Category: Podcast

TESTING THE JANE TEST

TESTING THE JANE TEST

We all know what the Bechdel test is,  The Bechdel test asks whether a film (or any work of fiction, for that matter) features at least two females who talk to each other about something other than a male.

I mentioned a couple weeks ago that on the HAGS Podcast, HAGS co-hosts Riley Rose Critchlow and Nicole Wyland brought up the Jane test during their second episode which centered on INTELLIGENCE.

HAGSnew

What though is the Jane test, and where did it come from?

On twitter, a professional script reader named Ross Putman pulls the introduction of female characters out of screenplays, changes all the characters names to “Jane,” then tweets the description the first time we see them.  Putnam’s findings reveal a superficial focus on a female characters’ looks, and a telling dearth of information about what makes them tick as a person.

Specifically, Putnam examines three things:  1) Does The Introduction Focus on the External Attributes of the Character?  2) Is She a Twenty- or Thirtysomething?  3) Is She Dating Someone Decades Older Than Her?

Here’s where I’m torn:  In RIDING ARISTOTLE, the last feature screenplay I wrote, the protagonist is a female.  It’s 1908, and she is the first female dean of a major university.  The first time we see her, she is splashed in the face when a nearby horse steps in a puddle of water.  So it’s a focus on an external attribute (Rule 1), but it is by no means a sexy description of her physical looks.  Next, she is 37, which would trigger Rule 2.  However, I didn’t write her as 37, to portray her as sexually vibrant, nor anything close to that.  Since she is a fictional character, I wondered what the youngest age that a person could become a dean — and for it still be somewhat believable, but more importantly, remarkable.  The point was she had made amazing achievements in grad school (finishing at 26), then as a professor (five years, making her 31), then as a department head (another 6 years, making her 37) — achievements so large, every step of the way, that they could not be ignored.  She exceled her way up the academic ladder at a time when the odds were stacked against her.  There’s no way THAT’S sexist.  To the contrary, her age is a testament to her advanced abilities.  Lastly, Rule 3 — not only is my protagonist NOT dating an older man, she is married to a much younger man (in 1908, another nod to her independent streak).  On the other hand, I do have an older man chasing her.  Am I guilty of violating Rule 3?  Or am I subverting it, by having my protagonist (SPOILER ALERT) stay loyal to her younger husband?

See what I mean?  A case could be made that my protagonist does not pass the Jane test — but there’s no way my protagonist is anywhere near the same as a lithe Meagan Fox glistening with sweat in her Daisy Dukes in Transformers.  This is not to say that Putnam’s observations are wrong.  I agree with him that there is a problem.  I’m just saying that describing the problem is not as cut-and-dried simple as 1 – 2 – 3.

Clearly there is more to be said about this topic.  This won’t be the last time we discuss the Jane test on this blog.

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“My Map of Chicago Doesn’t Help Me in Los Angeles, So There’s No Need for Me to Carry It Around.”

“My Map of Chicago Doesn’t Help Me in Los Angeles, So There’s No Need for Me to Carry It Around.”

The above headline is a direct quote from this article about Idea Debt by John Sexton.  That article is one of the writings referenced on John August’s podcast Scriptnotes (Episode 296).  The term “Idea Debt” actually comes from a Jessica Abel interview with Kazu Kibuishi …  After that interview, Jessica concluded:

Idea Debt is when you spend too much time picturing what a project is going to be like, too much time thinking about how awesome it will be to have this thing done and in the world, too much time imagining how cool you will look, how in demand you’ll be, how much money you’ll make. And way too little time actually making the thing.  If…

>  You tell 15 friends about your screenplay idea, but devote zero time in  your week to facing the blank screen.

> You buy a domain name, spend weeks or months researching and reading up on how to build a website, but you don’t actually install WordPress.

> You’ve got a drawer full of half-finished stories and novels and a to-do list item every week that reads, “work on writing.”

>You’ve read fifteen (15) free online guides to blogging, built three (3) editorial calendars, have notes on a dozen posts, but you haven’t gone live with your blog.

>You have “binders of lore” and no book.

…you’re living with serious Idea Debt.

After listening to the discussion, and reading these two pieces, I couldn’t quite figure out why, but I was ambivalent, to the topic.  To help me gather my thoughts, I asked one of my British writer friends, Tracy Shefras from Newport, Wales, United Kingdom, for hers.  Tracy responded:

Everyone is waiting for the perfect moment.  The perfect moment to tell someone something.  Something important.   Something that might change their world as they know it.  The courage it takes to man up to the moment, whether it is perfect or not, is all that’s needed.  For,  in short……

THERE IS NO PERFECT MOMENT

Last week’s topic of Idea Debt could be akin to The Karmic Wheel of Writers.    According to this Law, until the Karma is faced then there is no way to  move forward.  Each day will just be another opportunity to clog up the Wheel.  The answer surely must be to find an Idea with potential.  One that inspires, excites and wants to form a relationship.

Choices have to be made.  Take the plunge.  Get off the Wheel.

Like any process some things are just going to drop away.  In theory, if the Wheel is rotating efficiently, then the embracing of an idea,  one that might excite, will undoubtedly lead to the shedding of the back log.

May the Writer rest assured, in the knowledge, that all the ideas slipping away will have infused their essence into the Writer’s current project….if needs be!

The ideas are our teachers.  Let’s get onto the next lesson.  One that’s interesting and fresh enough to coax us into our refined status.

Change the Wheel to Will……

 

I hope you all read that in a British accent. In real life, Tracy sounds like Julie Andrews (and yet according to her, she says she laughs like Muttley).  Aural aspects aside, I agree with Tracy’s ALL CAPS thesis:  THERE IS NO PERFECT MOMENT.

Whenever I’m coaching people with their writing, I am constantly reminding them “Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good.”  Good enough is good enough.  Inspirational speaker Christina Irene has this thematic life tenet “If you don’t do it now, you’re never going to do it.”

My coaching advice, considered through the prism of Tracy’s and Christina’s words, explain my ambivalence towards Idea Debt.  I don’t have it.  If the idea is not good enough to write at that moment, I don’t hold onto it.  I do — at all times — keep an ongoing notebook of the next five things I am going to write.  If the new idea can’t be shoehorned into one of those five future projects, I let it go.  I’ve got enough current great ideas to keep me going — why bother letting some half-baked half-hearted attempt at half an idea simmer for a while longer?  My notebook of the next five future projects has tentative start and completion dates for each one.  There is simply just no time for some average so-so idea.  You can’t stop an average idea from landing in your brain, but you absolutely can prevent it from nesting there.

NUTS & MORE NUTS

NUTS & MORE NUTS

PunchFarm is a group of friends who love movies, tacos and beer. I recently heard them for the first time (Thanks, Rebekah Fieschi!), and thought, these fun people could be my friends.

They love moves.  I love movies.  They love tacos.  I love tacos.  They love beer.  I love movies.

Each week they watch a movie together and then record their thoughts and opinions about the film. They also discuss anything and everything. Horror movies, comic books and tacos are just a few of the topics they geek out on. They talk to filmmakers such as the aforementioned Rebekah Fieschi and P.J. Starks (a friend of my friend Amber Langton, a fine filmmaker in her own right).  Other recent guests have included Josh Hasty, director of In Hell Everybody Loves Popcorn, and Dynamo Marz, lead singer of The Deadites.

As many of you know, I always like to take a position on one of the topics discussed in each week’s podcast I review.  This week, I will be featuring Episode 39, the one which not coincidentally featured Rebekah Fieschi.

Rebekah on Punch Farm

In addition to the interview with Rebekah, the gang brings up several other topics, as usual.

So the position I want to take in this post, is a response to one of those other topics, and also is my answer to this question:

If you’re the Camera Operator, and one of the actors trips in a gopher hole, do you set down the camera and go help the actor — or do you keep the camera rolling, get the shot, and let someone else worry about him? At the one hour (01:00:00) mark, of Episode 39, our gang discuss that very happening during the shooting of their short film Chompy: Attack of the Fishman. 

My answer is this:

I contend you set down the camera.  Especially if you can run and warn him before he hit the ground, you set down the camera.  Sure the safety meeting is the job of the 1AD — but everybody is responsible to keep their eyes open for safety concerns on the set.

Triggered by this discussion, I emailed a former film professor of mine, and asked him the same question.  He said “I don’t know if I would stop filming, but I would definitely say something before they stepped in it.”  I had another discussion with a peer, who took it one step (pun intended) further.  He asked “Can a Camera Op really stop filming at all if the director never yells ‘Cut’?”  Good question.

Anyway, thanks PunchFarm Podcast for spurring on this discussion!  Before I went to press with this blog post, I shot off an email to Mark Scheetz because I wondered from where the PunchFarm name originated.  Mark replied immediately:  “Years ago we made a few short films and thought it would be fun to have our own “production company” so we just made that name up. That silly name worked well with the silly shorts we made. One short was about a misunderstood fish-man, Chompy. And “Chompy” is part of our podcast logo.”

Way to bring the gopher hole story and the name origin story full-circle, Mark!  I couldn’t have done it better myself.

ADDENDUM:  Here’s a quick glimpse at the PunchFarm gang…

PunchFarmTeam

WHY HAGS MATTER

WHY HAGS MATTER

It’s a podcast, people!!!

As you know, among other things, every week here, I blog about at least one podcast.  Usually it is about an episode of screenwriter John August’s Scriptnotes.  But today, I want to tell you about a brand new podcast I discovered this month.  (Thanks to the women of TeamRAD who put this on my radar.)  In fact, it’s only been around for a month.  New episodes air every Tuesday, so if you start right now, you can get caught up on the back episodes — and it is worth your time to do so.  So, without further ado, Ladies and Gentlemen, direct your attention to:

HAGS Podcast.

Who are the hosts of HAGS?  From their website:  “HAGS co-hosts Riley Rose Critchlow and Nicole Wyland met on the set of a hit web show and have been creating feminist content together ever since. In 2016, they co-produced a gender-bending parody series called Get Bent, which highlights the way women are portrayed in Hollywood by putting women in the men’s roles and vice versa.”  They have both worked in a variety of positions in the film industry.  More on them at the bottom. 

This week I want to talk about their second episode which centered on INTELLIGENCE.  They discuss, among other things, how intelligence is monetized and commoditized so that a women’s cleverness can be devalued.  The societal value applied to female intelligence is for the benefit of men.  A woman’s intelligence, they argue, is yet just another element of the “full package” making her more attractive to a man.  Rather than say, this education, or her inherent brightness, will serve her well in accomplishing her personal goal, or in serving our planet better, a woman’s intelligence is turned into a commodity for the benefit of the male gaze (well, the male gaze is done by the eyes, so whatever-a-male-brain-does-instead-of-gaze).   And I agree with Riley and Nicole completely — not that their positions need male validation, because they do not.

HAGS

Nicole Wyland (left) and Riley Rose Critchlow (right).

 

I promised more information about these hilarious and insightful feminists.  Here it is, again from their website:

RILEY ROSE CRITCHLOW – HOST

Riley grew up on a small island in Maine, moving to Los Angeles to pursue a BFA in Acting from USC’s School of Dramatic Arts. After graduating, Riley founded sketch comedy troupe Bowling for Tiffany, whose content caught the eye of Funny or Die, Tosh.0 and Discovery. Out of BFT, Riley and fellow comedian, Daniel Montgomery, formed comedy duo Mary-Kate and Ashtray. MKA recently performed at SF Sketchfest and has a pilot slated for completion later this year. Riley has appeared mostly as criminals on such television shows as Southland, Rizzoli & Isles and Marcia Clark’s pilot, Guilt By Association. She is also the lead of Julia Max’s film, Distortion, which is currently touring college campuses as a cornerstone of the Obama/Biden “It’s On Us” campaign to end sexual assault.

NICOLE WYLAND – HOST

Nicole is an actress, writer, and vocalist.  A native of Eighty Four, Pennsylvania, Nicole received her degree in Theatre Arts from the University of Pittsburgh before moving to Los Angeles to pursue a career in film. She is known for viral videos like freddiew’s “Flower Warfare” which has over 15,000,000 views online. In addition to playing Moriarty on the critically acclaimed webseries Video Game High School,  Nicole writes and performs sketch comedy for her own YouTube channel.  Her parody Lady Gaga music video has been viewed over 12,000 times. Nicole also owns her own production company, Verdant Pine Productions, and is looking forward to producing her first feature later this year.

Next week, I will revisit this same episode, because I want to dig deeper into their discussion of the Jane test for scripts.  (Not the Bechdel test, the Jane test.)  What is the Jane test, and what do I think about it?  You’ll have to come back here next week!

This Week I Get To Write A Headline Which Uses These Three Words:  LADY BALLS RADIO

This Week I Get To Write A Headline Which Uses These Three Words: LADY BALLS RADIO

Lady Balls Nation‘s Coni Constantine is also the host of Lady Balls Radio, of course.  This week, in Episode 017, Coni interviews the women of TeamRAD Productions about their new project Soiled Doves, but equally important they talk about the importance of women’s storytelling, and the future of female filmmaking.

It all started on a bench…  In a park…

Team RAD’s members, Rebecca Holopter, Verity Butler, and Darby Kennerly explain why they went beyond the typical female stereotypes when they were writing their supernatural 1800s Western TV pilot Soiled Doves.

As a screenwriter myself, I particularly was interested in their decision to make it a pilot for the teevee, as opposed to a feature film.  It seems like I have this debate literally almost at least once a week with my peers:  is this script or that script a potential series or a feature?

The women of Team RAD have been asked that same question frequently, “Why not make Soiled Doves a feature?”  Their answer is great for anyone having a similar debate:

“Our show is very much centered on character development…and more of a slow burn…rather than the quick pace of a film  And especially, with understanding the women, giving the audience time to know them…television is definitely more of the platform that will help tell the women’s stories.”

Succinctly put, Team RAD!

As someone who, more often than not, writes scripts with a strong female lead surrounded by multiple female supporting characters, I wholeheartedly agree with this assessment of the medium.  If you’re writing something heavy in rich female characters, you owe it to your audience to spend some time with those characters.  Only television can give your story the proper space it needs.

Coni goes on to lead the women producers in a variety of directions throughout the course of the interview.  They discuss everything from the two conflicting sides of nature, Shoshone tribal lore, and the future of female filmmaking (it’s bright).  It’s a great podcast, with a great name, deserving of your time.