Sounds familiar, right? J.F. Lawton came to our 1988 Directors and Screenwriters Labs with his script for Three Thousand, which was released twenty-five years ago this spring as Pretty Woman. Three Thousand was a much darker story than Pretty Woman; Vivian was addicted to crack, and the original script ends with Vivian returned to the street, emotionally broken and back on drugs after a week with Edward at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel.
After its Institute support in 1988, the script was purchased by Touchstone Pictures, a new division of Walt Disney Studios. Touchstone gave the project to writer/director Garry Marshall (who, among other things, had created Happy Days and Mork & Mindy), and asked him to temper the script’s bleak tone. So, Edward turning his limo around and climbing the fire escape to be with Vivian? A great ending, but not the one workshopped at the 1988 Labs!
Bonus fact: Touchstone’s very first film was Splash, the 1984 film starring Tom Hanks and Daryl Hannah. Originally scheduled to premiere at the 1984 United States Film and Video Festival, Splash was withdrawn at the last moment, but the Festival’s catalog had already gone to print. Like Three Thousand, the Festival had a title change of its own after Sundance Institute took over its management in 1985; in 1991, it officially became the Sundance Film Festival.
Plenty of women in Hollywood express frustration over lack of representation in their field. Meryl Streep is actually doing something about it.
“The lack of film roles for women over 40 was the topic of much discussion earlier this year when actor Russell Crowe brushed aside the notion that roles dry up for actresses of a certain age. He pinned the problem on women being unwilling to act their age on film and used Meryl Streep as a vaulted example for actresses everywhere. When asked about Crowe’s comments, Streep seemed on board, saying, “I agree with him. It’s good to live within the place that you are.”
But, apparently Streep acknowledges that more could be done for older women in Hollywood because the actress has used her own money to help fund a screenwriting lab for women writers over 40, to be run by New York Women in Film and Television and IRIS, a collective of women filmmakers. This support for her fellow women should come as no surprise given recent Streep events like that enthusiastic response to Patricia Arquette’s Oscar speech or her role as women’s-voting-rights activist Emmeline Pankhurst in the upcoming film Suffragette.
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 percent of directors, 11 percent of the writers, and 18 percent of the editors on the biggest moneymaking films over the past 17 years.
This new Streep-funded Writers Lab aims to give that 11 percent writing number a healthy bump and the program has drafted a few established talents in mentorship roles including writer-director Gina Prince-Bythewood (Beyond the Lights), producer Caroline Kaplan (Boyhood), and writers Kirsten Smith (Legally Blonde) and Jessica Bendinger (Bring It On).
Presumably, the Writers Lab participants won’t be restricted to writing female-focused scripts. But it is worth noting how a female perspective can not only potentially offer up more roles for women over 40, but also change the established rules for what a woman-over-40 role looks like on film. Streep may have agreed with Crowe that “it’s good to live within the place that you are,” but at 65 years old, she’s constantly pushing the boundaries of what that “place” is.
This year the Streep-funded Writers Lab will accept submissions May 1–June 1, with eight winning writers named August 1. That’s just in time for winners to celebrate with a screening of Ricki and the Flash which opens on August 7. Get your writing and shredding fingers ready.”
Meryl Streep just took a huge stand for women in Hollywood.
Meryl Streep — an active champion of women’s causes — has announced that she will help fund
a screenwriting lab for women writers over 40 in partnership with New York Women in Film and Television, female members of the creative network IRIS Film Collective and a handful of acclaimed female filmmakers, according to Vanity Fair. This could lead to real change in the industry.
I’m looking for a few talented writers and directors for 2015 Sundance Institute Screenwriters Lab. Hit me up at info(at)adambhalalough(dot)(com). Thanks in advance for sending possible candidates my way.