I spend a lot of time talking about the plight of women directors, but make no mistake it is just as bad for women writers. The latest statistics show that only 10% of the top 250 grossing films released in 2010 were written by women. That in no way counts the movies written about women, these are just the movies written by women.
But is is hard to get people to be honest — at least in public — about how women are treated in Hollywood, at least in public. Now long-time screenwriter Tracey Jackson (The Guru and Confessions of a Shopaholic) has divulged a few dirty secrets about how hard it is for a woman of 50 to get a gig as a screenwriter in Hollywood in her memoir Between a Rock and a Hard Place – Why Fifty is Not the New Thirty.
This past weekend there was an excerpt in Salon and in it she talks about how she had become so desperate it got for her that she started pitching films like “Dan Parker: Attorney at Paw.” Yikes.
Here’s her comment about being a fifty year old female screenwriter:
There is something about this that is surprising yet completely predictable at the same time. In Hollywood thirty is considered eighty, especially where women are concerned. This attitude tends to affect actresses first, but the second group on its hit list is usually writers, particularly those who write comedy, a genre not very friendly to women to begin with. So, being a female comedy writer, I should not have found it so much of a shock when I suddenly found myself jobless, with few prospects in sight.
Hollywood is one place where experience, especially for women, is devalued. She’s right. When she was 40ish and writing Confessions of a Shopaholic (which got made) and The Ivy Chronicles (which didn’t) she was already old by Hollywood’s standards. That sucks. Look at David Seidler the writer of The King’s Speech – the guy is at least in his 70s and he is being greeted as the second coming. Granted, he wrote an awesome script and will probably win an Oscar, but he has a bunch of crap on his resume too. (He’s probably not announcing that the credit right below the King’s Speech on imdb is Kung Fu Killer.)
I feel bad that after 20 years she can’t get a gig, and I fully believe that a woman should be able to make commercial crap just like any guy. And yes, probably a younger woman or man is going to get the writing gig on the next Shopaholic movie if there is one. But honestly, for me, I am much happier in a world without Confessions of a Shopaholic Part 2. Maybe Ms. Jackson will take this opportunity to write an indie, and maybe she’ll even write it to star some women her own age.
That’s a movie I’d see.