Tawnya Bhattacharya and Ali Laventhol, who we have written about before in the “Smart Women” column, have another achievement to add to their screenwriting resumes. These women have currently secured the coveted position as staff writers for the USA TV series Fairly Legal. The show has been renewed for a second season of 13 episodes, which will go into production later this year and begin airing in 2012.
Is this a big deal? Yes. According to a study done by the Center for the Study of Women in Television at San Diego State University, the odds are against women succeeding at their craft in Hollywood. Their study examined 1,941 individuals working behind the scenes on one randomly selected episode of every prime-time drama, situation comedy, and reality program airing on ABC, CBS, CW, Fox, and NBC in 2009 – 2010.
Results showed that 71% of all writers of television episodes were men. Regardless of the program genre, the representation of behind-the- scenes women is similar. Dramas and situation comedies employed 27% women and 73% men. Reality programs employed 28% women and 72% men. Unfortunately, the odds for women to be employed behind-the-scenes in film are even less. A study that analyzed behind-the-scenes employment of 2,649 individuals working on the top 250 domestic grossing films found that only 7% of directors in 2010 were women, and the amalgamation of directors, executive producers, producers, writers, cinematographers, and editors amounted to only 16%, even when combined.
It gets even worse. A whopping 97% of films had no female sound designers, 96% had no female supervising sound editors, and women comprised only 1% of key grips or gaffers. From The Celluloid Ceiling: Behind-the-Scenes Employment of Women in the Top 250 Films of 2010*
Tawnya Bhattacharya and Ali Laventhol had to exhibit expert screenwriting skills as well as unyielding determination in order to overcome the odds against them as females in Hollywood. Congratulations to Tawnya and Ali, once again.
*Report compiled by Dr. Martha M. Lauzen, Executive Director, Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film, School of Theatre, Television and Film, San Diego State University, San Diego, CA, 92182, 619.594.6301