Want to ensure your script is diverse? Here are some methods and tests you can use.
You’ve finally done it. You finished the first draft of your script with a diverse cast that you’re super excited about. Huzzah! That’s fantastic! You deserve all the kudos and high fives! Now, after the celebration, it’s time for the next step. The rewrite. It’s time to assess the diversity you built into your script so you can polish it to make it shine. But how do you do that?
You’re in luck. We’re in a great time where diversity is top of mind when it comes to film and television. That means diversity analysis methods have been and are actively being developed to support you as a screenwriter. Read on for several ways that you can test the diversity in your screenplay.
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Utilize Diversity Tests
Numerous diversity tests have been developed to assess film and television because a lack of diversity and harmful stereotypes have been such an issue. These tests are simple, consisting of just a few questions. They give you an advantage as a screenwriter because you can use them to revise your script. Below are links to many tests that can help you evaluate the diversity in your script:
- The Bechdel Test
- The Peirce Test
- The Landau Test
- The Villarreal Test (Female Protagonists)
- The Hagen Test (Supporting Female Characters)
- The Koeze Dottle Test (Supporting Female Characters)
- The Ko Test (BIPOC Female Characters)
- The Waithe Test (Black Female Characters)
- The Villalobos Test (Latinx Female Characters)
[All the above tests – and more – are detailed by FiveThirtyEight.]
- The DuVernay Test
- The Shukla Test
- The LIMA Test (Latinx Characters)
- The Aila Test (Indigenous Female Characters)
- Is it time for a Native Bechdel Test? by Adrienne Keene at Native Appropriations
Characters With Disabilities
- The Fries Test
- A Bechdel-Style test for Disabled Characters (you know we all want one) originally posted by user aegipan-omnicorn on Tumblr
- Why We Need a ‘Bechdel Test’ for Disability in Film by Chelsea Rivas at The Mighty
Characters With Religious Beliefs
Assessing the character development and storylines of your screenplay by using these tests can help you flesh out your characters and support you in crafting even more interesting plotlines.
Screenwriting Software Tools
Depending on what screenwriting software you use, you could have tools at your fingertips to support the diversity assessment of your script. Here are a couple of software-specific tools that can help you by analyzing which characters have the most dialogue and more:
Final Draft 11 or higher: Inclusivity Analysis Tool
Highland 2: Gender Analysis Tool
WriterDuet Pro: Document Statistics Tool
Fade In: The Gender Inclusivity Report
This function will provide you with an analysis of your male versus female characters and the number of times they speak.
Don’t use any of the above software for your screenplays? No worries. You can make use of whatever platform you write with. Most screenwriting software usually comes with some basic functions that will help you assess the diversity in your script. Simply view the list of character names and see the number of male versus female characters, white versus people of color, straight versus queer, etc as another way to use your screenwriting software to evaluate the diversity in your script.
Host A Table Read
With the development of technology over the last couple of years, a table read can easily be done on Zoom or any other video conferencing platform. To home in on the diversity in your script, cast diverse actors and invite diverse writers to listen to the read. Let them know ahead of time that you’d love to receive notes specifically about the diversity in the screenplay after the read.
Feedback from people that have a different perspective from your own is invaluable. A table read setting fosters creative input and collaborative brainstorming when you’re with a group of fellow artists. Unlike other testing methods, it’s a superb way to see and receive people’s fresh reactions from reading your script. You may want to compensate them for their time or offer a trade to thank them for their talent and insight.
Hire A Diverse Reader
This method of diversity testing your script is especially effective if the above methods don’t work for you. Perhaps you’re writing about a group of diverse people or have a diverse character that can’t be tested using the above ways.
A caveat: Before leaning on a reader with a diverse background for feedback, first and foremost, it is your responsibility as the writer to do the work and research to craft the most well-rounded diverse characters possible. Do not take this step as your only method of diversity testing your script. You shouldn’t be depending on the reader to educate you or do the work for you.
However, they can absolutely support you in achieving your screenwriting goals. Asking a person from a diverse background to read your script is an effective step in testing the diversity of what you’ve written. Similar to the table read test method, you’ll receive unique insight that goes beyond what you can find scouring the internet.
Here’s a real-life example of how this diversity test helped a screenwriter I know: my friend wrote a feature that focused on a certain culture. Being a wise screenwriter that spends time in the development of their script, they sent it off to someone with the same cultural background featured in the script to read. This reader is not a writer. In fact, they aren’t even part of the industry. The reader simply offered the perspective of someone from that culture, something that my writer friend inherently does not have.
When my friend received feedback from the reader, they were surprised to hear that what they had written was actually highly offensive since it was full of stereotypes about the culture. While it was initially shocking to receive that feedback because my friend wanted to honor the culture, it helped them to make revisions.
It takes a lot of courage to show your work to anyone, and it equally takes a lot of humility to offer your work for feedback from someone that has a diverse background you’ve written about.
If the reader isn’t a professional story analyst, be very clear when asking for feedback that you want to authentically portray the diversity of the characters and that you want the honest truth. People that aren’t used to giving feedback can hold back with their notes if you do not explicitly state what you’re looking for. You can also ask them for suggestions for improvement. Offer them credit and/or compensation.
Keep in mind that every single person has their own unique experiences, so the feedback you receive on the diversity aspect may be colored by that. It does not mean that this one person’s experience speaks for an entire group of people. Rather, use their notes to guide you like any other feedback you receive on your script. You may send it to two diverse readers to see what notes are common between them.
One or a combination of the above diversity testing methods will help bring forth more dynamic characters, plots, dialogue, and steer you away from tired stereotypes. If you’re in the middle of writing your screenplay or haven’t yet started, be sure to check out these tips on how to bring diversity and representation to your script.
Joanna Ke is an award-winning, half Taiwanese actor, writer, producer, and trained sword fighter. Her foundation as a creative producer and screenwriter is built on nearly a decade of experience as a professional script reader in development and acquisitions. She studied screenwriting with the late, great Syd Field, and as an actor, has had the honor of working with director Cameron Crowe. Her films have won BEST ACTION and BEST FANTASY awards, and her acting has won BEST PERFORMANCE and BEST VILLAIN accolades.
Wielding her broadsword is a favorite, both on and off camera.