Racial Equality in Films Today: Screen Writers

22 Jun

From our six week long series on Racial Equality in Films Today.

By Ozzie

We decided to look at the film landscape to see how racial minorities faired in today’s society. In this article, we will focus on screen writers. With the 2011 Hollywood Writers Report out, it shows that ethnic minorities are still a long way off equality.[1]

The percentage of racial minority writers employed in 2009 was 5%, the lowest share in 10 years. It had stayed at 6% for the previous 10 years. This means white writers hold the massive majority the share of 94% from 1998 to 2008 and 95% in 2009.

The median wage for ethnic minority writers has risen since the recession in 2008, in which everyone’s wage drop.  The average wage for 2009 was $55,653. For white male, their average wage for that year was $76,517, which is a big difference. However, it was the smallest pay gap for a long time. This is most likely due to the recession and not for the material produced.

So how can we close this gap? The Writers Guild of America, West, set up the Writers Guild Awards in 2009. Its aim is to bring talented writers from many different backgrounds to the forefront.  Writers (categorized into four groups, women writers, minority writers, disabled writers and older writers) are to submit a script, which is then judged by potential employers. In 2009 there were 156 submissions and 31 were named honourees.[2] Out of that group 17 were employed, 7 of which were minorities. In 2010 there were 93 submissions of which 19 were made honourees. Of those honourees, 7 were hired, of which 5 were ethnic minorities. The Writers Guild of America, West, admits that this is just the first but important step forward and that it will take the effort of all industry players to reduce the inequality.[3] What else do you think the writers industry can do?

Also check out: Racial Equality in Hollywood: Among Film Directors

Please join us for a discussion on Thursday: June 23rd, 2011@ 7pEST

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91 Responses to “Racial Equality in Films Today: Screen Writers”

  1. comic relief June 22, 2011 at 9:06 AM #

    Ozzie,

    When I think of screen writers, (whether doing original work, adaptations, etc.) I usually think they provide the back bone and/or frame work for everything featured in a film. With so many visible directors, actors, and a growing list of producers; why should this group be so challenged or absent?

    • comic relief June 22, 2011 at 9:27 AM #

      I’ll try not to ask the same question again. But with Bollywood, Nollywood, and tons of films from far East Asia and South America. What’s causing the shortage?

      • ozzie20 June 23, 2011 at 8:21 PM #

        In an ideal world it shouldn’t but maybe because it’s only now people are becoming more accepting of differences. Maybe it’s because it’s only now minority groups are being heard. Maybe it’s a combination. Hopefully in time the differences will level out.

  2. Littlebells June 22, 2011 at 10:38 AM #

    Ozzie (I miss you!!!!!!),

    Great article. 🙂 Do we know what kind of screenplays are being submitted? I ask because perhaps the average White American isn’t ready for something that is being written by someone in the minority. We get some amazing foreign films, but it’s R.A.R.E to see them on the big screen all over the nation.

    *morning CR!*

    • comic relief June 22, 2011 at 12:03 PM #

      Ozzie,

      (Morning Littlebells or almost good afternoon on this American coast)

      I just read the references for the article which are, no surprise, as well written as the article. The disparities are so clearly defined. By passing the written articles, I’m going to assume the information sources come from Hollywood hiring agencies themselves.

      Somewhat related to my previous questions about your article, the women’s progress (mentioned in the references) is both really positive and odd. This news is positive because women proved themselves to be great writers centuries ago. Odd because I heard there was an astoundingly low number of women’s screen plays picked up for the Hollywood Black List last year.

      Considering how well you did on the Asian Film article, I imagine your knowledge on the western view and Multicultural front pertaining to Hollywood continues to expand. I can’t wait for the discussion.

  3. Open Book June 22, 2011 at 4:53 PM #

    IMO, u don’t need to be a specific race to write about a particular subject-matter. This kind of thinking can put limitations on minorities who are trying to compete for jobs. LB this reminds me of your article on how African American directors are trying to direct mainstream films. Do u remember? LB Can u elaborate more on this issue? U made some excellent observations with regards to directors, which I think relates to minority writers as well.

    • Littlebells June 22, 2011 at 6:06 PM #

      *whips out flashlight and starts tunneling through the dark abyss of my brain. Lots of cobwebs. 🙂 *

    • comic relief June 23, 2011 at 2:17 PM #

      OB,

      Your remark reminds me of a topic we discussed before in regard to non-white film developers and contributors.

      In the past we discussed directors of color frequently not contributing to films about their own ethnic groups. Here is a site dedicated to some Latino directors.

      http://www.umich.edu/~ac213/student_projects05/ld/latinodirectors.html

      Justin Lin, of Taipei, Taiwan, is a writer producer and director directed Fast Five and will the next director of Terminator Five.

      http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0510912/

      From Britain writer director Steve McQueen’s, (some people say discovered Michael Fassbender) first film was about an Irish prison.

      http://www.imdb.com/name/nm2588606/

      • Littlebells June 23, 2011 at 7:03 PM #

        Great CR! I found this too when researching:

        http://obswriter.blogspot.com/

        • Open Book June 23, 2011 at 7:17 PM #

          Great site LB!

      • Open Book June 23, 2011 at 7:12 PM #

        Great! Info CR!

        • comic relief June 27, 2011 at 1:55 PM #

          Thanks OB, I forgot to mention Cary Fukunaga was the Director for Jane Eyre.

  4. Open Book June 22, 2011 at 4:56 PM #

    Ozzie-Great article.

    P.S. Hello CR and LB!

    • ozzie20 June 23, 2011 at 8:08 PM #

      Thank you!

  5. Littlebells June 23, 2011 at 6:40 PM #

    OB,

    Don’t quote me on this, but when I was researching, I found it quite common for directors to stick with cultural themes. Asian directors mostly directed Asian themes, same with Indian, Latino, and African-American. I don’t know why that is. It could be that’s just what they prefer to direct or what they have been stuck directing. I know it is much harder for minorities to break out into mainstream, but as we have seen, it can be done.

    Also, many of the directors I mentioned have produced their own films.

    Did that answer your question??????

    • Open Book June 23, 2011 at 7:04 PM #

      Hi LB!

      Thank u…….

  6. Open Book June 23, 2011 at 7:03 PM #

    Welcome new and returning visitors to our discussion tonight. Please feel free to ask questions or comment.

    • Littlebells June 23, 2011 at 7:13 PM #

      Hi OB! I hope you are doing well and staying cooler than me. 🙂

  7. ozzie20 June 23, 2011 at 7:04 PM #

    Hello? Anyone there?

    • Open Book June 23, 2011 at 7:05 PM #

      Hi Ozzie!

      Welcome back we’ve missed u!!

      • ozzie20 June 23, 2011 at 7:06 PM #

        Aw, I missed everyone too!

        • Littlebells June 23, 2011 at 7:07 PM #

          *running leap* OZZIEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!! 🙂

          • ozzie20 June 23, 2011 at 7:10 PM #

            *catches LB and gives big hugs!* HI!

  8. ozzie20 June 23, 2011 at 7:05 PM #

    Ah ha! Hello Open Book! 🙂

  9. Littlebells June 23, 2011 at 7:06 PM #

    I’ve been looking for Asian screenwriters online, and to be honest, it has been very difficult. I would love to know of all the millions of screenplays submitted, how many are from the Asian/ Asian-American community? I also wonder where they fit into the 5% Ozzie mentioned?

    • Littlebells June 23, 2011 at 7:29 PM #

      there are so many websites giving out grants and workshop opportunities for the Asian community. Wow! They really want them involved and yet HW doesn’t seem to be picking up on any of them!

    • ozzie20 June 23, 2011 at 7:30 PM #

      Yes, it is very difficult to find information on this subject. It doesn’t seem to be discussed much. In an ideal world I would of loved to have done a much more detailed review between the different eithnic groups, as well as looking at how the other minority groups (disable, age, women etc) fared in that group too. For example, how does an asian, disabled, old aged woman do in comparison?

      I hope that makes sense!

      • Littlebells June 23, 2011 at 8:08 PM #

        Oh it makes perfect sense. I would love to interview real live people involved in this topic!!! I bet we would get an earful!!!

  10. Open Book June 23, 2011 at 7:08 PM #

    Ozzie-

    In researching this topic did u find there were more minority female screenwriters then male?

    • ozzie20 June 23, 2011 at 7:50 PM #

      I think I addressed that in my reply to Littlebells above.The easily confused person is getting confused even earlier than usual, lol!

  11. ozzie20 June 23, 2011 at 7:12 PM #

    Posting a warning!

    I’m currently out of my mind with jet lag so I’m not going to be on top form, but I will do my best. 🙂

    • Open Book June 23, 2011 at 7:15 PM #

      We will take it easy on u!

      • ozzie20 June 23, 2011 at 7:19 PM #

        Lol, thank you! I’m just reading through the comments to catch up and reply.

  12. Littlebells June 23, 2011 at 7:19 PM #

    Ozzie, why do you think minority screenwriters are so few?

    • ozzie20 June 23, 2011 at 7:44 PM #

      Honestly, I’m not sure. In my world there are no boundries. However I do know that discrimination still widely exist in our world so I’m not in denial. I just don’t understand the mind set of the ignorant. My only answer (and it’s not a very good one) that it will take time for everyone to be accepted. It’s only been about 50 years or so since the African American Civil Rights Movement but there’s still discrimination there. If we’re going to be pendantic, women are still treated un-equally dispite the fact we make up 50% of the population and have been around as long as man! Maybe someone much wiser can answer that, lol!

      • Littlebells June 23, 2011 at 8:30 PM #

        You did a great job answering that. It’s going to take a very long time. It’s very difficult when prejudices and ignorance is passed down from one generation to anther.

  13. Francesa June 23, 2011 at 7:31 PM #

    Hello everyone!

    • Open Book June 23, 2011 at 7:36 PM #

      Hi Francesa,

      How are u? Glad u could join us.

      What do u think about this issue?

      • ozzie20 June 23, 2011 at 7:45 PM #

        Hello Francesa! Glad to meet you.

    • Littlebells June 23, 2011 at 7:45 PM #

      HI Francesa! 🙂

  14. Open Book June 23, 2011 at 7:31 PM #

    Here is a great site for those interested in what programs are out there for minority screenwriters.

    http://heatherhale.com/2010/10/writers-talent-development-opportunities/

  15. Open Book June 23, 2011 at 7:40 PM #

    I have a Q for everyone. Do u think u need to be of the same minority group to write about a particular minority experience?

    • ozzie20 June 23, 2011 at 7:57 PM #

      Forgot to answer your question!

      This is a tough one. On one hand I’d say no because if you are well informed there should be no major mistakes. On the other hand, would they truely understand the mind set of someone who has lived through a particular experiance they are writing about? It’s a very good question!

  16. Francesa June 23, 2011 at 7:45 PM #

    This is going to come out bad…

    I think there is still a light good ole boys club in Hollywood.

    • ozzie20 June 23, 2011 at 7:46 PM #

      It would not surprise me if that were true.

    • Littlebells June 23, 2011 at 7:48 PM #

      ITA.

    • Open Book June 23, 2011 at 7:54 PM #

      Francesa

      LOL! U said it much nicer than I.

  17. Francesa June 23, 2011 at 7:48 PM #

    OB that is funny that you have that question. I read an article about 3 MLK movies that were being made and none of the screen writing was being done by a black screenwriter.

    There are alot of upset people with the MLK family and Oprah who is producing one of the movies, I think for HBO. This one is going to be based off of a book that was written by a white man. The King family had specific writers in mind and none of them black.

    • Littlebells June 23, 2011 at 7:50 PM #

      Wow that is very interesting. Holy cow.

      In regards to your question OB, I think it is a yes and no answer for me. Yes because it IS their culture and they have experienced “life” in their culture. No because some may not have enough experience. For example I would no more write a screenplay about white folks in the south because I have no experience whatsoever to draw from. I can google the heck out of it and interview people from the south. But it wouldn’t be the same as if a screenplay was written by someone in the south. A great example: The Help was written by a woman who grew up with a Black Maid and experienced that lifestyle.

    • Littlebells June 23, 2011 at 7:53 PM #

      Do you have any idea why they did not pick a Black writer? Who are the writers by the way?

    • Open Book June 23, 2011 at 8:01 PM #

      Yes!

      I heard about this too Francesa. This is not uncommon though. Many screenwriters say if white writers can write about other races why can’t minority writer’s do the same? Why can’t people accept minority writers writing about issues not pertaining to their culture?

      • Littlebells June 23, 2011 at 8:11 PM #

        excellent point! Who says one group has more knowledge over another??? Hmmm….

        • Open Book June 23, 2011 at 8:18 PM #

          What it does is segregates minorities by limiting their ability to compete for jobs. Now of course I’m sure minorities would not turn down a writing gig about their own culture. However, many fear getting stereotyped if they do. Does that make sense?

          • Littlebells June 23, 2011 at 8:21 PM #

            Absolutely and their fear is completely valid. It’s just very, very sad that “HW” continues to do this. I put HW in quotes because I am sure their are some people high up in the industry who DO want to give minorities a chance, just as much as a the white guy/gal.

            • Open Book June 23, 2011 at 8:25 PM #

              I like to think so LB!

    • ozzie20 June 23, 2011 at 8:05 PM #

      Wow, I didn’t know that at all! Do any of the screen writers have knowledge or experiance in that area? For example, did they live through the period and therefore experianced it first hand or did they know MLK or his family personally and would therefore have detailed knowledge about him?

  18. Open Book June 23, 2011 at 7:50 PM #

    Ozzie-

    I forgot to introduce u to Francesa. There new to LIH and have been a great addition with great knowledge and insight about the film industry.

    • ozzie20 June 23, 2011 at 7:59 PM #

      Brilliant! 🙂

  19. Francesa June 23, 2011 at 7:50 PM #

    I don’t remember who asked about the Fox screenwriters program on another post, but I am kind of excited about that. My only concern is are any of these films going to be made or go into the “vault” of movies. Also, I wonder if any of these writers will be writers of color?

  20. Francesa June 23, 2011 at 8:13 PM #

    I know the King family is involved in the production of all of these movies. I do not know on what level. All 3 movies are based off of books by white writers and the outcry came when i believe that some people want the family to come out and stat they would like I think Geoffrey Fletcher, Andrews or Anderson(not sure) and a couple of Tony winning playwrites to adapt at least 2 of these jobs. But wonder if the studios would honor the request.

    So I did misquote on my earlier post. Sorry sometimes when I am pulling from the depths of a black hole of my brain it gets really fuzzy

    • Littlebells June 23, 2011 at 8:22 PM #

      Hey mine’s got cobwebs, so….it’s ok. 🙂

  21. Francesa June 23, 2011 at 8:18 PM #

    Why is it that books can be written by whomever, but screenplays cannot? Is it because there is more anonymity behind a book?

    A little slow tonight trying to get caught up on the True Blood series.

    • Open Book June 23, 2011 at 8:23 PM #

      Great Q!

      Yes, I think a book allows for more anonymity. I think screenwriters have more visibility than a novelist of a book.

    • Littlebells June 23, 2011 at 8:23 PM #

      I know a lot of authors use pseudonyms, for whatever reason. I wonder if any minority screenwriter has ever used a different name to get their work looked at. You bring up a very good question.

      Speaking of minorities, watching The Talk and Blair Underwood is on it. Love him and sooooo handsome. 🙂

    • ozzie20 June 23, 2011 at 8:31 PM #

      Lol, no worries! I can be slow to reply too, like tonight (I’m adding The Tudors re-run onto my jet lag)! 🙂 I love True Blood myself but here (I’m in the UK) we’re about 2 seasons behind. Season 3 is out on DVD but it hasn’t been aired on any of the major channels yet!

      Anyway, back to the topic. I’m not sure on an answer for that but it is a good question.

  22. Littlebells June 23, 2011 at 8:26 PM #

    Francesa,

    Going back to your original comment about the “good ole boys”, do you or anyone else here, know what the age bracket of the Big Cheeses is/are? I know much of the younger generation is very accepting of all nationalities. I just wonder if HW is stuck in a stereotype itself.

  23. Open Book June 23, 2011 at 8:26 PM #

    Ozzie-

    Are u still awake? LOL!

    • Littlebells June 23, 2011 at 8:32 PM #

      I’m afraid she face-planted into her keyboard!!!! haha!!

      • Littlebells June 23, 2011 at 8:32 PM #

        Oh good she hasn’t passed out! 🙂

    • ozzie20 June 23, 2011 at 8:37 PM #

      I’m here! I feel like my brain is in a blender so I’m going slow. Thank you for checking though. After I sent my email to you last night, I fell asleep with my laptop still on my knee and the page saying the email had been sent was up!

      • Littlebells June 23, 2011 at 8:38 PM #

        hahaha!

        • ozzie20 June 23, 2011 at 8:48 PM #

          I think the brain blender may have stopped. Unfortunately it’s left me with a headache and in a near vegetable state. How I’m writing this, I do not know!

  24. Francesa June 23, 2011 at 8:30 PM #

    What about the tv show private practice and grey’s anatomy. The woman that created and runs these 2 shows is black. Out of 26 writers only 3 are black and women to boot. The rest are I believe white and a mix of men and women. But there is no outcry that there is not a black male or asians writing for the show. Some people believe why no one says anything is because she is black.

    • Open Book June 23, 2011 at 8:41 PM #

      Yeah! That’s not good. I’ve heard some say HW only allows for one or two minorities in. It’s rare to see minorities saturated in one area instead u will find them scattered about. Why do u think that is?

      • Littlebells June 23, 2011 at 8:48 PM #

        #%#$%$%$^$^^%^!!!!!!!! Sorry, just annoyed.

  25. Francesa June 23, 2011 at 8:35 PM #

    I think we would all be surprised and the average age is younger than we think.

    • Littlebells June 23, 2011 at 8:40 PM #

      hmph!

    • Open Book June 23, 2011 at 8:43 PM #

      Not surprised!

      • ozzie20 June 23, 2011 at 8:50 PM #

        Hmmm, I was thinking that maybe the case, which if it is, it’s not a good sign.

  26. Open Book June 23, 2011 at 8:47 PM #

    Everyone-

    I have to head out but Ozzie great article and nice to have u back!! As always great discussion and I enjoyed talking to everyone. I will check back tomorrow and respond as well.

    Goodnight everyone!

    • Littlebells June 23, 2011 at 8:56 PM #

      Good night OB!

    • ozzie20 June 23, 2011 at 8:58 PM #

      Thank you! I shall call it at night too as I know 100% I will not make sense soon!

      I’ll catch up and comment on all the articles I’ve missed soon.

      As usual, I’ve had fun and it’s been great to be able to talk to you all again. Also, it’s been a pleasure meeting and chatting to you Francesa!

      Take care all and have a good night! 🙂

  27. Littlebells June 23, 2011 at 8:58 PM #

    Alright ladies,

    Wonderful as usual. I’m heading out myself and have to get my kiddos ready for the sitter.

    Have a wonderful night.

    Lurker, we miss you!

    Ozzie, GO TO BED!!!!! 🙂

    • ozzie20 June 23, 2011 at 9:01 PM #

      Hehe! I’m off, I promise this is my last reply of the night! *runs out before LB gives a good telling off!*

  28. Littlebells June 24, 2011 at 10:43 AM #

    Hi ladies!

    Francesa, I was reminded of your good ole boys comment when I read this article this morning. Totally not related to the film industry, but very interesting nonetheless.

    http://finance.yahoo.com/career-work/article/113000/boys-only-public-boards-businessweek?mod=career-leadership

    • Open Book June 24, 2011 at 1:35 PM #

      Great article LB!

      Everyone rememebr I asked the Q.last night “It’s rare to see minorities saturated in one area instead u will find them scattered about. Why do u think that is?” Well this article sums it up perfectly. It states;

      “If you only have one woman on a board then it can be difficult,” says Alvarez, who notes that the experience can be “isolating and intimidating.” She continues: “If you have at least some numbers, then you feel more empowered about opening up and expressing your doubts.”

  29. Open Book June 24, 2011 at 3:11 PM #

    LB!

    The article u provided is very helpful in illustrating & supporting Francesa comment last night. No it’s not talking about the film industry but it does cover diverse companies who engage in the “good ole boys” practice. I like to think today people do mean well and often choose what’s comfortable rather than what’s fair. However, when a problem is zeroed in on and discussed it’s only then can change happen. IMO!

    • Littlebells June 24, 2011 at 6:04 PM #

      Thanks OB!

      Interesting how so many companies refused to comment, huh? And you are right. It’s the squeaky wheel syndrome.

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