Highland 2 Helps Screenwriters Balance Genders


(Adam Engst) #1

Originally published at: https://tidbits.com/2019/02/06/highland-2-helps-screenwriters-balance-genders/

As most working actresses know, Hollywood historically has offered more roles—and lines—for men than women, but a simple tool in the Highland 2 screenwriting app can help screenwriters better distribute their characters and dialog among the genders.


(Michael E. Cohen) #2

A couple of extra points I omitted from the piece for reasons of space.

First, the Bechdel Test should, by rights, be called the Bechdel-Wallace Test; see here for why that is: https://www.themarysue.com/bechdel-wallace-test-please-alison-bechdel/

Second, if you have Highland 2 or a similar app, you can find lots of screenplays in PDF form on the web you could analyze, such as here: https://www.scriptreaderpro.com/best-screenplays-to-read/


(HFTobeason) #3

Note that WriterDuet V5 also offers the Bechdel-Wallace Test.


(davemcc) #4

I didn’t find it helpful to have politics inserted into an article about a software application. Why not remove that stuff and simply mention the new feature in Highland 2 without the commentary?

Anyone who is a serious writer is well aware of those “issues”, so there’s no need for politics here on TidBITS. Thanks for the article.


(Adam Engst) #5

Sorry, but what is political about gender imbalance in film? And how would one cover a tool designed to reveal gender imbalance in screenplays without mentioning gender imbalance?


(davemcc) #6

I am not going down this rabbit hole. I will make a few comments and let it be…

The way things are presented, it conveys a distorted picture of reality. Is a top-grossing film the only measure of success or gender balance? No, it isn’t. Most top-grossing films are actions films with long-established male lead characters. Simply switching genders, as was done with the recent “Ghostbusters” didn’t work out well, at all.

I work in the industry and I prefer smaller budget, story and character driven film projects. Some smaller films may be more “profitable” in that they make more than they cost, in terms of profit/cost ratio.

And, to imply in the last sentence that a tool like this is going to change any imbalance is ridiculous.

Again, political commentary doesn’t belong here.


(davemcc) #7

On a lighter note…

From a software usability perspective, one could say that the “gender balance” feature described in the article is actually inadequate, in that it doesn’t provide for all the currently recognized genders as stipulated in California (for example). So, the word “balance” is a bit out of place, as there are dozens of recognized genders in California… a definite flaw in both the “Bechdel Test” and the implementation in Highland 2…

:grinning:

(Yes, a quite many rabbit holes are possible…)


(Tommy Weir) #8

It doesn’t take a lot really to tip people over the edge, commentary emerges and typically it’s negative. Sad to say. Nonetheless, a simple and hopefully useful tool to see added, sometimes the simple things are what will make the big changes down the road, a prompt to simply consider the mix may aid balance.


(Adam Engst) #9

For what it’s worth, I spent a few minutes today massaging the description of what TidBITS publishes on our About page in an effort to reduce any confusion that might exist about what we feel is or is not appropriate to publish. It now reads:

While we focus on Apple products and technologies, we also publish other coverage that we believe will interest our readers, including commentary on issues of Internet availability, security, and policy, plus thoughts on the intersection of technology and society. Our goal is always to connect events and products with real-life uses and concerns.


#10

DaMac
davemcc

    February 13

I am not going down this rabbit hole. I will make a few comments and let it be…

The way things are presented, it conveys a distorted picture of reality. Is a top-grossing film the only measure of success or gender balance? No, it isn’t. Most top-grossing films are actions films with long-established male lead characters. Simply switching genders, as was done with the recent “Ghostbusters” didn’t work out well, at all.

Geez…have I been mistaken in thinking that action flicks Black Panther and Wonder Woman, etc., that featured strong female leads were money loosing box office failures? Everything I read about them claimed record profits not just in the US, but across the globe. Heroines in Disney animated flicks, like Elsa in Frozen and Merida in Brave, also set records. And none of these films were considered “chick flicks;” they appealed to both male and female audiences.

I work in the industry and I prefer smaller budget, story and character driven film projects. Some smaller films may be more “profitable” in that they make more than they cost, in terms of profit/cost ratio.

And in all cases, licensed products from the above box office hits, which are also huge revenue generators, did exceptionally well:

https://www.cbsnews.com/news/black-panther-merchandise-is-also-striking-gold/

So are ancillary revenue streams from video games, streaming, DVD, etc.

And, to imply in the last sentence that a tool like this is going to change any imbalance is ridiculous.

Yes, one small tool in one small program that pretty much just counts lines will not change an imbalance. But I suspect this small tool was developed because producers and screenwriters recognize that the market has been rapidly evolving and guys and gals are interested in all kinds of lead characters. Would Kinky Boots or Rent have been wildly successful and profitable film, stage and music productions if large audiences hadn’t begun to “think different” about gender?


(davemcc) #11

I’m sorry but your comments should be directed to the author of the article, not me. He was the one who suggested by his introduction that there was a lack of “lead character” representation in top grossing films, mostly due to some inherent (or intentional) gender bias on the part of those working in the film industry. You pointed out cases where this isn’t true. One implication of the author’s opening remarks is that by simply changing genders to provide more equal outcomes in terms of industry gender balance may part of the “solution” (to which I offered the “Ghostbusters” example).

I simply stated that swapping genders for many genre films isn’t going to work well. Forcing the audience to accept arbitrary changes would be the tail wagging the dog (most forced, overly formulaic pieces tend to be poor quality).

My other comments were intended to counter the idea that high grossing films are not necessarily the best measure to show any sort of “imbalance” of gender, real or not.

Emphasis should be placed on good storytelling, not watching a stats counter in a writing application. It would be rather silly to reject a story about the life of a woman, and one that features only women in lead roles, just because there isn’t enough representation by male, or “other gendered” characters. Picture a story about nuns in a convent, with no men around of any importance to the story. Now, flip this around and there are many cases where the opposite is artificially “massaged” to correct the imbalance. If I wrote a story about a woman and her life’s struggles (which I have), used a tool like the one described, I would not think for a second that I may have created any sort of imbalance by not having a strong/lead male character in the story, despite what the stats would say.

In addition, a tool like this is actually rather simplistic. What if if a character is mute? What if a lead character is someone with very little dialogue compared with other characters (with the same gender or not). It doesn’t take much effort to show that it’s easy to misuse any sort of tool like this, especially if you know firsthand how very difficult it is to create a good story.

Some people may be “offended” that such a tool doesn’t account for “other genders”, race/ethnicity, sexual orientation, etc.

This is certainly not the place to discuss the more social-cultural aspects of “the intersection between society/art and technology”.

Cheers.


(Adam Engst) #12

I’m closing this topic—the conversation hasn’t been constructive.

Suffice it to say that TidBITS publishes stories that I as publisher believe are interesting and relevant to our readers as a group. That doesn’t mean that any individual has to agree with my choice or find a particular article interesting or relevant.

I specifically asked Michael to write this article because we had previously covered Highland and I thought the Gender Analysis feature showed an interesting—if unapologetically simple, as the article notes with its comment on the handling of gender fluidity—use of technology to address an issue that has generated a great deal of discussion in the film industry. The article wasn’t meant as an in-depth look at that issue; hence the use of top-grossing statistics rather than more-nuanced numbers that would likely have resonated less with a lay audience.

And finally, there was no implication that a tool like Highland 2’s Gender Analysis tool would affect gender imbalance—the article explicitly notes that it’s doing nothing that couldn’t be done with some paper and a calculator and concludes: “What matters most is being aware that cinematic gender balance is an issue in the first place, being willing to investigate that balance, and then being willing to take some action based on the investigation.”

There are undoubtedly better places to discuss whether or not gender imbalance is a concern, and I would encourage those who wish to continue the discussion do so in those forums.


(Adam Engst) closed #13