NEWSLETTER DECEMBER 2019
We’ve just had our first birthday so we thought it would be a good time to acknowledge how much we’ve achieved in just over a year.
We started by changing the ITV commissioning terms, which means that every show commissioned or re-commissioned on ITV and ITV2 since the beginning of November 2018, has employed female writers and script editors as part of the editorial team. That’s around 89 hours of television, some of which has aired, some will be txing next year.
We created a database of female writers, with over 500 signed up. If you are a writer and you’ve signed up but not added your CV, this is a reminder to do so. We know that it’s being widely used by production companies and broadcasters which is fantastic to hear.
Hare And Tortoise were the first production company to come on board by holding an event in association with Comedy 50:50. In December last year they held an afternoon for female writers to discuss problems around writers’ rooms. They also regularly open their meeting rooms up to female writers as a space in which to write.
This year we’ve had three shadowing placements. Stevie Cook on Plebs, Tasha Dhanraj was on The Late Late Show with James Corden and Meryl O’Rourke is currently on Iain Stirling’s CelebAbility. Thank you to Rise Films, Fulwell 73 and Potato.
We want to offer more. This is where we need you producers to come forward. I’ve discussed it with most of the other broadcasters and they are completely supportive of this happening on their shows.
The Jonathan Ross Show worked with us to find female writers for their paid writing team, as did Iain Stirling’s CelebAbility, and Celebrity Juice found writers through our database.
In March we held a Confidence Workshop hosted by Lynne Parker of Funny Women, who also offered a discount to comedy 50:50 members at her next workshop. It was so successful that the participants kept in touch and created a writing support group The Efficient Women’s Writers Room which up until the summer was meeting each month here at ITV.
Kay Stonham and Abbi Burdess created the Female Pilots’ Club which has so far held three events with scripts by Julie Bower, Janice Hallett, Lorna Woolfson, Pip Swallow, Carol Walsh and Georgia Pritchett.
The six scripts have each had brilliant casts, including Tracey Ann Oberman, Lucy Porter, Jordan Stephens, Amelia Bullmore, Kerry Howard, Robert Webb, Greg McHugh, Lydia Rose Bewley and Michael Fenton Stevens.
These events get booked up extremely quickly, so do check twitter and our website for tickets going on sale.
A fortnight ago we launched our mentoring scheme. Our first mentors are Danielle Ward, Abi Wilson, Georgia Pritchett, Ben Worsfield and Gemma Arrowsmith.
Our mentees are Prue Hay, Juliet Meyers, Lou Conran, Rosie Turner and Christiana Brockbank.
This is in association with ScreenSkills and will run until next summer.
At our various events across the year, we’ve heard from Christine Rose about what it’s like to be the only woman in the writing room, from Claire Nosworthy from Hare and Tortoise about working with female writers from a producer’s point of view, from Deirdre Mullin from ERA 50:50 who presented shocking statistics about the on and off screen representation of women.
We have had a panel discussing the writer/agent/producer relationship. The panel consisted of Duncan Hayes from United, Emma Obank from Casarrotto, writer Haleema Mirza, Ben Farrell of Objective Fiction and hosted by writer Abi Wilson. We had networking between agents and unrepresented writers, with a total of 72 meetings that evening.
Since September Casarotto have been holding monthly open surgeries for unrepresented female writers to get advice and feedback on scripts. To sign up for these, look out for updates on Twitter and visit our website.
In September Grainne McGuire held a workshop in association with Comedy 50:50 and the BBC Writers’ Room about how to write topical jokes.
Also in September BIFA held an Unconscious Bias Training seminar, with a discounted rate for Comedy 50:50 members
Roxy Dunn and Alys Metcalfe started a comedy 50:50 podcast called This Is Your Laugh where they talk to female comedians and comedy actors about their careers and how comedy has played a part in their lives. Guests have included Susan Wokoma, Lily Brazier, Olga Koch, Dawn French, Daisy Haggard and Doon Mackichan. It’s well worth a listen, if you haven’t heard it already.
I have had very positive meetings with C4, Sky, Netflix and UKTV about their involvement with Comedy 50:50 and you’ll hopefully be seeing evidence of this over the next year. I’ll be speaking to Amazon early in the new year as well.
We are in discussion with the Edinburgh TV Festival about how to take Comedy 50:50 beyond London to the rest of the country, and how we can become a pan industry initiative.
We are exploring a collaboration with the Battersea Arts Centre who are keen to be more of centre for comedy, WFTV are keen to support our initiative and we are also talking to the Directors' Guild about how to create more paid employment for female directors and crew.
We are in discussion with ScreenSkills about going into schools to highlight careers in all aspects of comedy production as career options for girls, starting with a comedy script workshop for schools in the Manchester area.
We constantly evaluate what we are doing, we talk to all of you and ask for feedback and suggestions. In fact the outreach to schools suggestion came from a producer focus group we recently held, as did our connection with the Battersea Arts Centre.
We’ve had a really positive response to the producer/writer networking short meets at these events. Producers and writers have requested that we continue to hold these and so we will be continuing them. At our event on Tuesday, for example, 141 meetings took place.
Briefly looking ahead to next year. In January, we will be holding a workshop led by Lucy Lumsden formerly Head of Comedy at the BBC and Sky, and now MD of Yellow Door Productions. Lucy will be teaching a session on how to pitch and how to get the best out of meetings. You’ll be able to apply via the website, and we’ll also send out an email.
In February Nicole Heard from Sheryl Sandberg’s foundation Lean In will be running a small group session on Unconscious Bias and how this affects our decision making, hiring practices and even our story telling. Again, applications with be via the website, and there will be an email.
We know that off the back of our events writers have found agents, had scripts optioned by producers, and have found paid work opportunities.
All of this has come from you. We’d like to thank all the producers, agents and writers who have suggested and participated in the events and opportunities this past year. We love it when you come forward with these ideas, and help us to broaden the impact of Comedy 50:50 whether it’s to inspire, create practical experience, offer support, or create job opportunities.
I started this a year ago by saying that the aim is to change a culture, and acknowledging that change is not achieved overnight. I do think that change has begun; I think the conversations around women and comedy are different now, and I think that the statistics of women working in comedy are slowly changing for the better. The change may feel frustratingly slow, but it is happening and I’m hoping that in the year ahead we’ll see a real snowball effect.
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