Not content to wait for Hollywood to improve on the incredibly bleak numbers of women working behind the scenes, Meryl Streep is taking matters into her own hands (and wallet).
It was announced this weekend at the Tribeca Film Festival that Streep has partnered with the New York Women in Film and Television to found the Writers Lab, a retreat that will happen in upstate New York. One of the coolest aspects is that she’s specifically targeting screenwriters over 40.
“…the screenplay development program aims to increase opportunities for female screenwriters over the age of 40. This year the initiative will accept submissions May 1-June 1, with eight winning scribes named Aug. 1.”
According to the annual Hollywood Diversity Report, women writers dropped 14.1% since 2011. Part of the reason we rarely see women over 40 in diverse roles is probably because the overwhelmingly white, male writers of Hollywood aren’t creating them. Vanity Fair and the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film report that the number of women working behind the camera is declining.
So how will a Streep-funded screenwriting lab for women over 40 combat ageism and sexism in Hollywood? Well, the prevailing school of thought is that improvements for underrepresented groups on camera (women over 40 being just one of many such groups) will only truly change when Hollywood shifts away from the straight, white male-dominated scene behind the camera. According to a recent study by the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film, the percentage of women behind the camera is actually declining. Women only represent 7% of directors, 11% of the writers, and 18% of the editors on the biggest moneymaking films over the past 17 years.
By mentoring this group of women and providing real opportunities, Streep is in a prime position to change the tide. And the mentors she’s lined up are nothing short of incredible.
Among the mentors to participate in the Lab’s inaugural year are writer-director Gina Prince-Bythewood (“Beyond the Lights”), producer Caroline Kaplan (“Boyhood”), and writers Kirsten Smith (“Legally Blonde”) and Jessica Bendinger (“Bring It On”).
More information about the project can be found here.