largest since at least 2003. Film earnings for women were down from the 2003 figure of $62,500 in 2005 ($50,000), 2006 ($55,500), and 2007 ($57,151). By contrast, the earnings of white male writers increased by more than $8,000 over the period, from $90,476 in 2003 to $98,875 in 2007.

White Males Continue to Dominate in Overall Earnings; Minority Earnings Approach Those for Women

Minority writers earned $87,652 in 2007, compared to $90,686 for women and $112,500 for white males. The $24,848 gap between minority earnings and white male earnings in 2007 represents nearly a $14,000 reduction in the $38,490 gap evident in 2005, the last year covered in the previous report. Meanwhile, the overall earnings gap between minority writers and women writers closed to its smallest point in 2007 ($3,034), which improved upon a much wider gap in 2005 ($12,868). Nonetheless, the overall earnings of white male writers significantly outpaced those of the other groups throughout the study period, reflecting the continuing dominance of white males in the industry

Gender Conference in UK

6th May 2009 by Maura McHugh

The Stage reports that the Sphinx Theatre Company in London is hosting a conference entitled “Vamps, Vixens and Feminists – The Elephant in the Room” to debate issues around the employment and representation of women in theatre, film and television.

It’s funded by the Arts Council England, and is being organised in collaboration with industry bodies, including Equity and the Writers’ Guild of Great Britain.

Sue Parrish, artistic director of Sphinx, said the introduction of the Gender Equality Duty in 2007 – which states that public bodies must take steps to pro-actively promote equality between women and men – had presented an “opportunity to raise these issues and be heard”.

She said two years since the directive came into force, ACE was still in the process of implementing the Gender Equality Duty, and added: “The event seemed like a wonderful opportunity for professionals from different parts of the industry to get together and really discuss what is going on and what might be done.”

The conference will feature contributors such as playwright Tanika Gupta and Katherine Rake – the chief executive of gender equality campaigning body the Fawcett Society.

Parrish said that she had deliberately avoided inviting political figures, including Equality and Human Rights Commission chair Trevor Phillips, because she did not want to hear “a lot of empty rhetoric from politicians who are having to make a fairly bland statement”.

The conference will be made up of a number of panels, including one that will address cultural and historical female stereotypes, led by Manchester University professor Vivien Gardner. Other panels will focus on writers, with contributions from Writers’ Guild president David Edgar and screenwriter Tracy Brabin, and actresses, led by Kate Buffery, who has been at the forefront of an Equity campaign to address the inequalities faced by older female performers.

The conference will take place in the Olivier Theatre at the National on Tuesday, June 16 from 10am until 1.30pm. Places are free and can be booked by emailing or by calling 020 7401 9994 by Friday June 5.

No Over 40s Please

25th February 2009 by Maura McHugh

Today The Stage reports that leading British screenwriters have alleged that UK television broadcasters are biased against drama that feature female characters over the age of 40.

This information has come out as a result of the Equity petition on gender/age imbalance in television drama in the UK, because people pointed out that writers needed to do more to portray a variety of roles for women.

But writers have argued that they often have little say over characters’ ages.

One, who did not want to be named, said: “The problem lies with commissioners, who only want to appeal to the young. A case in point might be the BBC’s Mistresses, which would arguably be all the more interesting for having a range of mistresses of all ages and backgrounds, as in real life.”

The writer continued: “Writers would love to have free rein to portray any age, sex, class, but are constantly getting the message from broadcasters that if you do want to get your script made, the only women they want to see are under 40.”

Another writer said commissioners favour male writers, who tend to write about men.

Stage Survey Women’s Roles

18th February 2009 by Maura McHugh

The Stage has created an online survey querying people’s perception of the quality of roles available to women and minorities in television and theatre drama.

It only takes a moment to fill in, so please take part.

Equity Petition Grows

18th February 2009 by Maura McHugh

The Stage reports that the Equity petition launched last week in the UK to improve the quantity and quality of roles for women in drama broadcast on the BBC, Channel 4, and ITV has already hit 1,000 signatures, and includes celebrities like Playwright Timberlake Wertenbaker, producer Jenny Topper and actor Imelda Staunton. Equity claims that for every female character in a TV drama there are two male characters.

It also says that leading parts are “frequently played by male actors over 45″, but argues that women in this age group “start to disappear from our screens”, and calls on the major UK television channels to “take action to correct this imbalance”.

Staunton was joined in signing the document by fellow actors Maxine Peake, Roger Lloyd Pack, Harriet Walter and Charles Dance.

Peake, who most recently appeared in the BBC drama Little Dorrit, said she agreed “whole heartedly” with the petition and added she would like to see more “female-driven dramas”.

Lloyd Pack, best known for playing Trigger in Only Fools and Horses, said he had supported it “in the interest of equal rights” and added: “On a practical level, I’m aware of how difficult it is for my female colleagues to find work and on a cultural one, I don’t understand why a whole generation of women should be excluded from story lines as if they don’t exist. What I hope would be the result of this petition is that writers would be encouraged to include more older female characters in their scripts.”

The petition was created by a new steering group within Equity, dedicated to highlighting the issues regarding female performers.

It includes Equity vice-president Jean Rogers and actress Kate Buffery, who, with other members of the group, took the cast lists of all dramas shown by the major terrestrial channels over a week and found that of 4,565 roles, 2,899 went to men and 1,666 to women.

Buffery, 51, admitted it would be “difficult to shift the status quo” but added: “This petition is saying to broadcasters over 50% of your viewers are women and there is a big voice out there, and that’s what we are trying to tap into. The fact most TV is aimed largely at young male viewers is not okay, and it says something rather shallow about our society.”

She said that most TV dramas feature young, “nicely-packaged” female performers and claimed more interesting parts for younger women would lead to older women being taken more seriously.

The petition follows a Europe-wide survey conducted by the International Federation of Actors, which found that female performers have shorter careers than male ones and that 60% of women do not feel TV represents them in a realistic way.

Buffery said that although the petition is specifically about television, she hoped it would pave the way to open up discussions about other areas of the performing arts.

Anyone can sign Equity’s petition, which is online here.