A young female friend of mine, who I happen to think is very smart, funny and would get bumped to the near top of my 'fishable/swimable' list should my wife ever go missing while walking in the woods, asked me if I would read a screenplay she's been working on. I had to turn her down.
She told me not to worry, we had been friends a long time and she wasn't worried that I would try to steal her ideas, and she had registered the work with the Writer's Guild and all that, but I still had to tell her, 'no'. She pressed me for an answer why, so pointed behind her and I said, 'Look! Barack Obama!' and ran away as she turned, autograph book and panties in hand.
The reason I wouldn't read her script was two fold: A) it more than likely sucked and B) even if it were produced it would never make any real money. Now before you jump on your menstrual cycle and peddle down to my front door, righteous indignation and new found feeling of empowerment in hand; Recent History (or Herstory), of course, has proven me right.
I'm not saying that women can't write. Ruth Gordon was one of my favorite writer/actors and Paula Poundstone wrote what may be my second favorite joke of all time, but when it comes to delivering a movie in Hollywood, if 2008 is any indication, women just aren't pulling their weight (and jam that 'glass ceiling' talk. How many female execs are there in Hollywood these days? You telling me they are holding back the gender too?)
A little over 20% for the people who claim to earn their livings as screenwriters are women. Of the 100 top grossing movies in the United States only 12 of them were written by woman. Of those 12, three of them were co-written by men and only one of them is in the top ten, and that was MAMMA MIA!
MAMMA MIA! has made $143 million in the United States as of last weekend, making it the number 10 money maker this year (so far). It was written by a woman, Catherine Johnson, a British TV writer who based the screenplay on her own play. But of course, all the songs (the real appeal of the movie/play) were written by two men.
WHAT HAPPENS IN VEGAS, the long awaited Diaz/Kutcher teaming, was written by Dana Fox, the Stanford grad who was also responsible for THE WEDDING DATE three years ago. WHAT HAPPENS IN VEGAS topped out at $80 million, putting it at number 22 on the box office list for the year, and Fox is rumored to have done the re-write on 27 DRESSES, which was number 25 at the box office this year. Fox is also rumored to have done many other things that we won't talk about here because none of them are illegal or happened in my lap.
Aline Brosh McKenna got the WGA credit for the 27 DRESSES script, she also wrote the THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA screenplay and will get another chance to amaze us with her script for the FAME remake which is in pre-production right now. McKenna didn't go to a safety school like Stanford, she graduated from Harvard and put that degree to good use writing for Margret Cho's TV show and the resounding flop LAWS OF ATTRACTION.
Aside from female writers what do the top three grossing films written by women for 2008 have in common? Well, for one thing, I haven't seen any of them, nor do I plan to, and I see almost everything. Was it the fact that women wrote them that kept me away? No. Was it that fact the they were 'chick flicks'? No, in fact, I am a huge fan of the romantic comedy. It came down to this: they all looked like they sucked.
I had seen MAMMA MIA! on stage and had no desire to sit through that story again. Anything with Aston Kutcher or Cameron Diaz in it has 'wait for the DVD' written all over it these days. Put the two of them together in a movie and you can just skip it all together and 27 DRESSES was directed by Anne Fletcher who is a dancer not a director of any note. Gary Barber must have gotten on king hell of a blow job to give her the reins to a movie.
What's the rest of the list? THE HOUSE BUNNY, THE SISTERHOOD OF THE TRAVELING PANTS PART 2, THE WOMEN, KIT KITTREDGE: AN AMERICAN GIRL, UNDER THE SAME MOON and PENELOPE. How many of those did you rush out to see on opening weekend? Other than a couple of Teen Choice Awards, do you think any of those movies will need to clear off any shelf space?
That is not to say women writers can't win Oscars. Diablo Cody got one for JUNO last year and Sofia Coppola got one in 2003 for LOST IN TRANSLATION (although there was much competition that year, to be honest). You have to go back to 1993 to find another one (if you don't count Matt Damon in 1997), but female written screenplays just aren't bringing in the coin. Chick flicks do, just female written ones have a hard time finding an audience, and ever since we voted to call anyone who makes $250,000 a year the middle class, box office is all I care about anymore.
So what about the top grossing chick flick of 2008, SEX AND THE CITY? It was written by a man, Michael Patrick King.
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Lance Norris gives us his opinions on the state of film, vents about Hollywood, and generally lets his thoughts fly.
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