According to a study in 2015, by the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, 17% of the top grossing films had a female lead. Films led by women grossed 15.8% more on average than films led by men, yet in films with male leads, male characters spoke three times more often than female characters (33.1% compared to 9.8%).
According to research by The Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film 92% of films had no female directors in 2015, and women comprised 7% of all directors working on the top 250 films of 2016.
This needs to change.
Despite recent exciting progress in the world of film, roles for women tend to still be predictable. But when we turn common tropes upside down, Hollywood-style storytelling can become empowering, hilarious, and familiar. Get your popcorn ready and settle in for a few totally unrecognizable, yet utterly believable female-driven film treatments.
Galactica is a warrior from planet Encephalon, driven to avenge her father Gorgonzola’s assassination at the hands of the evil King Barbizon. She hurtles through the universe wearing a baggy, utilitarian costume and urinating into bags through a tube since she’s in zero gravity. She eventually traps Barbizon in her ship’s gravitational field, and they sit down together for a painful but cathartic discussion in which he confesses that at the time of the assassination he was dealing with some anger management and substance abuse issues, and while he can never bring her father back he’ll spend the rest of his life counseling at-risk youth in an effort to stop the spread of violence in their galaxy.
She’s Only Human
James worships Haley from afar for months, trying to get the courage to ask her out. He visits the coffee shop she works regularly. Haley has a warm, winning smile that lights up the room, and she often gives a local homeless man free pastries. She wears cotton blouses and vintage jeans that are cute but not super revealing, and when the afternoon sun hits her reddish ponytail she looks like a Rembrandt painting. Eventually, James convinces Haley to go out with him, but he quickly realizes she’s actually pretty unpleasant. Not like, horribly so, just kind of boring and a little rude to waiters. It turns out she was giving the homeless guy pastry to get him to leave, and the smile was just for tips. “I actually kind of hate all people”, she confesses. He never calls her again.
One Sultry Summer
A forty-year old woman who recently gave birth goes on a tropical vacation with her family. She wears a bikini and feels ok in it; sure, she has some stretch marks but it’s not a huge deal and she’s not especially concerned about her body. She looks a lot like most women her age, actually, and anyway she has more important stuff to worry about. She and her husband are doing pretty well considering the major life change they’ve just undergone, though they fight occasionally about petty stuff and neither of them are naturally adept at parenting. While he watches the baby, she takes advantage of the downtime to peruse LinkedIn and update her resume, because she’s gotten pretty good at search engine optimization and thinks she can negotiate her way into a better salary when they get home.
Walking in Lagos
When Kate’s mother dies, she loses herself in grief. The night after the funeral, she has a vivid dream that she’s walking through a lush African landscape at sunset while being guided by a mysterious native woman in an indigo shawl. Driven by a nameless urge, she hops on the next plane to Lagos. She disembarks at rush hour with no real agenda, and wanders around the city streets while people walk briskly by on their way home from the office. Eventually she encounters a kind-looking woman in a local KFC, but when Kate asks whether she has any wisdom to impart, she simply replies, “The family size bucket is only a little more than the eight-piece so it’s definitely the best value.”
Maid for Hollywood
Maria is a fifth generation Californian who speaks unaccented English and works as a housekeeper for the wealthy Pruitt family in a cushy Los Angeles enclave. For four years, she vacuums, cooks, and dusts their sprawling mid-century home, and cares for their two children, Hannah and Josh. Their parents, Hal and Stacey, have a totally respectful relationship with each other and her. Maria isn’t especially excited about the job, but she appreciates the flexible hours because she’s also a film student at UCLA. When she graduates she’s relieved to quit, though she knows she’ll miss Hannah and Josh. They attend the premiere of her first film, which is well received, and Hannah interns for her on the set of her subsequent HBO series.
I’m Here for the Waves
Jessie, a lithe, blonde 19-year-old, signs up for surf camp the summer after her freshman year in college and hits the beach on Hawaii’s staggeringly beautiful North Shore. Her surf instructor, James, is an ethnically ambiguous Australian with cryptic tattoos and a painful past. He’s drawn to Jessie, but she rebuffs him because his emotional baggage is off-putting and he’s in his early 30’s so the power dynamic would probably get weird. Plus she really just wants to focus on learning to surf.
More Realistic Female-Driven Film Treatments was commissioned for All About Women festival at Sydney Opera House and follows on from Kira’s brilliant 2015 piece for Lenny Letter. Read the original article here.
The 5th All About Women Festival will take place at Sydney Opera House,
5 March 2017. For more information visit the website.