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Women Screenwriters: You Are Needed

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One of the disheartening things that I come across in my work as a professional script reader is the lack of female writers that come across my desk. It’s particularly sad since one of the companies I read for produces content exclusively for a female audience. The majority of the writers are men, writing the female perspective without understanding it, and that lack of comprehension comes across on the page.

While I count myself grateful and privileged to be in the position that I’m in for this particular company since I’m able to provide the female perspective they need when I offer notes on their scripts and oversee the rewrite process, it doesn’t take away from the fact that women’s voices aren’t being heard, and the fact that the “women’s” voices that are being shown on screen are fabricated by men.

One thing I have learned in my career is that you cannot wait to be chosen. You need to choose yourself, especially in this industry. If you wait for someone else to give you permission, you will always be living by someone else’s rules, someone else’s decisions, rather than taking control of your life.

I have learned that if you are frustrated by something happening, you want to see a change in something, then you are the one that needs to help shift that. If you don’t, then that frustration will fester inside of you and turn into poison that vibrates out to those around you as a negative energy, versus taking your frustration, which is your passion and inner fire, and using it to forge something new.

I did this with a passion project that I wrote, produced, and star in, Protectress, a female empowerment fantasy action I created because I see the lack of female heroes in the world. I was frustrated by the one dimensional women I read on the page as a reader, the vapid character breakdowns for women I see as an actor, and because I never saw someone like me, a half Asian woman, portrayed as a lead heroine when I was growing up. So I did something about it. Now, 22 festival selections and 7 awards later, I have even more fuel to keep this fire burning.

So my dear writers, my women that aren’t sure if your voices are needed, I need you to be heard. I am telling you that you are needed from the vantage point of a reader that’s seen hundreds of screenplays, and the majority have a man’s name on the cover page. If you have been looking for a sign, this is it. What is stopping you?

Too often we listen to the voices of fear in our heads and, especially as women, think that we are not good enough yet. We “can’t” take action, because we don’t know what to do. Someone else will do it better. Someone else is more talented than me. I’m too old. I’m too young. I don’t know how to get started. We compare, get in our heads, and all of this stops us. Rather than taking a leap, taking a chance, taking a risk, and seeing if we can fly.

If you are not sure how to get started as a writer, there are some wonderful articles on this site that can help you, and I will also offer you some tips:

  • READ. Read scripts like they are water and devour as much as you can, the good and the bad. They don’t have to be recent. If you want to understand screenwriting, you need to see how it’s done. This is different than watching a film. See how it was written on the page. You need to expose yourself to what’s strong and also see what’s weak. I am forever grateful for the years I have invested in honing my skills as a story analyst. It has made me a better screenwriter, producer, and actor, and it will make you a better writer, too.
  • WRITE. Write without a care in the world, and don’t worry about showing it to anyone. It’s for you. It’s for you to flex and strengthen your creative muscles. It doesn’t even have to be a screenplay. This site has a great daily writing exercises.
  • INSPIRE. Inspire yourself by “filling the well.” Go see plays. Go to a film festival and be uplifted by the storytellers that are doing the work to build their careers. Watch YouTube videos with interviews from storytellers and TED talks from other artists. One of my favorite books to help with inspiration is “The Artist’s Way” by Julia Cameron.
  • CONNECT & GET FEEDBACK. Connect with other writers, filmmakers, and storytellers. Support each other. Find the people that speak your artistic language that help you to thrive, and help them flourish, too. Meetup.com, organizations focused on women in the industry, or even Facebook groups can be places you find your tribe. Don’t stay isolated in your cave, as many writers tend to do. Find your tribe, and when you’re ready, get feedback on your work. Don’t expose your sprouting, tender shoots of stories and ideas to just anyone. Find trusted, knowledgeable sources that will be honest yet lovingly supportive of you so that you can grow. If you need help, you know where to find me.

I would love the next time I read a script with a female lead or geared for a female audience that it come from you. I would love to see your name on that cover page. I would love to recommend you as a writer, to recommend one of your stories to a producer or production company. First, you need and the world needs you to write.

Joanna Ke

About Joanna Ke

If grace married silliness, their child would be Joanna Ke. Joanna is an award-winning filmmaker that thrives in the industry as an actor, writer, professional script reader, and producer. She champions diverse stories led by women both behind and in front of the camera. Joanna has been creating stories ever since she was a child, performing skits for her sisters and scribbling in journals before she even know how to write. She studied the craft of screenwriting with the late, great Syd Field. As a professional script reader, she is known for her ability to masterfully analyze screenplays. Joanna runs the twitter account @femcharacters, highlighting the unfortunate way women are often portrayed on screen. She also isn’t too shabby as a stunt performer and sword fighter. Wielding her broadsword is a favorite both on camera and off.