Just when I was about to rant about my frustration at being a female writer in Los Angeles … "Bridesmaids" comes out. And not only does it do tremendous business, it does way better than anyone had expected. Chalk one up for the girls. Yay! I feel like I’m keeping score. And until the last couple of weeks the score was looking pretty dismal for the girls.
A couple of months ago I’d received the Black List, (an insider's list of scripts read in agencies and production companies which weren’t made in that year but got great coverage.) Among the 74 scripts I’d received, only seven were women writers. Ouch.
As well, I received the Film Society list of movies for the month of April playing at the Guild Theatre, and there wasn’t one single movie written by a woman. I was beginning to have serious concerns for my future.
But then May came, and the Film Society had a few movies from women writers, and announcements came out that this year women did better in setting up scripted television pilots. Whew! And then came "Bridesmaids" … getting me to not only step back but walk away from that metaphorical cliff.
And not only was "Bridesmaids" written by two women, Kristin Wiig and Annie Mumulo (who went on to get a deal over at ABC), it has almost made $100 million.
"Bridesmaids" is a perfect example in a debate I was recently having with a friend. He is a producer who frequently does not read the project he’s optioning (welcome to L.A.). Instead, his company submits any scripts it's considering to an audience research company that gives a moment by moment technical meter of how each beat is being received by their hand-picked audience.
This just doesn’t get more technical and devoid of any actual personal responsibility in my opinion. But, as we are all aware, movies … and especially tentpole movies, need to be more than “art” for art sake and really more about big business. We are talking about billions of dollars.
That said, my issue with the research companies is only that one should have passion for something going on the screen. Or at least follow your gut instinct if you believe something is good even if the research company questions the viability of its success.
Can these research companies quantify the potential grass-roots excitement for a film when it’s a quality piece of work or if the actors are amazing?! Because let’s face it, those agencies aren’t always accurate. If they were, they would have told Disney not to do "Mars Needs Moms" — a movie made for $150 million that has only grossed $34.9 million so far and has been out since March. And no doubt it was a similar marketing company that stated "Bridesmaids" would only perform in the low teens, only to have it open with $26 million the first weekend to rave reviews and steadily climbing toward the $100 million mark.
Apparently the audience research firms didn’t quantify that. Did "Hangover" get low scores? How sad is it that a well-produced movie, that is truly funny, would be given such a low score. Was it because it is a female-driven vehicle? Or an assumption it wouldn’t carry over to the male viewers? Case in point, men want to see "Bridesmaids," too!
So I say…Give women vehicles a chance!
All of this newfound forward momentum for women writers gives me hope for a new era for us girls. We’re funny guys, really! Just throw us in the room so we can prove how talented we are. I promise we won’t act like your wife, mother, or sister. But we can infuse their voices into a script. Generally, we won’t cry if you don’t like our material … in front of you anyway. Hell, I’ve seen men more upset at notes they’ve received from the execs than women!
And, in my case, I’m still learning how to play poker so you have a little more time to shake me down for money in poker games. Cha-ching!