Action Heroes: Screenwriter Edition

83006-marvels-agent-carter-marvels-agent-carterAction is one of those genres that has a bit of everything; fast-paced drama, weapons, sometimes explosions, and usually a nice, dark urban setting. What a winner! It’s also traditionally seen to be a bit of a man’s world. There is a kind of assumption that goes about that men write action or thriller shows and women write rom-coms (not everyone thinks that, this is just coffee table talk). So I wanted to have a look at the top performing TV action series of the moment and see just how many were written by women.

A couple of small disclaimers before we get into the numbers:

  1. This is an exercise only, and was taken from IMDB (aka The Bible)
  2. I’ve taken into account for this exercise only the number of writers listed, and not how many episodes each writer was credited with (I’ll get into that another day!)
  3. This information is based on the top 10 performing action series as listed on IMDB, and I won’t pass judgement on the shows because, well, I’ve spent the last month’s allocated Netflix time catching up with Pretty Little Liars so I haven’t seen half of these.

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And now, let’s get into it.

The Top Ten as Listed:

No. Title Year Total Writers Total Female Writers % Female writers
1 Legends of Tomorrow 2016 9 2 22.22
2 Shadowhunters 2016 8 4 50.00
3 Arrow 2012 31 12 38.71
4 The Flash 2014 31 10 32.26
5 Jessica Jones 2015 11 4 36.36
6 Agent Carter 2015 14 5 35.71
7 Colony 2016 6 1 16.67
8 Daredevil 2015 10 1 10.00
9 Vikings 2013 1 0 0.00
10 Supergirl 2015 14 5 35.71

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So, let’s rearrange those in order of action series with the highest percentage of female writers…

No. Title Year Total Writers Total Female Writers % Female writers
2 Shadowhunters 2016 8 4 50.00
3 Arrow 2012 31 12 38.71
5 Jessica Jones 2015 11 4 36.36
10 Supergirl 2015 14 5 35.71
6 Agent Carter 2015 14 5 35.71
4 The Flash 2014 31 10 32.26
1 Legends of Tomorrow 2016 9 2 22.22
7 Colony 2016 6 1 16.67
8 Daredevil 2015 10 1 10.00
9 Vikings 2013 1 0 0.00

 

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Melissa Rosenberg

Now, it’s worth noting that Jessica Jones actually has a female creator, Melissa Rosenberg, who is also (fun fact), ranked #24 on the highest-grossing screenwriters list (according to www.boxofficemojo.com). She’s grossed an epic USD $1.452B over her career (largely due to her screenplays for the Twilight series). At #24, she is the third woman on the list, coming in behind Philippa Boyens (#7) and Fran Walsh (#9), both up there for box office slam dunks with the Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit series.

So here’s a shoutout to all the women listed as writers on the top 10 action series according to IMDB (alphabetically, no favourites here):

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Y. Shireen Razack (from themortalinstitute.com)

Ali Adler (Supergirl)
Lindsey Allen (Arrow, Agent Carter)
Dana Baratta (Jessica Jones)
Rebecca Bellotto (Arrow)
Andi Bushell (Agent Carter)
Tara Butters (Agent Carter)
Lauren Certo (The Flash)
Yahlin Chang (Supergirl)
Lana Cho (Arrow)
Sue Chung (Agent Carter)
Cassandra Clare (wrote the novel for Shadowhunters and is listed as a writer on all episodes)
Marjorie David (Shadowhunter)
Michele Fazekas (Agent Carter)
Anna Fishko (Colony)
Ruth Fletcher (Daredevil)

Lana_Cho

Lana Cho (from Twitter)

Liz Friedman (Jessica Jones)
Grainne Godfree (Arrow, The Flash)
Holly Harold (Arrow)
Sarah Nicole Jones (Legends of Tomorrow)
Moira Kirland (Arrow)
Wendy Mericle (Arrow)
Anna Musky-Goldwyn (Supergirl)
Cortney Norris (Legends of Tomorrow, The Flash)
Hollie Overton (Shadowhunters)
Caitlin Parrish (Supergirl)
Y. Shireen Razack (Shadowhunters)
Jenna Reback (Jessica Jones)
Brooke Roberts (The Flash)
Melissa Rosenberg (Jessica Jones – Creator)
Alison Schapker (The Flash)
Beth Schwartz (Arrow)
Keto Shimizu (Arrow, The Flash)
Rachel Shukert (Supergirl)
Gabrielle G. Stanton (Arrow, The Flash)

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Ali Adler (photo by Graeme Mitchel for Forbes)

Sarah Tarkoff (Arrow)
Lilah Vandenburgh (The Flash)
Katherine Walczak (The Flash)
Kai Wu (The Flash)

It’s great to see a few names popping up across different series. See? Women can and do specialise in writing action/superhero/fast-cars-big-guns television.

 

That’s all for now.

I’d love to hear about which television series featuring great female leads are your favourites for another post – comment below!

 

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2016 Pilot Season: The Numbers

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The 2016 Pilot Season is a fascinating thing to watch. If you hop on over to Variety (www.variety.com) you can see, network by network, which new shows in drama, animation or comedy categories might grace your TV screens this year for the first time (and a couple look pretty binge-able). But the most interesting thing for me and for what I’m researching for my PhD is that you can see the names of the writers, executive producers and, sometimes, directors, of all the new shows. And I’m here to tell you, the numbers are pretty dire.

At the time of writing, there are sixty new TV shows up on the TV Pilot Season Development Scorecard (see? It IS a viewing sport). Out of those sixty, fifteen have female writers listed for their pilots. That’s sitting at 25%, which is pretty low, as far as I’m concerned. When you think about it, women make up 51% of the population in the USA. I’m not saying that everyone watches television, and I’m not saying that everyone cares about who writes the content on their screens. What I’m saying is, isn’t television about representation? I know that I connect with shows that I feel represent me, and everyone should have that chance. If only 25% of the new drama/comedy/animation content that’s released in a year is written by women, then that seriously narrows the chances for all different types of women to find something they identify with.

Now, the numbers get a little tricky here, because, out of those 15 female writers, 6 had male co-writers for the pilots. That brings the percentage of new pilots written exclusively by women to 15%.

Again, I’m going to reiterate that not all content I watch is made up of stories about people like me. I love watching shows and films from different cultures, about different subcultures, and about people who have done amazing things. I also love watching absolute rubbish shows that are so bad that they’re brilliant, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. But I do think that everyone deserves the chance to find something that kind of relates to them. And with a rate of 15%, it really reduces the chance for women to see stories that relate to them on television when you take into account women of colour, women across the sexuality and gender spectrums, and differently-abled women, among many, many others.

If you take into account the number of female EPS, you’re getting a lot more representation, and that is great. It’s important to see women at executive levels in every industry, not just in television. But I am really looking forward to seeing the number of women screenwriters steadily increase over the next couple of years. I’m also really looking forward to Season 2 of How to Get Away with Murder. But that’s neither here nor there.

Another day, I’m going to look at women-related content on our screens, and at the female protagonist in all her glory.

Until then…

Go watch some telly.