This isn't just some fleeting thought as I look at a Snapple lid (is that still even a thing? Random quotes or zen musings on the underside of Snapple lids?!). This is something I honestly spend time considering. I wonder if I should go into a different line of work. If I should go back to teaching full-time. If I should do more to be the change I want to see. And it's hard, because I truly love what I am working at professionally. But I often wonder if it's enough. Or trivial. Or inconsequential.
When I moved to Los Angeles I knew I wanted to be a screenwriter. I also knew it would be difficult. A hard profession to break into. During my first week of film school at UCLA a professor told my lecture class that it was harder to break into screenwriting than it was to become a professional basketball player. I've never forgotten that. This is the majors. This is the show. This is where only the best and brightest get a chance to shine.
And so I thought if I worked hard enough, was good enough, eventually my efforts would pay off. And I've put in the time. I've done the work. Nine years worth. Hundreds and thousands of hours at my desk writing. Countless more hours at classes, workshops, applying, strategizing, networking networking networking. And yet I had no idea that my gender, that being a woman, would be a part of the equation. That being female might make it SO MUCH harder to get in the door in Hollywood.
But it has.
In the last few years I've become hyper aware of the lack of diversity in this business. Both in front of and behind the camera. Both on the page and on the screen. Consider these statistics:
- In the top 100 grossing films of 2016, women represented just 3% of cinematographers, 4% of directors, 11% of writers, 14% of editors, and 19% of producers.
- In the top 100 grossing films of 2016, females comprised only 29% of protagonists.
- During the 2015-2016 broadcast network TV season, women accounted for only 27% of all individuals working as creators, directors, writers, producers, executive producers, editors, and directors of photography.
- During the 2015-2016 broadcast network TV season, 98% of programs had no women directors of photography, 91% had no women directors, 78% had no women editors, 76% had no women creators, 71% had no women writers, 26% had no women producers, 26% had no women executive producers. (Women and Hollywood)
So it's not that I have to just try and break into the industry. It's that I have to break into the 24% of the industry I'm allowed to be in. Or invited to be in.
Yeah, that's disheartening.
But... change is happening. It's slow and it's hard and it's often two steps forward, eleven steps backward. But it's happening.
And I'm a part of that.
For several years now I've been talking about this issue to everyone who will listen. In person, on social media, yelling it from the rooftops, reposting articles, sharing my entertainment choices with the world, letting it be known how important it is for all of us to watch and read and listen to stories written and directed and produced and created by women. By people of color. By anyone who has traditionally been shut out of the storytelling world.
And on Sunday something happened that told me all my yelling has not been for naught.
After church I was chatting with friends. Several male friends to be exact. They were asking me questions about the web series and we got to talking about movies and TV in general, we talked about Wonder Woman specifically and before I knew it, in two different conversations, two of the men brought up the hashtags I use on social media.
One of the guys said his consciousness has been raised so much by my postings and now he pays attention to the whole movement of #awomanwrotethat. I smiled and was so proud and so excited. I couldn't believe that I had actually raised someone's awareness. I had affected change. In such a tiny way. But in such a real way. And this twenty-something guy now pays attention to the entertainment world around him in a different way. I could not have been more thrilled.
Then a few minutes later the conversation widened, added a few more people, and we got to talking about Wonder Woman. And as soon as the title of the movie came up, another male friend shouted out, "#awomandirectedthat!" and smiled broadly at me. Seriously. How freaking cool is that?!
Change does not come easily. It does not come quickly. But it does come. It always comes. And on Sunday, I saw how something I had done, something I had instigated with my friends, changed their minds, changed their lives. They now realize that this idea that's so important to me, is important to everyone. Women's voices need to be heard. They need to not be silenced or left out of the conversation.
Monday morning on set we had a few moments of downtime. We were waiting for the last crew member to arrive and the set grew quiet. And I took that opportunity to share the story of what had happened Sunday after church. We are a crew of ten working on this web series and we have eight females and two males. We are not the norm, and we all realize this. But as I shared my story, to encourage all of us in the work we are doing, and the importance of telling stories that a woman wrote or produced or directed or edited, I looked around and saw a new norm. I saw the future. The future is change. And the future is brighter because of it.
A story can be so much more than a story. A perspective can be a world of difference. A sentiment can change a mind. A hashtag can change the world. In fact, it already has.