Magazine article Variety

Screen Queens: How WIF Strives to Promote Women's Voices

Magazine article Variety

Screen Queens: How WIF Strives to Promote Women's Voices

Article excerpt

Change is often slow to come in the entertainment industry, but organizations like Women in Film are constantly working to balance the scales of gender equality. That directive inspired the nonprofit's latest TV-centric initiative, the inaugural Women in Film/The Black List Episodic Lab, which is bringing nonprofessional writers who identify as women together for an intensive eight-week workshop in which they develop scripts for television and learn the trade under the tutelage of established writers and executives.

"As we all know, the numbers of women working in film and television are low," says WIF executive director Kirsten Schaffer. "So one way to increase those numbers is to help women get hired as writers and to help them develop their own shows that they can pitch and hopefully get picked up and aired."

Partnering with The Black List, which provides a resource to bring unproduced scripts and writers to the attention of filmmakers and development executives, seemed like the best way to expand the lab's submission pool beyond WIF members to "the entire country, maybe even the world," Schaffer says.

Mentors for the program, which launched Aug. 17, include such notables as "Marvel's Jessica Jones" showrunner Melissa Rosenberg, "Sex and the City's" Cindy Chupack, "Being Mary Jane" creator Mara Brock Akil, and Shondaland producer Betsy Beers.

"It's a nice mix of women who are working in comedy and drama, who have worked at a variety of different networks and cable outlets," Schaffer says. "We wanted to give a picture of all the different kinds of shows that one could write for or create, and a real lay of the land."

At the end of the Lab, the participants will have their final pilots read by agencies and networks, offering access to industry gatekeepers that might otherwise seem out of reach for a newcomer without key connections.

The Lab alternates between workshops, where the participants delve into each other's scripts in-depth, and masterclasses with professional writers, who share advice and anecdotes from their careers. "All the fellows have read each other's scripts, so they're getting notes from the advisers and they're also getting notes from their peers," Schaffer says, "so we're giving them practice of what it's like to be in a writers' room."

Despite the succinct acronym, WIF's full name is Women in Film, Television, Media and Digital, and the organization strives to integrate the TV industry into the majority of its programs. It annually honors the achievements of women in television with the Lucy Award, named after Lucille Ball, as well as presenting the Dorothy Arzner Directors Award, which has spotlighted the small-screen work of Lesli Linka Glatter, Pamela Fryman and Debbie Allen alongside feature helmers. …

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