If you’re a new writer in film and TV, it’s easy to feel powerless. You’re the lowest rung on the ladder. In the face of huge systemic problems like racism and sexism? It might feel like there’s nothing you can do.
But what if I told you that you’re actually one of the most powerful forces in the industry?
Do I have your attention? Good. Because here’s the thing:
They might talk a good game about giving you exposure and opportunity, but the fact is – they need your shiny, brand-spanking new material. If nobody writes, nobody eats. Own that power. Snuggle it to your dang bosom.
But don’t get too comfy. As the great Benjamin Franklin Parker told a young Peter Parker in the Spider-Man comics, “With great power comes great responsibility.” If you’re gonna be one of the most powerful forces in the industry, you should be using that force for good. For change. You should be creating like an activist.
I’m not saying that everything you write needs to be “social justice-y.” You wanna write popcorn action flicks? Go to town! I love those, too! When I say “create like an activist” I mean that, from the moment a story idea pops into your head, recognize that you can be using the creation of that project to push the industry toward greater inclusion.
Everything starts with a script
That means, if you don’t write it, the Powers That Be can’t make it. So, if creating a more inclusive Hollywood is something you value, it starts with the words you type into Final Draft (or Celtx, because it’s free, and there ain’t no shame in that game).
So, look at your script:
Who are the characters in your story?
How are you describing them in the stage directions?
How much screen time are certain types of characters getting over others?
If you’ve ever complained about the “lack of diversity” in Hollywood, you have a huge opportunity to remedy that with the blank page in front of you. Don’t leave it to someone else. If you see the problem, you can start fixing it with your script.
Everyone has privilege
This post isn’t only a call to White writers. Yes, White writers need to do their part to be more inclusive along racial and ethnic lines. However, systemic discrimination in film and television exists at a bunch of intersections. People face systemic discrimination because of their gender identity and presentation, sexuality, physical ability, body type, age, economic circumstances, and mental health – in addition to race and ethnicity. So, even if you yourself are marginalized because of any one (or several) of these categories, you still have work to do on behalf of the others.
When you look at your script:
If you’re mostly depicting characters or situations in areas where you have privilege, where can you stretch past your comfort zone to make the world of your story as diverse as the real world?
If you are a member of a marginalized community, where can you make the depiction of that community more nuanced and intersectional? (Since no community is a monolith!)
Bottom line: Writers aren’t powerless. So, stop behaving as if they are.
Now get out there and change the world.
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Teresa Jusino is a native New Yorker and a proud bisexual, Puerto Rican, Jewish woman on her way to winning Intersectionality Bingo. Most recently, Jusino has done development work on several feature film projects at Jill Soloway’s Topple Productions after building a nearly decade-long career in pop culture journalism, including a three-year stint as an editor at the feminist pop culture site, The Mary Sue. In 2018, Jusino launched Pomonok Entertainment, a production banner that incorporates a mission of alleviating homelessness in L.A. into the larger mission of telling engaging, thought-provoking, inclusive stories.