Meryl Streep has made a “significant contribution” to The Writers Lab, a new initiative by New York Women in Film and Television (NYWIFT), which will mentor eight screenwriters at a retreat on Lake George this September. Applicants must be women born on or before June 1, 1975.
According to NYWIFT, “The Writers Lab evolved in recognition of the absence of the female voice in narrative film, along with the dearth of support for script development.” Applicants are instructed not to have “industry contacts” make any calls on their behalf: “Take comfort in the fact that your work will speak for itself!” The Lab was announced on Sunday at a Tribeca Film Festival panel.
It’s hard out there on screen for women older than Kiernan Shipka (of Sally Draper fame), but it’s even harder off-screen: a study last year found the number of female screenwriters in the U.S. is falling from an already-quite-low 17 percent in 2009 to a you’ve-got-to-be-kidding-me 15 percent in 2014. In sadly unsurprising news, the few women who did break through into the male-dominated screenwriting space were paid less than their male counterparts: 77 cents to the dudes’ dollar, down from 82 cents in 2009.
The Writers Lab mentors will include: Caroline Kaplan (Boyhood producer), Gina Prince-Bythewood (writer-director of Beyond the Lights and Love & Basketball), Kirsten Smith, responsible for all the best movies you can never not watch in their entirety when they’re on TV (Legally Blonde, Then Things I Hate About You, She’s The Man), Jessica Bendinger (also a writer on Bring It On and Stick It, or, Bring It On But With Gymnastics), and Mary Jane Skalski (producer of Win Win and The Station Agent).
We should have seen this coming: remember her immediately .gif-worthy standing ovation for Patricia Arquette at the Oscars, when Arquette made a plea from the microphone for equal pay for women? If anyone can fight two of the most entrenched and damaging veins of discrimination in the entertainment industry simultaneously, it’s Streep.
Applications will be available starting May 1.