Speaking roles are incredibly coveted in Hollywood, but in most best picture winners, men talk a lot more than women...
If you're an actor trying to break into Hollywood then you know you need to gather as many speaking roles as possible. This can be hard if you're a person of color, a woman, or any other marginalized human it can be next to impossible to find a speaking role on screen.
Does this have anything to do with the quality of a movie?
Not necessarily. Of course, that's also all pretty subjective. Things are getting better, but the pervasive problem goes all the way to the top. And there's data to back it up.
Michael Novogratz pointed out on Twitter that women had far fewer speaking roles than men in speaking roles given in Best Picture films. Look, we've covered how using the Bechdel test can generally improve your writing, or at least let you see outside of a certain preconceived notion of the world, but these statistics are staggering.
Movies are supposed to be indicative of the world of the story. I'm not saying that we need to find more speaking roles for women in Saving Private Ryan or on the moon in something like First Man, but if you're going to tell a story, consider broadening the scope of the characters you normally see.
There are a few years missing from the list, since 1991. They are 2003 and 2012.
The best picture winner in 2003 was Chicago. Women speak more in that movie, I assume. They also sing more.
2012 was The Artist. Ha.
While you can make excuses all day, the fact is that the burden is on creators to find and be the change they want to see within the industry itself.
USC Annenberg put together a ton of data outlining how representation in movies remained so skewed between 2007-2016.
Here is some more data from the same study, showing that the sexy stereotype still defines the majority of female roles in movies and that people of color are vastly under-represented.
There will always be exceptions to every rule, but before you write, think about the people in each scene. Think about the point of view of the story, and how you can truly represent the diverse and interesting world you live in every day. And work to incorporate more speaking roles for underrepresented people. Maybe even make a few of them your stars.
Your back end, box office take, and civilization will thank you.
What do you think of this information?
Are you working on a new script with a diverse and inclusive cast?
Try our Free Screenwriting Seminar and get back to work on your next project!