I write because I am a woman, and I am a woman because I write. Obviously, I write because I feel like I have stories that I must tell, but when I write, I discover my opinions about things. I form my views and I grow as an artist and as a woman. My experiences as a young and independent woman inspire my writing, but as a woman who is regarded to be attractive, I have often encountered resistance at pitch meetings and auditions. The one place that I have total control is when I am sitting in front of my laptop, finally typing the words: “FADE OUT.”
I’m not a control freak. My acquaintances usually think otherwise, but my friends know the real me — an adrenaline junkie who doesn’t like to plan too much. I do, however, love to have that control over my work. In addition to furthering my desire to write, it also inspired my company, Big Vision Empty Wallet, a networking organization dedicated to bringing together artists from all over the world and helping them create art with no rules.
My business partner, Alex Cirillo, and I are both females with male names, so for some reason people often assume that we must be life partners, but that’s another story. We have recently combined two of my passions to offer Big Vision Empty Wallet’s Screenwriting Competition, an exciting opportunity for writers to showcase their original, creative and compelling feature-length screenplays so we may introduce emerging screenwriters to top agents and BVEW’s large audience. BVEW’s Screenplay Competition is now accepting submissions through October 15. As the competition moves forward, we hope to see more women submitting their work and representing the fantastic female screenwriters trying to get their films made.
Although I recognize the hardships that women face in the industry, I have a confession – I never thought I was a feminist. I use my femininity to get my way just as much as I complain about how unfair this male-driven society can be. I care about my rights as a woman, and Michele Bachmann’s view on submission to her husband freaks me out, but I have flirted my way out of numerous speeding tickets. Of course I am a feminist by definition, although please don’t expect me to go all Gloria Steinem and shout it out from a podium in Union Square.
I have had many arguments defending my right to be an intelligent, but not hideous woman. Like the time I rejected the idea presented by a female agent that my hair should always be dyed brown so that people “get that I’m smart.” Although it’s never discouraged me, I’ve had some hilarious experiences in pitch meetings with men who were a little confused by an attractive and intelligent woman (yes, actual meetings with real industry professionals).
Here are The Top 10 Things Men Have Said to Me in Pitch Meetings that Make Me Wonder Who Their Mothers Are:
10 – “I think the pilot is great and if you go out to dinner with me, then I think this thing might have a future.”
9 – “So…who helped you write this?”
8 – (Twenty seconds into my pitch) “Your screenplay sounds interesting. I think I can get Tom Hanks. Maybe we should have another meeting. How about my place?”
7 – “Do you have any pictures you can send me later? I just need to imagine something.”
6 – “You’ve written a screenplay? That’s so cute.”
5 – “I think we should have our meeting tomorrow. I think since we’re already at a restaurant, we should just have dinner.”
4 – “Are you ticklish? I was just wondering because I think that might be fun.”
3 – “Great meeting. Just to let you know, if you Google me, not everything you’ll find will be accurate.” (I Googled him. He was arrested the year before for sex trafficking.)
2 – “Well, you don’t look like a writer. You can definitely just go and be a trophy wife. That would be much easier.”
1 – “You have pretty feet. You should help me make a foot video. It’s not like it’s a fetish thing. Just my side job.”
Dani Faith Leonard is a writer/actress and founder of Big Vision Empty Wallet, currently holding the BVEW Screenwriting Competition