Meryl Streep & Lena Dunham Are Doing For Women In Film What Hollywood Will Not

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If you are an aspiring filmmaker, writer, director, producer, actor, heck even camera-person in Hollywood and you happen to be a woman, prepare to face the same uphill battle that men do, but times 1000. No we’re not kidding. Which is why the news of both Meryl Streep and Lena Dunham launching initiatives to help women gain opportunities in the film and TV industry are important.

Meryl Streep who is a huge advocate of women’s rights and the increased representation of women in the entertainment biz, has decided to put her money where her mouth is and launch a screenwriting program for women over 40. The initiative is a partnership with New York Women in Film and Television, female members of the creative network IRIS Film Collective and a handful of acclaimed female filmmakers.

Why is this significant? Because according to a study by the Writer’s Guild of America, female writers accounted for only 15 percent of feature film work in 2012, down from 17 percent in 2009. Since that report, there has been little improvement in the film industry, but in TV it is getting better. Women writers made up 27 percent of television writers, down only 1 percent from 2009.

While this awesome new writing lab for women over 40 won’t just limit them to writing female-focused content, having an increased presence of women over a certain age in Hollywood will no doubt make a difference as to how a particular age category of women are portrayed on screen. Like Amy Schumer, Patricia Arquette and Tina Fey, and Julia Louis-Dreyfus outline in this hilarious video sketch, women over a certain age are rendered “un-f***able”.

Vanity Fair who broke this news shared some valuable insight when it comes to women behind the scenes in Hollywood in general from a study by the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film who say the percentage of women behind the camera is actually declining. Women only represent 7 percent of directors, 11 percent of the writers, and 18 percent of the editors on the biggest moneymaking films over the past 17 years. Yikes!

In 2013, female characters made up just 15 percent of protagonists and 30 percent of all speaking characters in the top 100 grossing movies. The same study also claims women filmmakers, directors and writers are more likely to make films with women in lead roles and create stories about women, so Meryl Streep’s writers lab comes at a very crucial time. The Writers Lab will accept submissions May 1–June 1, with eight winning writers named August 1. But if film is not your medium, don’t worry, there’s more good news to go around.

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‘Girls’ creator and star Lena Dunham has launched a production company in Los Angeles with fellow ‘Girls’ showrunner Jenni Konner called ‘A Casual Romance’. The company plans to develop projects for both TV and film with subject matter that will push the ball forward on gender and sexuality in interesting ways, according to a report from Variety.

“When there’s an industry devoid of women, there’s a tendency for women to feel like they have to protect their spot, like there’s not enough room in town for both of us. We need to break that down and support each other, because as my dad always says, ‘A rising tide lifts all boats’,” said Lena about her new initiative to help women.

The company is roughly a year old, and with Lena & Jenni’s ties to HBO, the productions they work on will be sure to make their way to as big of an audience as possible. Lena is no stranger to the fight for women in an industry that has been male-dominated for so long, and now she is in a position to change the status quo, she’s not wasting any time.

“The statistics are pretty abysmal. It’s our job as women who have been given a certain amount of success and visibility to pull other women along with us.”

They already have a number of documentaries in production, including one about transgender identities, and a few scripted series for TV. Lena says she won’t necessarily be starring in all the projects as their goal is to nurture new talent. Variety credits her as the person who is creating a comedy empire similar to the drama empire Shonda Rhimes has created in prime time TV.

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As an aside, equality is something that is part of Lena’s DNA, which is why she is so passionate about feminism.

“I feel like young women aren’t comfortable with that word because they haven’t been properly educated about what it means. They’ve been sent the message that feminism is somehow unsexy, shrew-like women who feel like men should be stripped of power. What they don’t understand is that feminism is just a way to talk about equality,” she said.

We need women of ALL ages and all capabilities to make up an equal part of Hollywood. The more women there are behind the scenes, the better the representation onscreen.

But hey if this fight for equality is just too much and it feels like we are banging our heads against a brick wall, perhaps this hilarious video made by filmmakers Patricia Noonan, Nadia Quinn, Emily Tarver and Adrienne Campbell-Holt might take your fancy. The video features a group of well-known female actresses such as Rita Wilson, Mamie Gummer and Kathleen Chalfant who take part in a World Aid-type PSA to send the message that it is unfair how men only make up 93% of directors and 80% of writers, why not make it 100% and call it a day?!

“Makeitfair is a call for gender equality in the stories we tell, the wages we earn, and the future we shape. In it, statistics highlighting gender inequality in everything from film roles to government leadership are interspersed with a beautifully satirical song, yearning for a world where men get to have 100% of everything. As #makeitfair moves forward, the women involved will continue to raise awareness, ask tough questions, celebrate female talent, connect female artists to opportunities, laugh, create, and broaden the scope of the stories being told,” says the video description.

Sometimes it feels that way, that the numbers are moving slowly in the direction where men have complete creative autonomy. The more we share the statistics, and the harder we work to change it, perhaps videos like this won’t need to make us feel so overwhelmed. Like Lena Dunham said, we need to approach this issue together, not with the mindset that there are limited seats at the table. We’re so in awe of all the women, from the up-and-coming screenwriters who hustle everyday to get the right opportunities, to the Meryl Streeps and Lena Dunhams who are using their influence to change a skewed industry.

Check out the #makeitfair video right here:


 

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