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Writing for Yourself: The Return of the Female Lead


DaniLennon513d95dbe91a1.jpgAlthough the presence of strong female characters are growing in cinematic ventures there is still a lack of female heroines. Save for ‘Katniss Everdeen of ‘Hunger Games’ and soon to be ‘Beatrice Prior’ of ‘Divergent’ not many films showcasing a heroic female lead come to mind, not in the last few years or so. Most that come about are forgettable. And why is that?…because they haven’t been written in a cinematic form. Not very well at least.

I find it a bit unsettling that female heroines have been a pinnacle focus in literature in many forms, plays and novelistic franchises, but on screen they seem to be only popular in television series and the web! Yet, as powerful and as fascinating a gift of being a woman can be, it isn’t marketable as much as we’d like it to be an industry primarily focused on men. So I say it is time we do something about that.

In my last piece ‘A Typecast Departure I shared my struggles of being typecast as an actress and finding a more hopeful and positive outlook that helped me reshape my path in this Industry. Causing people to look at me from a different perspective and casting me in a diverse light. I want to apply that exact same method to writing projects for myself as well as other females in Entertainment. To bring the same heroines found in literature to the screen. It is my wish for women to deliver to Hollywood (since it seems that the other sex can’t) a three dimensional character that is not only interesting but valiant, intelligent, dynamic and oh so enjoyable to watch. I give you, Hollywood…The Return of the Female Lead.

Why must we borrow from what is already written? Does every female action hero and or female lead have to come from a novel’s franchise? A comic book series? Can’t we dig deep into the pockets of our own lives and draw from them to create a genuine and enthralling story for the screen? Of course we can, we just have to do it. As a screenwriter I must say that the few other female screenwriters I know and that I keep close in my circle often feel the same way I do. Not only are they amazing strong women themselves but they are also incredible writers.

As a screenwriter I plan to make my mark in film by showcasing a female lead in a Fantasy and Sci-Fi Universe with a relatable storyline that both males and females of all ages can enjoy. But first, how do you find the story? How do you write for yourself?

As an actress I am aware of what I can play and absolutely certain of what I want to play. That’s half the battle. So now I know what character I’d like to portray but where does that character’s journey stem from?

I believe in the power of dreams. I am a creative individual with a creative brain, which makes my dreamworld very interesting. When we sleep are creativity flows uninhibited in our mind’s eye. There is no road block or censor to what we can do. More often that not I get a juicy story gem whether in pleasant dream form or the occasional nightmare…which knocks my socks off. From there I usually get a jumping off point…or the Inciting Incident if you will. After putting the key into the ignition I subconsciously find myself weaving a storyline together from themes and events of my own life before filling it in with character development (with the help of structural documents and outlines) Having found my genre from my dreams or my desires to represent a certain character, I then do my historical research to add in credibility and fun little tid bits that make a story not only accurate but much more grounded. Although my goal is to create Fantasy and Sci-Fi feature films that will rock people’s worlds, I still want to make them relatable…and of course star in them!

Many a screenwriter can attest that a screenplay is NEVER finished. Once I am satisfied with my latest version of the draft (meaning sent it off to other writers/directors/actors to critique, over and over again) I then set out to get a particular project made or placed in my queue for later use. I do it all independently. Doing my best to not involve a  larger studio until we absolutely have to…distribution and such.

I always knew as a young girl that my journey in Hollywood would be a rough one. I did not have any support back home. In fact, I was advised against it many times. I wasn’t born into the Industry, I’m not Hollywood Royalty nor was I acting from birth. My gut told me that if I wanted anything done I had to do it myself. Hello, Aries type A personality! So I stuck to my plan. I would start out acting because I love it and through networking and taking jobs, and sometimes shit jobs, I would find those (producers, directors, writers) who could help me achieve my vision…my stories. I did not know that in addition to my acting I would fall madly in love with screenwriting and producing. How fortuitous!

So I say find your female heroine! Whether you are the actress, the writer, the producer or all three, run with it and don’t stop until someone hears it! Knock down every door. Grab balls, take names and stick to your guns! The only way the female lead will return is if we MAKE PEOPLE LISTEN. Let’s get our projects made, Ladies! We are strong, loving, and influential. Everything in the makings of a lead character! Let’s just make Hollywood see that the Hero doesn’t always have to be in the male form.

I am proud to say that after years and years in this thankless world of Entertainment I found a team that would listen. My very first feature film that I both wrote and am starring in is about to be made. Look for the Psychological Horror Story set in the Backwoods of the Depression Era ‘Legend of the Wa-ya’ in the near future. I hope this is a tale among many that will jump start the triumphant return of the FEMALE LEAD.

Dani Lennon

About Dani Lennon

A Chicago Native and a classically trained singer, Dani has performed all over the world and the country in exciting places like Carnegie Hall. Singing transitioned to acting as she took part in stage productions all over Chicago where she worked with many talented actors and Steppenwolf directors. After moving to Los Angeles she has been working consistently in television, soaps, film and new media. One of her most notable projects to date is Lionsgate/Machinima’s successful Series ‘Bite Me’. In addition to acting and singing, Dani’s interests and talents are extended behind the camera as a Screenwriter and a Creative Producer. Having been an athlete most of her life, she enjoys performing her own stunts, firearms, boxing and riding horses. As a self proclaimed adventure junkie, Dani loves the outdoors. Hiker, camper, fisherman and equestrian are the few roles she plays in her everyday life.