Geena Davis’ Two Simple Steps For Screenwriters To Add Women In Their Scripts
The first time I saw Geena Davis was in The Long Kiss Goodnight, I was 13 and I couldn’t believe what I was seeing: the good ole housewife I was seeing in every movie was all of a sudden becoming a kick-ass killer! The Long Kiss Goodnight might never end up in any “100 Must-See Films” but it made me curious enough to go buy my very first filmmaking magazine, and it triggered my interest just in time for me to receive the golden 90s (Run Lola Run, Thin Red Line, Fight Club, Matrix) in the face. Seeing that filmmaking has now become an inherent part of my life -this site included- I can’t be anything else but grateful for The Long Kiss Goodnight and whoever cleared a female lead in an action movie in the 90s.
The first reason why I share this story instead of cutting straight to the facts is for anyone who doubts that diversity of representation in gender, races and sexuality on screen has a profound impact on its young audience and can transcend the simple entertainment factor we attach to movies today, I hope this story will add up to the list of stories proving otherwise.
The second reason is that the very same Geena Davis came out with two very simple ways for screenwriters to help reducing the disparity of screen time for men and women.
In an excellent guest column for the Hollywood Reporter, Davis, who is also behind the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, an Institute that has sponsored the highest number of studies on the matter in the last two decades, reveals that on top of what we all know already about women representations in films, “crowd and group scenes in [family-rated films (G, PG and PG-13)]— live-action and animated — contain only 17 percent female characters; and that the ratio of male-female characters has been exactly the same since 1946.“
In other words, when filmmakers have to shoot a crowd gathering scene, for 8 men representing 3.5 billion men, there are (almost) 2 women representing 3.5 billion women. Bazinga.
Geena Davis’ Two Steps:
“Step 1: Go through the projects you’re already working on and change a bunch of the characters’ first names to women’s names. With one stroke you’ve created some colorful unstereotypical female characters that might turn out to be even more interesting now that they’ve had a gender switch. What if the plumber or pilot or construction foreman is a woman? What if the taxi driver or the scheming politician is a woman? What if both police officers that arrive on the scene are women — and it’s not a big deal?
Step 2: When describing a crowd scene, write in the script, “A crowd gathers, which is half female.” That may seem weird, but I promise you, somehow or other on the set that day the crowd will turn out to be 17 percent female otherwise. Maybe first ADs think women don’t gather, I don’t know.“
Davis’ two steps are so simple, it feels almost weird to admit I never thought about it and yet, my own story tells me that it just take one little modification in a story to impact and expand (or reduce) the way your audience perceives the world. So, if you’ve been wanting to make a small difference in the world of storytelling, or simply just try to be more accurate, give Geena Davis’ two steps a try.
Read Davis full column here.
[Thanks to Ted Hope]