×

Number of Female Writers in British Film and TV at ‘Abjectly Low Levels’

Amid calls for equality in the film and TV business on both sides of the pond, a damning new report for the Writers’ Guild of Great Britain has laid bare the lack of female writers getting work in the U.K.

The report shows that only 28% of British TV drama is predominantly female-written, a proportion that drops even lower, to 14%, in primetime. The report’s authors point to “Victoria,” “Call the Midwife,” “Fleabag,” and “Catastrophe” (pictured) as examples that debunk the notion that female-led projects cannot achieve commercial, critical, and ratings success.

The feature film figures are even worse, with 11% of U.K. movies predominantly female-written, dipping to below 7% for those with a budget topping £10 million ($13.4 million). Yet budget data combined with U.K. and worldwide box office gross reveal “that films written predominantly by female writers tend to have higher revenues, both domestically and internationally, than those written predominantly by their male counterparts,” the report said.

The statistics are sobering for an industry supposedly tuning into the messages of the Era 50:50 and Time’s Up movements. “Girl With a Pearl Earring” scribe and Writers’ Guild president Olivia Hetreed said that for years she has been asked about the paucity of female screenwriters in the industry and that she reassured people the situation was improving. Now she realizes that is not the case. “This new research shows that the number of women writing films has flatlined at abjectly low levels,” Hetreed said.

The findings span 10 years of British film and TV, a period during which little has changed. The report’s authors sought to move beyond anecdotal evidence to hard numbers in order to demonstrate the gender inequality in the industry.

“Faced with such clear evidence, we expect that commissioners, especially public funders, will work much harder to give equal opportunities to women and other underrepresented writers, who in turn will produce work reflecting all our hopes, fears and aspirations,” Hetreed said.

The Writers’ Guild has launched an “Equality Writes” campaign calling for better representation. The movement gathered steam after a group penned an open letter to U.K. broadcasters earlier this year when ITV, Britain’s largest commercial broadcaster, unveiled a drama slate featuring one woman writer out of nine.

Popular on Variety

More Film

  • Garin Nugroho film "Memories of my

    Indonesia Selects Controversial 'Memories' as Oscar Contender

    “Memories of my Body” directed by Garin Nugroho has been selected to represent Indonesia at the Academy Awards in the best foreign-language film category. The announcement was made on Tuesday by actress Christine Hakim representing the Indonesian Film Selection Committee. The fact-based film depicts the story of a young man from a dance troupe that [...]

  • Benjamin Wallfisch - scoring session, Abbey

    Composer Benjamin Wallfisch Signs With Gorfaine/Schwartz Agency

    Composer Benjamin Wallfisch has signed with the Gorfaine/Schwartz Agency (GSA) for worldwide representation, in partnership with London-based agency COOL Music Ltd. A top composer, whose scoring credits include “It Chapter Two,” Shazam!” Hellboy,” “Hidden Figures” and “Hostile Planet,” among others, Wallfisch has worked on over 75 feature films and is a member of the BAFTA [...]

  • The Moneychanger

    Toronto Film Review: ‘The Moneychanger’

    Uruguayan auteur Federico Veiroj (“The Apostate,” “Belmonte”) broadens his usual intimate dramatic scope to diminishing returns for his fifth feature, “The Moneychanger,” . Adapted from a novella by compatriot Juan Enrique Gruber, the period (mid-1950s to mid-1970s) tale centers on the eponymous character, an amoral currency exchanger, who winds up laundering some of the dirtiest [...]

  • Send Me to the Clouds

    Film Review: ‘Send Me to the Clouds’

    The social and economic pressures felt by China’s “leftover women” — referring to those older than 26 and unmarried — are examined in “Send Me to the Clouds,” a rewarding dramedy about a 30-ish journalist seeking financial reward and sexual fulfillment after being diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Bold by mainland standards for presenting a positive [...]

  • Jamie Bell Without Remorse

    Jamie Bell Joins Michael B. Jordan in 'Without Remorse' Adaptation (EXCLUSIVE)

    Jamie Bell is in final negotiations to join Michael B. Jordan in Paramount’s adaptation of the Tom Clancy novel “Without Remorse.” Stefano Sollima, who most recently helmed “Sicario: Day of the Soldado,” is directing from a script by “Sicaro” screenwriter Taylor Sheridan. As previously announced, Jordan is starring as operations officer John Clark, also known [...]

  • Elizabeth McGovern, Laura Carmichael, Jim Carter,

    'Downton Abbey' Movie Sequel? Producers Tease That They Have 'Some Ideas'

    “Downton Abbey” holds the record as the most-nominated international show at the Emmy Awards with 69 nominations and 15 wins — and now, it stands a chance to nab an Oscar. More than three years after the beloved series signed off the air following six critically-acclaimed seasons, “Downton Abbey” is making its big-screen debut. “It [...]

  • Todd Phillips Joaquin Phoenix Joker Movie

    What's Woker Than 'Joker'? Film Critics Made Everything Political at Fall Festivals

    “Is it just me, or is it getting crazier out there?” asks Joaquin Phoenix, playing a deranged incel version of the DC supervillain in “Joker,” the unconventional comic book movie that’s sucked up much of the air from the fall festival circuit. Like an aggro caricature of the “involuntary celibates” who troll message boards online, [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content