CFP: Gender and the Screenplay: Processes, Practices, Perspectives

A special issue of Networking Knowledge: Journal of the MeCCSA Postgraduate Network

eds. Louise Sawtell and Stayci Taylor (RMIT University, Melbourne)

While plenty has been written about gender representation on screen, much less has been written about gender in regards to screenplays. Emerging scholarly research around screenwriting practice often focuses on questions of the craft – is screenwriting a technical or creative act? – and whether or not the screenplay’s only destiny is to disappear into the film (Maras 1999).

Thus there might be room for further exploration into screenwriters and their practice – to ask who (in regards to gender) is writing screenplays, especially considering the assertion of Dancyger and Rush (2007) that the three-act structure (a dominant screenwriting practice) is “designed to suggest the story tells itself”. Moreover, questions of gender representation on screen might be considered from the perspective of screenwriting practice, given this same ubiquitous structure means that barriers, including gender barriers, “are still presented as secondary to the transcendence of individual will” (Dancyger and Rush 2007).

The hundreds of screenwriting manuals on the market focus on the ‘how to’ aspects of the practice. They deliver helpful hints on structure, character, plot, formatting and themes based on the conventions of an industrial model. Rarely are these texts engaged in ideas about gender through the processes, practices and perspectives of the screenwriter.

The issue seeks to contribute to a small, growing scholarship around gender and screenwriting, such as Bridget Conor’s recent books on screenwriting and gender in regards to creative labour. It is also anticipated that contributions to this issue might draw from the relevant literature ground in the practice of screenwriting such as Helen Jacey’s The Woman in the Story, Linda Seger’s When Women Call the Shots, Maureen Murdoch’s the Heroine’s Journey, Marsha McCreadie’s Women Screenwriters Today: Their Lives and Words and Sue Clayton’s book chapter Flawed Heroes, Fragmented Heroines: The Use of Myth in Cinema Screenwriting.

Recent research, such as that commissioned by the Geena Davis Institution on Gender in Media and The Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film, or explored by groups like The Representation Project, is useful in exposing the gender inequities in film production, and gender representation onscreen. This issue invites perspectives on such statistics from the point-of-view of screenwriting practice, as well as challenges to binary perceptions of gender and other gender-based insights in regards to the screenplay.

Topics may include but are not limited to:

  • perspectives from feminist (film) theory on screenwriting practice
  • character development and archetypes
  • gender biases (eg. cis, male) in script development
  • gender and genre in screenwriting practice
  • gendered readings of dominant screenwriting models
  • screenwriting practice and representation
  • screenwriters concerned with gender-specific stories/characters
  • writing ‘difference’ for the screen
  • questions of gender in specific screenplay formats (television, online, feature)
  • questions of gender in screenwriting processes
  • subverted tropes and/or narrative structures

Abstracts of 150 words are due 1 July 2015, to Louise Sawtell and Stayci Taylor (eds.) at

If accepted, first drafts of papers (6000 words) will be due for the peer review process by 15 September 2015.

ISSN: 1755-9944

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