Moving Forward as Screenwriters: How to Write for Females in Film

"I don't know how to write for women." Is a phrase I hear on a regular basis from male writers. I look at them puzzled,

"Just write a great story and then make your character female." Is my standard answer.

This is an interesting topic for me as a female screenwriter and actress in a male dominated industry. If most of the men in the industry feel like they don't know how to write for women, how can some of our most beloved writers like Wes Anderson and Quentin Tarantino, start changing the paradigm in the film and television industry?

My thoughts are, that this is a case of shifting one's perspective.

A friend of mine wrote the first 30 pages of an interesting superhero script. I read it and automatically connected with the lead character. "I'd love to play this." I told him. "No, that's a guy." he said back to me.

I'm not saying this is fundamentally wrong, I'm just saying why not start shifting our perspective so that the possibility of gender isn't even in the picture?

I look at something like Quentin Tarantino's "The Hateful Eight" and I think, wow what a cast. But why couldn't any number of those lead males have been females? Why not have Susan Sarandon, Octavia Spencer, Julianne Moore, or Daryl Hannah play one of those roles or even three or four of those roles? They would have been more than capable of doing so and I doubt it would have even changed the movie(I haven't seen the movie yet). And as a female writer I see and think this a lot.

Our focus on the gender has to be secondary.

I've never heard a woman say "I don't know how to write for a male" and that doesn't mean that there are aren't female writers out there that have trouble. But I've never heard it as an excuse for not having a certain gender in a lead character. It's about writing a great character and it happens to be male or female.

There are countless women working on getting female stories into the world. And there are countless men as well, such as Joss Whedon. And for you males who are feeling like it can be hard to write for a female but really believe in increasing the ratio of women in film, here are some tips.

1. Think about writing a strong and specific character and story and assign or switch genders after. This can't always work, but for a lot of films I see, it could have been a female instead of a male.

2. If you are writing a female character and feel like it's cliche or that you're having trouble, ask a female writer friend. You all have them and if you don't, get in touch with an organization like Women in Film and ask them to help connect you with a female writer.

3. Ask a female friend to read over the dialogue and see if you can sharpen it.

What I am really trying to get at is that gender really can be secondary (and same with race for that matter). We can create powerful and wonderful characters that can be either men or women because we are diverse creatures and all of us can relate to each other. I'm not saying this is always the case, of course gender comes into play in a lot of situations, just like race. But in general, I think as writers it's time for us to be making both gender and race secondary. What does it matter if the lead is a black female or a white male? And if we have to play with a few other genders to make sense within the story then we should start doing so. There are answers to these seemingly big and hard questions in our industry and I can guarantee there will always be someone willing to help answer them.

Kat Karpoff