Diverse Screenwriting

by Alainna MacPherson

Numbers and statistics aren’t necessary to feel the lack of diversity in the film and television industry. The world has been woke over the last 365 days on how much movies and shows are whitewashed or misrepresented. I was one of those people who brushed off the problem when it first was brought to my attention with the movie “Aloha” from 2015. As soon as I learned though, that Emma Stone’s character was originally written as a Hawaiian islander, I realized how big of a deal it was. In this case, it wasn’t the screenwriter’s fault, but the higher ups during production.

Does this mean it’s pointless to even advocate for people of diversity as a screenwriter? ABSOLUTELY, NOT! The more we write it, the more it will become the norm. There are so many movies now with black and Asian actors than there were two years ago. After the recent wave of Black Lives Matter campaign took over the world, echoing the problem internationally, eyes were opened throughout the film industry. More and more studios and production companies are now looking for diverse voices, characters and professionals like directors, producers and other crew workers. As a screenwriter, this is not a time to sit out. We are where the change can be rooted from.

Obviously, there is always the hesitancy of not wanting to write something you don’t have experience in. For instance, if you aren’t a person who identifies as anything other than heterosexual, you may be wary of writing a gay character. Don’t! It’s better to write a simple description of a character as, “bisexual” than to leave the sexual orientation blank or non-descript. The same can be said of a character that is Black, Asian, Latinx, deaf, or female even. And, when you add a character that you don’t have first-hand knowledge of, be sure to do extensive research so that character is represented as best as possible.

Another piece that is so imperative, is to be sure your story is told the way you write it, to make the character(s)’ element that is diverse: color, background, sexual orientation, gender or disability, imperative to the story. If a producer or director can change something or remove an element of your story without changing the story itself, they will if they want to. However, if you write the character and the story to be rooted or based on them being Black, Asian, gay, female, deaf, then it is much less likely that your script will be altered, and the characters will be represented through to production.

Is it ridiculous that this is the lengths we have to go through as screenwriters in order to make sure our voices are heard for our characters; yes, most definitely. But, until the film business world listens and changes systemically, it’s what will have to be done.

Alainna MacPherson is a screenwriter of Sci-Fi, Fantasy, Horror, Action and Thrillers. She’s also a novelist of in Adult, Young Adult and Children’s fiction. On top of recently winning Best Action, Best Fantasy, Best Horror, she is also a Quarterfinalist in this year’s Screencraft Fellowship Competition. Currently, she’s finishing a book in a Paranormal Romance series and an Action-Thriller feature script.


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