Some thoughts about screenwriter interviews

February 7th, 2013 by

I have committed to posting one interview with a screenwriter or industry insider per week during 2013.

52 weeks. 52 interviews. Or at least that’s the idea.

Why? I believe there is some special insight and understanding one can only get by hearing from professional writers talking about their craft.

So it’s all good, right?

Well, as has been pointed out to me recently: Where are the women writers among the interviewees?

I see the point. If the only writers I interview are men, that perpetuates the perception women need not apply, exacerbating a frankly atrocious employment situation in Hollywood.

Honestly it is something I raised last year with Franklin, but I just got too damn busy with other projects to pursue interviews with any frequency.

This 2013 initiative forces the issue.

Any of you who have followed this blog for any length of time know I’m all about creating opportunities: new writers, established writers, male writers, female writers, writers of color, I don’t care as long as they’re talented writers. To wit: I promote independent filmmakers. I push Kickstarter projects. I run the Movies You Made series. I retweet your projects.

Specifically regarding female writer interviews, here’s the main issue: Most of my writing contacts are males. Not surprising, I suppose, because most professional screenwriters are male.

Here’s another thing: Believe it or not, this blog is pretty much… um… just me. Sure, I get amazing IT support from Dino. And Franklin is a great ally. Jason Cuthbart has been a trooper, providing guest Great Character posts for the last several months. But push come to shove, when its finger-on-keyboard and time to post, it’s basically just me and my MacBook Pro. So a second issue is the amount of time and resources I have.

That said I am happy to announce I have three interviews with women screenwriters in progress:

* Julia Hart who wrote the 2012 Black List script “The Keeping Room”. That interview series will run the week of February 24.

* Nikole Beckwith who wrote the 2012 Black List script “Stockholm, Pennsylvania” for which she also won a Nicholl Fellowship.

* Ashleigh Powell who wrote the 2012 Black List script “Somacell” which sold last year to Warner Bros.

Obviously I would love to interview as many notable screenwriters as possible — men, women, white, black, gay, straight, whoever. But I’m just me. I do what I can to reach out to screenwriters I meet through social media. I work on contacts provided to me by other writers. Sometimes writers are kind enough to reach out to me from reading the blog and offer to do interviews.

Beyond that, it would be pretty cheezy of me to do a blog post and say, “Hey, working female screenwriters who have made the Black List or had successful movies, would you please agree to do an interview with me for the blog?”

Whoops. I guess I just did that.

But pretty awkward, right?

As I’ve been interviewing writers this last month or so, I have been surprised by how many of them actually know and follow the blog, so perhaps there are at least some female screenwriters out there who might follow GITS and be willing to do an interview. If so, please email me.

Other than that, what suggestions do you have?

While we’re at it, which women screenwriters would you like to see interviewed? No reason we can’t create a target list and try to reach out to them.

Please bear in mind I aim to interview writers who have written scripts that have made the Black List, won the Nicholl Fellowship, sold spec scripts, written notable movies, and/or have had a sustained career in Hollywood. This is not to diminish the creativity or accomplishments of other writers, but rather simply an acknowledgement that I’m trying to generate content that appeals to the widest number of GITS readers.

Finally let me say as time-consuming as this commitment to interviews has been, it has been a wonderful experience. Every single writer with whom I’ve talked has been terrific — generous with their time, thoughtful in their responses, and passionate about the craft. I can’t wait to roll out these upcoming interviews, following up on what have already been some incredible conversations. I am convinced more than ever that screenwriters are a special breed, bound together by a shared love of story. It makes me proud to be able to say I’m part of the screenwriting community.

So onward and upward. I’m happy to hear whatever suggestions and ideas you have, and how to make the GITS interview series something really special.

10 thoughts on “Some thoughts about screenwriter interviews

  1. Debbie Moon says:

    As someone who plans to be one of them one day, I frequently ask myself: where are the female Hollywood screenwriters? And despite a bunch of theories, it seems that no one really knows…

    So all I have to contribute is possible interviewee names. How about Jane Goldman (X-Men: First Class, Woman In Black, etc)? Or Kelly Marcel (Saving Mr. Banks)? Both on Twitter, if you don’t have any other connection to them…

    1. Scott says:

      Both great suggestions, Debbie. Thanks.

  2. Shaula Evans says:

    Thanks for this, Scott–the series in the first place, and placing importance on casting your net wide for interview subjects.

    Putting it out there that you’re looking for women to interview isn’t cheesy at all. It’s how you get the ball rolling.

    Here’s another tip that might help, from when I was working as a headhunter: ask your interview subjects for referrals. If you want to interview more women, ask your interviewees if they know women writers who fit your criteria who they could introduce you to. And, also ask: who else do you know who’s underrepresented in the series who I could talk to?

    In fundraising it’s called “rolodexing” — working through someone else’s list of contacts.

    Referrals are a great way to find the people you’re looking for, and referrals that include a personal introduction (vs just receiving the contact info) are a powerful way to make new contacts.

    Best part: it’s just one small question, bundled into the work you’re already doing.

    Thanks again and I really look forward to the upcoming interviews with Hart, Beckwith and Powell.

    1. Scott says:

      Great advice, Shaula. I have made a note to follow up with the writers I’ve interviewed to do some “rolodexing”.

  3. lizwgarcia says:

    Yes, don’t underestimate the power of your online presence in terms of your ability to reach out to female writers blindly/boldly. Because of our circumstances in this business, we female writers are keenly aware of the importance of speaking up, we’re aware of each other, and we’re open to the opportunity to encourage others by participating in press, blogs, etc. Most of us can cite women whose careers were of critical importance to us realizing our dreams or even articulating for the first time our dreams of working in Hollywood, so we’re happy to be that for young women looking for their own role models. You’re doing great work, and your ambition to not only reflect the industry but challenge and inspire the industry is noble — not easy — but noble and will be well worth it in terms of inspiring others, creating change and edifying those heading into their fledgling careers. I would love to hear from the female writers listed above, as well as more from the great Naomi Foner, Tina Fey and Diablo Cody.

    1. Scott says:

      Liz, thanks for your kind words. I will add Foner, Fey and Cody to the list, each of them terrific talents. Who knows? Maybe we can land them for interviews.

  4. Jeremy Dylan says:

    Is this exclusive to screenwriters, or does it include TV writers?

    If so, people like Megan Ganz, Hilary Winston and Emily Cutler from COMMUNITY.

    Moira Walley-Beckett and Gennifer Hutchison from BREAKING BAD.

    Kater Gordon, Maria Jacquemetton, Lisa Albert and Erin Levy from MAD MEN.

    They would be great subjects if that’s in your purview.

    1. Scott says:

      Jeremy, I like TV, I’ve written some TV, but my passion is movies and screenwriting, and that is the focus of this blog.

      That said, there is so much crossover nowadays between writing for movies and TV, it does make a certain amount of sense to include TV writers.

      So I will add these names to the list, and see what I can churn up.

  5. GITSfan says:

    Interviews with writers are the bestest thing ever (thank you for your series, Scott!). And there are definitely great women writers out there, have listened to quite a few on Nerdist Writers Panel podcasts, most TV writers. While the tempo and scale are definitely different in TV than movies, it’s still all about story, and most esp character, so always much to learn. Maybe some of the women who’ve appeared on Nerdist might be kind enough to share their wisdom with GITS. One example, Jane Espenson, long time favorite and always a great interview, was on Nerdist’s “Women on TV” episode: http://www.nerdist.com/2012/08/nerdist-writers-panel-49-women-on-tv/

    Another great TV writer, and a former student of yours, Scott, Lisa Joy, writes on Burn Notice, and wrote one of my favorite episodes, “Where There’s Smoke” (the princesses save themselves, whole lot of fun).

    I’ve been enjoying Arrow, sharp writing, and check out the writer credits from this first season:

    Series Writing credits:
    Greg Berlanti (17 episodes, 2012-2013)
    Marc Guggenheim (17 episodes, 2012-2013)
    Andrew Kreisberg (17 episodes, 2012-2013)
    Lana Cho (3 episodes, 2012-2013)
    Moira Kirland (3 episodes, 2012-2013)
    Beth Schwartz (3 episodes, 2012-2013)
    Ben Sokolowski (3 episodes, 2012-2013)
    Geoff Johns (2 episodes, 2012-2013)

    That’s looking pretty darn good. And I bet those writers would make for great interviews.

    So many things need to shift and alter for there to be discernible change re proportion of women writers, probably starting with execs at the top, and ending with the audience at the end, and all that’s founded largely on habit, pre-conceived notions and expectations, not ill-intent. So what can we do to make things better?

    One thing all of us can work on, make no female character a derivative. As hard as we work to find fresh and unexpected outcomes in scenes, so should it be with every female character. And, if it’s of use, remember there are more differences between individuals than the two genders, and you can read a bit about that here: http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2013/02/04/study-debunks-notion-that-men-and-women-are-psychologically-distinct/

    We can’t make disappear all the existing “scripts” that influence our behaviors and outcomes, but we (as writers) sure as heck can lay down new stories to bury the old boring no-longer-useful ones, replacing with fresher and more relevant stories and ways of seeing things.

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