Women in TV

I’ve just read a great piece about women in TV written by Emma Reeves,  a show creator, playwright and WGGB award winner, into her research with the Writers Guild of Great Britain. Thanks to Philip Gladwin at Screenwriting Goldmine for letting me share it here.

Here are some headlines:

  • Analysing data from the five main channels over a five month period,  70% of all prime-time drama credited to a single writer was written by male writers, and 30% by women writers.
  • There was only 1 week when slightly more drama (55%) was written by women than men. But there were several weeks when 75% or more of prime-time drama episodes were written by men.
  • Of 106 episodes of Eastenders, for example, 70 were written by men – almost exactly 2/3 of available episodes.

So, what’s going on? Click through (no commission or gain to me!) and have a read:



How do we get people writing (produced work) for theatre when they can’t build a relationship?

You need to be familiar with a range of our work.

Spend time at the bar, introduce yourself.

If you’ve not seen new writing here in the last few months, I don’t want to hear from you.

These are all real words spoken by theatre building peeps, to writers.

I can’t argue – and am not about to – with the sentiment. If I ran myself ragged running a theatre, or its literary department, I’d have to know that a writer who wanted a relationship with us knew what we did and had seen a decent amount of it. I totally get it. 

As you know, the heart of good drama is conflict – and ideally conflict within one person. So here it comes.

There are barriers to theatre-going. Especially if you want a loving, close relationship. That’s doubly so if you’re in “the regions”: you need to be au fait with work at your locals, the fringe and do the same for London. 

But I don’t want to be airy-fairy about this- let’s look properly at those barriers:

  • Time. Say a show starts at 7:30, average. You’re out 2-3 hours later. More if there’s a drink after.
  • Money. Say £12-15 regional fringe, £25+ bigger house and £35+ for London? Please correct me if I’m way off.  [Then parking / travel, say £5-10; a drink @ £3-4; a programme,maybe £3-4?] So, between £15 and £50+ a pop.
  • Taste. You might not like what’s on. That’s a barrier. But if you’re a writer, you don’t let that stop you. After all, it’s a chance to pat yourself on the back about how you would have done so much better.

OK, so we’ve established, there are barriers to going to the theatre – that’s not news. They apply to all kinds of things in life. What’s different in this case is that you can build work relationships in other spheres during your normal working day. Dentists don’t have to hang round at night, waiting for vampires to appear. Teachers don’t do the 5am wake-up, better to understand their pupils. This is a price we “pay” (quote marks to neutralise any negative connotations). But it’s not one that everyone can.

So who doesn’t have these barriers?

  • Time. If you have nothing else to do, the time is certainly not a conflict. Chiefly, this is people who work by day, don’t have kids, or have whose partners who will babysit. (Or who have a great babysitting set-up of another kind)
  • Money. If you get comps (eg by working in theatre, or you’re an agent / publisher / critic / friend of the cast etc), money is not a barrier.
  • Taste. Is there anyone to whom taste is no barrier? I’ll let you answer that one…

Thanks for bearing with me.

Who is “out”, then? (Assuming, of course, that they want to be “in”). Who might be writing, but have no theatre relationship? Shift workers; carers; parents, esp. single ones; anyone who can’t afford £30 (a pair) more than once a month – a proper luxury by many standards. We know these people are under-represented as writers. ‘Cos if they ever get successful, their life circumstances are top of the story: alas, I can’t find any to quote for you. If you spy a “long-term carer playwright,” “nightshift dramatist” or “cancer nurse single dad playwright” success story, please let me know.

I don’t have an answer. And I am not angry with theatres. I meant what I said at the top: I totally get it. If we all start blaming each other, by the next general election, there will be no arts world to speak of because we’ll have ripped each other apart and flung the remains into the furnace.  But what can we do? Because there is a bias.

Here are some mad ideas. Please add your own:

  • Bursaries to include accredited babysitters
  • Matinees to target shift workers (perhaps promo discounts)
  • Creches at theatres for matinees (corporate partnership-tastic)
  • Loyalty cards – see 5, get 1 free (would benefit everyone, or could be targeted to partic. audience groups or types of show)
  • Workplace competitions – not unlike BBC’s workplace choir – where playwrights mentor a workplace group of staff (personal development, community relations, confidence, writing skills, the benefits list is long!) – Tescos, are you listening?

If anyone is interested in talking about these, by the way, it’s the kind of thing I put together at work, so get in touch here or pop over to and contact me there.

We all know that these days, a writer can gain so much from a relationship with a theatre. It helps them to see work, consider it, build experience and taste, try things out, perhaps win opportunities and introductions…That relationship is at the core of a virtuous cycle. (It’s why people get narked at the “same old faces” getting the chances.) Should we just shrug and accept it, or is there something we can do? I know I’d like a broader pool of writers getting work on. Some more “gogglebox” flavour, and less “Radio 4” would feel a bit more like a theatre of Great Britain, wouldn’t it?


M-O-N-E-Y and the “emerging writer”

I’m a member of a professional writers’ group for the Bath / Bristol area. Great people, all quite different in style and temperament. Very supportive. I don’t get there often enough (childcare, blah de blah) but without fail, it’s inspiring.

So here’s last night. After a session on another writer’s work, we rolled up our sleeves and got talking about MONEY.  Some of us had already been to-and fro-ing this on Facebook, with much debate about how theatre buildings should spend their dosh (how far can it be stretched between writers, actors, techies, the building itself, marketing, and reaching new audiences – what’s a theatre’s duty?! – but that must be saved for another day).

Yes: How do we make money?

We were told that a recent “new writing” event paid the actors (dead right) but not writers. It was a funding / budgeting accident. And, of course, it was (yet another) Development Opportunity. And we are genuinely always grateful for Development Opportunities. I have had loads and could not be where I am without them. It’s just that – well, didn’t these opportunities used to be called Work?  Why are actors “developed” and getting pay, when writers of their lines aren’t? What line have they crossed that most of us haven’t? Where is it and what’s the password (and is it John Cleese on the bridge or a troll underneath?)

The thing is, we all sympathise with the financial struggles  faced by theatres and the like. And of course, with actors. This must not become divide and rule, with theatre-devotees ripping the ticket money from one anothers’ bleeding claws. If we do that, we may as well give up now.


Scripts (or their devised equivalents) are the bedrock of theatre.  But just now, our best hope outside of large-scale commissions (but often with small ones) is to be paid £1,000 for several months’ work, or the same as an actor, but only once we hit the rehearsal room.

Is this a model that will sustain our theatres?  How can we grow as the writers of the future? Is our trade going to go the way of acting, with the independently wealthy being the only ones who can afford to train, to sit for sustained periods to write?

Off a great script, hangs a show, grows a company, which grows the talent, spreads the word, brings a tear, raises the roof, and perhaps, perhaps, wins a prize.

There are theatres that do very well with new writing and new writers. And there are writers who work bloody hard and refuse to take non-writing work. I thoroughly admire that gumption and determination (and skill).  Until now, I’ve always subsidised my own work. I now have a Peggy Ramsay grant to work on a new script and am seeking funding for my quantum mechanics show (blethered about on most posts this year). Obviously, if you want to help out, my door is open.  But I’m a freelancing single mum in a “post”-recession economy. Bread, butter, etc.

So what to do? This is wider than getting more funding from Government. But, as the Conservative Party knows all too well, the older generation – the voting, theatre-going generation – will not be holding things together forever. Adaptation to the new needs is vital.  If people aren’t coming to new writing, or even to theatres, we can’t force it down their throat – why would we want to?

I can’t stop that bloody nursery rhyme going round my head:

For want of a nail the shoe was lost.
For want of a shoe the horse was lost.
For want of a horse the rider was lost.
For want of a rider the message was lost.
For want of a message the battle was lost.
For want of a battle the kingdom was lost.
And all for the want of a horseshoe nail.