‘Fresh Off The Boat’ Writer Camilla Blackett On Being A Woman In A Male-Dominated Industry

'Fresh Off The Boat' Writer Camilla Blackett On Being A Woman In A Male-Dominated Industry

It’s no secret that there is a dominance of male presence in Hollywood behind the scenes in key areas. In film, TV and digital media, men make up the majority of writers, producers, creators, directors and cinematographers. While this may be a source of depression for some, be assured that women are not taking this lying down. We are rising up and learning how important the fight for gender equality (that’s right, just to reiterate, we’re not looking for dominance, just an equal representation) is especially in entertainment.

New research by the Writers Guild of America released earlier this year shows fe­male writers’ share of TV staff jobs was 29% in the most re­cent sea­son, down from 30.5% in the pre­vi­ous sea­son. Mean­while, minor­it­ies ac­coun­ted for 13.7% of em­ploy­ment, com­pared with 15.6% dur­ing the 2011-12 sea­son.

Jessica Goldstein over at Think Progress does point out that in comparison to the film industry, TV has become a far more inclusive and diverse landscape in terms of stories and representation both in front and behind the camera, but there is still a ways to go until equality is not something we need to fight for any more. The emphasis on a more diverse writers room is at the very core to achieving this qualities.

“When diverse voices are marginalized or missing altogether in the writer’s room, it is less likely that the stories told will hit the mark. Much work remains to be done before diverse writers are adequately incorporated into the television industry, and we are losing ground in this effort as the nation races toward the not-too-distant day when it becomes majority minority,” concludes the WGA report.

camilla-blackett

And since representation is a huge part of encouraging a new generation of women to become writers, we thought we would share some insightful information we learned after reading a couple of interviews with one of prime time TV’s most badass writers, in our opinion. Her name is Camilla Blackett, she is originally from the UK, and she started writing for TV at the age of 18!

Camilla happened to go to school with a guy called Jamie Brittain who was the creator of a show called ‘Skins’ (there is an American version on MTV) which was a series focused on teens, written essentially through the eyes and perspective of teens. Camilla was fresh out of school when she started working on the show which became a huge success because of its subject matter with drugs, sexuality, pregnancy, eating disorders and mental illness.

After deciding to work on that show and not go to college (why go to college to learn how to be a writer when you’re doing the very thing right now!) and eventually made her way across the pond to the United States. She has worked on some major shows including ‘Newsroom’, ‘New Girl’, and ‘Fresh Off The Boat’. At the age of 30, she already has a pretty impressive resume to boast, but for a young woman, and a woman of color, there are often barriers she has had to overcome in the writers rooms, as she divulged to Elle magazine recently in a featured series called ‘This is 30’ to mark their 30th anniversary (image at the very bottom of the post from that feature). The Elle feature highlighted “35 of the world’s most accomplished 30-year-old women” and it’s easy to see why Camilla was included!

fresh-off-the-boat

She talks about how she came about deciding on writing as a career and how the decision was formed based on power structure in entertainment.

“I think the year I started on Skins’. Before, I’d wanted to be a director, and I don’t think I really knew what that meant. What I really wanted to be was a writer-director, because all the directors that I really loved were writing their own material, and then I realized that, oh no, the power comes first in the script, before you start the camera,” she said.

Camilla addressed the public persona often attached to women (being competitive and bitchy toward each other) saying that in the writing rooms she has worked in, the opposite has been true.

“In the workplace, the only issues I’ve had with competitiveness has been from males, and it’s males who don’t like younger women, and often have issues with women who are senior to them. That’s the most mind-boggling thing: having this level of entitlement where they feel they can express that. Like, this is your boss! Whether she has a vagina has nothing to do with it,” she said.

new-girl

“I’ve had nothing but really supportive women around me, work-wise. … Working with women, you just get so much shit done. There’s a lack of ego and posturing. All the filibustering you get from other writers in the writers’ room, it’s always men.”

Camilla also admits that some of the stereotypical sexist situations that plague female writers are absolutely true.

“I’ve been in situations with male writers where a female writer has said something, then a male writer talked over her, then repeated what she just said as if it was his own idea, and everyone in the room is just sitting there. You think you’re going crazy because you don’t think in any civilized society that this kind of blatant misogyny can actually operate, but oh no, this is just the world,” she said.

Working on a number of shows that are quite different to each other, some of which are part of a new shift in Hollywood TV subject matter, Camilla believes it is exciting to see and be part of.

“‘Skins interested me because it was the first time that a show about teenagers wasn’t going to be written by guys who hadn’t been teenagers in a long time, or that wasn’t about morality and posturing or anything. The fact that [‘Fresh Off The Boat’] was the first show featuring an Asian family on network TV in 20 years, it’s crazy. … Between us and ‘Blackish, it’s been like an incredible year,” she says about the type of American voices that are finally getting on TV.

Camilla believes it is the start of a new era in Hollywood where we are not only seeing more racial diversity, but more scrutiny on the sexism within the industry, especially toward female directors and writers. More than anything, she hopes her career and success will be an example to other girls, especially one in particular, to know that it is possible.

camilla-blackett

“I hope to have set a good example for my youngest sister, who’s five, and just for other young creative women of any descent, of any color really. It’s just that you’re allowed to do whatever you want, you’re allowed to compete in a space. It may be a little bit harder to get into, but it’s worth it,” she said.

One of the other things we love about Camilla is that she understands the need for more interesting and complex female characters on screen, ones that generate discussion and debate just as much as some of the most iconic male characters on TV.

In an interview with Death and Taxes in 2012 while working on ‘Newsroom’, created by the legendary Aaron Sorkin, Camilla spoke about the criticism that the show often got in terms of how it portrayed its female characters, and said something great about the complexity of creating characters for the screen.

“I’ll be completely honest. I’m a straight up feminist and not once have I ever felt with the show that it does women a disservice. We’re very confident in writing our characters in ways that we feel are true. It’s difficult to create this idea of… of an evenly balanced character. Human beings are complicated. They’re complex. They’re not always going to satisfy everyone’s ideas of what a man or a woman should be,” she said.

It’s women like Camilla Blackett who we love because not only is she breaking the mold, but she is kicking ass at it at the same time! If you are an aspiring writer but look at the statistics in Hollywood and feel like it is an uphill battle, you may not entirely be wrong about the battle part, but you shouldn’t give up. The need for more diverse voices in entertainment is more ripe than ever, don’t give up, keep writing!

Also, you should follow Camilla on Twitter because she is hilarious!

camilla-blackett-elle-magazine

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.