7 British Female Screenwriters That Prove Why We Need More Women In Film & TV
It's the 21st Century. Men and women are obviously treated equally when it comes to jobs in film and TV, right? Wrong. And I'm not just talking about on-screen roles either. An alarming new report has highlighted that there really aren't that many British female screenwriters compared to their male counterparts. In fact, research conducted by the Writers Guild Of Great Britain (WGGB), has revealed that women make up just one in six screenwriters, with one in ten feature films being written mainly by a woman (and one in 14 feature films in which the budget is greater than £10 million). As for the small screen, only 28 percent of television episodes are penned by female screenwriters.
What does all of this mean? Is there really a dearth of female screenwriters? Of course not. The issue of women being underrepresented in screenwriting has come up many times before this report.
Back in March, screenwriter Debbie Moon wrote a piece for the Guardian as part of an open letter to film and television commissioners. The document, which was signed by 70 fellow female screenwriters, called on TV and film bosses to give more writing opportunities to women. "Why are you not making dramas by female writers?" the letter asked. "The gap between being commissioned and being produced seems disproportionately large when it comes to women’s work. And we’d really love to know why."
President of the WGGB and writer behind the film Girl With A Pearl Earring, Olivia Hetreed, has also called on commissioners to give better opportunities to women. "This new research," she told the BBC, "shows that the number of women writing films has flat-lined at abjectly low levels." The industry needs to wake up to the bold, inventive and trailblazing work female screenwriters are doing. The list below of some the best British female screenwriters really proves women are obviously just as capable as men at writing fantastic films and TV shows. So let's please put an end to this discrimination.
1. 'Fleabag' by Phoebe Waller-Bridge
One of the most talked about television shows in recent years, Fleabag offers an unflinching and riotous look at female sexuality, female friendship, and financial and professional insecurity. It started as a one-woman show at the 2013 Edinburgh Fringe Festival, and after winning the hotly coveted Fringe First Award, it was commissioned as a BBC3 six-part series. Writer and star Phoebe Waller-Bridge has more recently been flexing her writing chops with the BBC America production Killing Eve, about a psychopathic assassin. Both are worth your time.
2. 'Three Girls' by Nicole Taylor
Nicole Taylor's three-part BBC series dramatises the Rochdale child sex abuse scandal, with brutal and necessary candour. The series follows the experiences of three of the 47 victims, offering a nuanced portrait of the psychological impact of grooming and abuse. According to the BBC, Taylor spent time with the survivors and their families in developing the series so she could get the details of the events and their ramifications right. It makes for an eviscerating watch.
3. 'Suffragette' by Abi Morgan
Abi Morgan's 2015 film offers a profound and moving look into the struggle for suffrage, told from the perspective of a young laundry worker. Maud Watts (Carey Mulligan) finds herself almost accidentally caught up in a protest, then begins more consciously dipping her toes into the fight. Morgan's script looked at the risks these women took, the ways in which they were ostracised from their families and communities, by simply fighting for equality. A feminist must-watch.
4. 'Ackee & Saltfish' by Cecile Emeke
Cecile Emeke's Ackee & Salfish started out as a short film before finding new life as a web series that was picked up by BBC3. Centring around two sardonically bickering flatmates, Rachel (Vanessa Babirye) and Olivia (Michelle Tiwo), Ackee & Saltfish features something rarely seen on British screens; two black female protagonists. Emeke has commented previously on the astonishing lack of (and narrow-sighted) representation of black experiences on television, telling the New York Times in 2015: "Mainstream media is a business, and it’s often a tool of propaganda. Mainstream media does not operate on meritocracy." This bone-dry and brilliantly observed series deserves a bigger audience.
5. 'Ordeal By Innocence' by Sarah Phelps
Sarah Phelps' stylish and suspenseful script led the Guardian to describe the series as "rich, dark...and drawing on a backdrop of postwar grief and instability." Adapting the script from the 1958 Agatha Christie novel of the same name, Trial By Ordeal made a few creative adjustments to the plot of the novel, meaning even viewers that had read the book were left stunned by the series' finale. If you've not already watched this brilliantly slippery series, do catch up now.
6. 'Mary Shelley' by Emma Jensen
Emma Jensen's script was inspired by a fascination with the relationship between writers Percy and Mary Shelley, using their tumultuous romance as the backdrop for this intricately plotted film, reports Australian website IF. Jensen explores the creative energies and alchemy that went into the writing of Mary Shelley's feminist novel Frankenstein, and her fierce script examines the way female artistic endeavours are trivialised or somehow not acknowledged, all while staying true to the human heart of the story.
7. 'Venus vs Mars' by Baby Isako
Baby Isako's gently funny and painfully realistic romantic comedy follows the show's main character Venus as she traipses through the murky world of dating in a quest to find love. Venus vs Mars started out as a six-episode web series but was picked up by Sky Atlantic, where it has since aired. The series offers an achingly familiar journey through the travails of modern romance from blind dates through to online relationships, seen through the hopeful-if-sometimes-disenchanted eyes of Venus. A warm-hearted watch.
A dearth of female screenwriters? This list proves otherwise. Let's hope networks and commissioners start listening to audiences and recognising talent, and that there is a change soon.