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Arts and Entertainment

In Screenwriting, 'Significant' Gains For Women And People Of Color Since 2010

An image of a TV writers room with nice office chairs around a table, papers and laptops in front of various positions at the long table. There are approximately 10 seats. On the wall are a line of photos showing various characters from the show Mad Men, while below is a board showing part of some storylines, while a schedule board is on the other side of the room.
The writers' room for "Mad Men," part of Matthew Weiner's 2015 "Mad Men" exhibit at the Museum of the Moving Image.
(Timothy A. Clary
AFP via Getty Images)
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The Writers Guild's latest Inclusion And Equity Report finds that women and writers who are Black, Indigenous, and other people of color have made "significant" hiring gains in film and television since 2010.

Even with that progress, those groups remain underrepresented compared with their share of the nation's population — white men still make up a majority of film writers overall and a plurality of TV writers.

From 2010 to 2020, the percentage of working television writers who are Black, Indigenous, and people of color went from about 13% to 37%. In film, that number jumped from just over 5% to more than 22%.

Women have made impressive gains as well, now accounting for more than 45% of TV writers and nearly 30% of movie screenwriters. That's up from 29% of TV writers in 2010 and a little more than 17% of those writing for film.

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But each group only saw what the Guild described as "very slight" gains between 2019 and 2020 in film, while their representation on TV staffs remained largely the same during those years.

The Guild described the current era as a period of flux for writers whose work is covered under the WGA's union contract. The biggest reason for this: streaming, which has had a huge impact on TV, but increasingly on feature films as well.

The Guild also cited the COVID-19 pandemic as reducing the number of writing jobs over the past two years due to production being interrupted, particularly at the pandemic's worst points.

TV was hit harder than film. From 2019 to 2020, there were 49 fewer shows released and 24% fewer jobs on shows. However, the WGA expects the number of writing jobs in both TV and film to rebound due to media companies investing billions in content for their streaming services. They expect to recoup at least half of the lost jobs in TV in in the current season.

The Guild found that women who are Black, Indigenous, or otherwise identify as people of color make up significant shares of lower-level TV writers, while simultaneously making up the smallest share, at about 7%, of both executive producers and showrunners.

White men continue to be the most highly represented in upper-level positions, representing 64% of executive producers and 58% of showrunners.

In the TV world, streaming has meant shorter episode orders, smaller staffs, and more writers having to take on multiple jobs per year rather than being staffed on just one show, according to the Guild.

The consumer shift to streaming has also contributed to an ongoing decline in jobs in basic cable, where series typically produce more episodes per season than streaming shows.

Meanwhile, high-budget tentpole movies are becoming even important when it comes to films shown in theaters, while the money made in areas such as residuals has dropped.

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There has also been an increase in new WGA membership among writers who are disabled or who self-identified as LGBTQ+. The share of new WGA writers with disabilities went from 2% in 2017 to 7% in 2021, while those identifying as LGBTQ+ increased from 12% in 2017 to 22% in 2021.

The report was released by the Writers Guild of America West, the union representing the majority of movie and television writers. The Writers Guild of America East also represents writers in these areas, along with a larger percentage of news and digital media writers.

You can read the full Writers Guild report here.

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