Diverse female screenwriters invited to AMPAS

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) has invited 928 new members (up from last year’s 683 invitees), 49 percent female filmmakers from across the world. In a three-part FF2 Media series, we examine the efforts of AMPAS to actively create gender balance in screenwriting, directing and overall diversity in filmmaking.

According to Variety, this class will bring the total AMPAS membership to 31 percent female, up from 25 percent in 2015.

This year, there is notable diversity with international female representation of filmmakers from around the world, including 18 screenwriters: Sabina Berman, Laurie Collyer, Kelly Fremon Craig, Anita Doron, Laura Esquivel, Emily V. Gordon, Jeong Seo-kyeong, Rebecca Lenkiewicz, Valérie Müller, Julie Peyr, Melissa Rosenberg, J.K. Rowling, Alicia Scherson, Vanessa Taylor, Joëlle Touma, Wang Hui Ling, Yan Geling and Chloé Zhao.

Laurie Collyer is an American film director and screenwriter. She was born in Summit, New Jersey, and grew up in Mountainside, New Jersey and attended Oberlin College. She is known for her recent movie Furlough, the story of a young corrections officer who escorts a New York state prison inmate granted a compassionate leave to visit her dying mother. She is also known for Sherrybaby (2006), Nuyorican Dream (2000) and Sunlight Jr. (2013).

Kelly Fremon Craig is an American screenwriter, producer, and film director. She wrote and directed The Edge of Seventeen, a comedic, heartwarming depiction of teen angst. “I kept journaling, reaching back in my memory to all those churning emotions of my adolescence,” she said about the film in a story for the LA Times. “The discovery wasn’t original, just deeply, painfully true: How desperately alone I often felt at that age. How disappointed I was in my own inadequate self and how terrifying it was to realize I was going to be stuck with her — with me — for the rest of my life.”

Anita Doron is a Hungarian-Canadian film director, screenwriter, producer, cinematographer, and author. She was born into a family of mountaineering engineers in Transcarpathia in the former USSR. Her movies have screened at the Toronto International Film Festival, SXSW and at the International Film Festival Rotterdam. Anita’s most recent screenplay is the Academy Award and Golden Globe nominated The Breadwinner. She is nominated for an Annie Award, a Humanitas Prize and for a Canadian Screen Award for her work on the screenplay. “My approach is usually to soak in the story and get lost in it. I make no plans at first. I just make note of things that resonate. What is the heart here? What is it really about or what is it really saying about the world? It’s an organic intuitive process for me,” she said in an interview with CBC.

Rebecca Lenkiewicz is a British writer and actress, known for Ida (2013), Disobedience (2017) and Wonderland (1999). In a memorable interview with The Guardian, she said “Women are defined by whether they’ve got kids or not. It’s an interesting definition and a bold one, because having a child is such an incredibly hard and giving thing, the hardest job one will ever do, and yet it is the most unrecognized. People have said to me, ‘Why haven’t you got kids?’ I think that’s quite rude, actually. Leave me alone.”

Vanessa Taylor is an American producer and writer known for the 2017 award-winning movie, The Shape of Water, as well as Game of Thrones and Alias. “Normally, when I’m approached with a project on which they’re ‘looking for a female writer,’ I pass. Oftentimes, when they say they want a woman to write a particular story, what they really mean is that it’s a story about a woman or girl that they believe only women or girls will ever care about. And you never hear they’re ‘looking for a male writer’ despite the fact that often only male writers are being considered for a job. Now I’ve been asked to write about how Hollywood has changed, ‘from a female screenwriter’s perspective.’ You see my problem here. But I think it’s a question worth weighing in on, particularly now. I’m not a journalist, so, based purely on my own experience, I’d say in gender terms, Hollywood has ‘changed’ only at the margins and only very recently. If you’d asked me this question a year ago, I’d have been grasping at straws,” she said in an interview with Variety magazine.

Joelle Touma is based out of Lebanon and has been writing screenplays since 1998. She started her career in the entertainment industry focusing primarily on TV and theater and later shifted her attention towards film. Touma is credited with writing socially-motivated films, alongside Ziad Doueiri, including the Oscar-nominated The Insult, which is not Joelle Touma’s first attempt at a socially-engaged story. In fact, all of her films deal with religious and societal issues rooted primarily in the Middle East. Touma co-wrote three films that deal with the status of the Middle East in the developed world: Lila Says (2004), Just Like a Woman(2012) and The Attack (2012).

According to the Academy of Motion Picture of Arts and Sciences, beginning later this year, each new member’s voting status will last 10 years, and will be renewed if that new member has been active in motion pictures during that decade.  In addition, members will receive lifetime voting rights after three 10-year terms; or if they have won or been nominated for an Academy Award.

You can find more about the diverse class of female directors in AMPAS this year HERE.

© Nikoleta Morales (7/16/18) FF2 Media

Photos: Furlough (Credit: Richard Hutchings. Courtesy of IFC Films) The Breadwinner (Credit: Aircraft Pictures) The Shape of Water (Credit: Double Dare You Productions)

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