The Concrete Ceiling

The 2011 Black List recently made its annual debut.

64 scripts

9 of them by women.


The female presence in Hollywood has spiraled down since the inception of filmmaking. Let us not forget a few facts:

The first person to script a film was a woman.

In early Hollywood, there were almost as many female directors as male.

The majority of early film editors were women.

Today, box office purchases are approximately 53% female.

…and then comes The Black List, rearing its ugly head. People speak of the “glass ceiling” for women in entertainment – but they are sadly mistaken, for this ceiling is not composed of glass, oh, no, it is made of concrete.

The Academy Awards have been being handed out for some 84 years, and within that span of time, one woman has won for direction – Kathryn Bigelow, for “The Hurt Locker” – and four women total have been nominated in that category, while a whopping two madames have won the award for direction of a foreign film.

By my count, a total of 37 women have received a nomination for Best Screenplay, and many of these women were part of a team of screenwriters. Jane Campion stands out as one of the only solo female writers to win an Academy Award.

By Hollywood standards, we’re a pretty incapable lot, aren’t we? We can’t write. We can’t direct. We certainly can’t shoot. Hmmm… what are we good for, then?

Oh. I see.


Got it.

Now, go write.

HRH, Princess Scribe

About princessscribe

Screenwriter. Creator of things. I love tacos. "Midlife on Fire" Volumes 1 & 2 now available at
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19 Responses to The Concrete Ceiling

  1. Yeah, doesn’t it all just insult your intelligence?


  2. Jeez, that was depressing and infuriating. We’ll show them! I’ve got a cadre of power tools to break through that ceiling like: talent – determination – creativity – and MEGA WATT product. Hmpf! Watch it come crashing down! B A M!!!


  3. It may have more to do to with genre.

    Men tend to write hi-concept genres such as action, adventure, sci-fi and fantasy.

    Women may prefer to write dramas and rom coms. (I can’t say that for a fact. It is an assumption).

    Presence Films engages female Writers but looking at the stats I can see 8 out of 30 Writers are female. That’s not by design. We actively look for female voices but there is also a limitation of how many female voices there are in a script.

    Sex in the city features a lot of female voices but a WW2 action romance may only feature a few.

    So, just like with construction, trucking and front line combat, women may be welcome but the takers for the main fare of the work may be less. It’s may have nothing to do with a concrete ceiling.

    That said, perhaps women fair a lot better in TV than film.


    • Sounds like if you don’t hear it or see it, it doesn’t exist, but then, you have to look at who’s doing the reporting, fact checking, and who Gate Keepers are.


    • David, sorry, I was trying to reply via iPhone and found it a most Sisyphean task to endure.

      Woman have been writing high-concept since the inception of Hollywood, and long before the term was coined. I know women who write Sci-Fi, fantasy, action, suspense, thriller, political thriller, horror, pulp and historic epics. There’s not one woman writer I know who writes wish-fulfillment.

      The analogy in regard to the construction, military and trucking industries is very off target. One in three women in the military are victims of sexual assault during service, as compared to one in six in civilian life. Neither statistics are acceptable; one in one hundred thousand is one too many. The incidents at Tailhook and Aberdeen were drops in the bucket.In the first Gulf War 90% of women veterans reported being sexually harassed. The Department of Labor has very sobering data about the endangerment of women in the construction trade. This danger is not limited to the risk of sexual assault, but also includes withholding of proper safety gear as well as forcing women to use sub-standard equipment and dress in ill-fitting clothes. The non-profit organization Women in Trucking has decades of documentation of the harassment of women in the workplace. Women are NOT welcome. This is a concrete ceiling, built by decades of patriarchal programming teaching boys that girls are less than they are, and that the best way to deal with conflict, or feelings of being threatened is to resort to bullying and violence…

      …and Hollywood is not impervious to this programming. You said women “fair” [sic] better in TV, but all one has to do is look at what Amaani Lyle endured during “Friends.” That the High Court eventually dismissed the case means little. To claim that the door is wide open for women writers/directors in Hollywood is align oneself along with those who claim that racism in America no longer exists. It’s turning a blind eye to a problem that has gone on way too long.



      • Great, great, reply!


      • I did note that David hails from AU, which may have different stats than ours. My post was on Hollywood, which is a very American town.

        I must say I bristle at the “women don’t write high-concept” remark because a) It’s untrue. I am a woman. I am a writer. I write high-concept (most times 😉 ) and some of my best friends are women who write high-concept, and b) it is a decidedly “blame-the-victim” response. It’s like Cheryl Araujo being blamed for her rape because she wore short skirts and had a bit of a sexual history. I do not for one minute think that David’s intent was malicious, or that he meant to blame women for this established form of industrial institutionalization; however, I do feel the need to address such remarks. I think they are at best born out of naivete, and more likely, out of ignorance.


      • It’s a challenge to find female Writers in Australia that create hi-concept, genre work.

        The Australian industry was dominated in the 90s and early part of the last decade by funding bodies and groups that dictated our industry should mimic the French industry creating low budget art-house dramas. So, the legacy of that style still remains.

        Our best Writers get poached by LA.

        Shane Brennan, (NCIS), Michael Rymer (Battlestar Gallactica), Stuart Beattie (30 Days of Night), Craig Pearce, (Romeo and J), Jan Sardi (Shine) etc but note they are all men. It’s arguable that they left because there was no hi-concept industry to engage them here in Australia.

        We currently engage with Writers in Israel, Algeria, Toronto, Japan, NY, LA, NZ etc, (it is a considerable list). That allows us to find female voices in the works we seek to create.

        There are no shortage of female Writers in Australia however their focus is more on dramas and comedy. (That’s not a fact, that’s our experience from receiving scripts. There are certainly exceptions).

        They can deliver some outstanding outcomes but long form still appears to be a challenge. Understandably, long form content is its own art form as many successful TVC and shorts Directors have found out to their woe.

        Presence actively encourages and engages female Writers. We are keen to discover new voices in the works we seek to create.


      • Would you be willing to look at scripts by US writers – femme or no?


  4. B S Kumar says:

    For the purpose of this debate, I respectfully ask if I can take the extreme other side, perceptions included. Upon getting princessscribe’s permission, I will engage in this topic that I really am interested in.


    • As long as trolling and flame wars are not engaged in, all comments are welcome!

      That being said I am curious in regard to taking “the extreme other side”… perhaps you might want to read my reply to David first. 😉


  5. B S Kumar says:

    I am an adult male.

    The first person to fly an aeroplane was a man.

    The first person to fire a gun was a man.

    The first person to drive a car was a man.

    The first person to climb Mt. Everest was a man.

    So, if only men are fit for these tasks, how about – The first person to die in a plane crash, the first person to be killed by a bullet, the first person to die in a car crash and the first person to die in a mountaineering accident were all men!

    So, ladies! How about you give the above a try? Does it have to be like this?

    Nothing is fair, and equality is a myth. If we believed in equality, then men and women shouldn’t have different competitions in the Olympics. If genetics is fair enough as a basis to make ladies only and gents only streams of competition, why can’t it serve elsewhere too? How about a “Ladies only” studio in Hollywood that makes movies in which ONLY women show up? Maybe even have “Ladies Only” theatres too. That new planet we found, just like earth – maybe all our women could go there and shape it exactly like they would without interfering men.

    Of course I have heard a lot of arguments against this sort of reasoning. With experience I can only say what I have come across, and leave all conclusions to each individual.

    In all seriousness, I’d hate to see any of the above come about, simply because I love women far too much. Women have been my best friends for long, and the one person with whom I have a fantastic undefeated streak in beach volleyball is a woman. The best pillion rider I have had in my mad sportbike rides is a woman and two of the three best drivers I have ever known in my life are women. I celebrate them, I cherish them, and I love them. Enough gushing about this.

    Why aren’t there enough women in cinema? I don’t know, but only one woman director figures in my list of twenty favourite movies of all time. And no, she is not in the top ten. Why? I don’t know. I just put the movies on this list without bothering about the director, and they didn’t show up in bigger numbers. Men make a lot of crappy movies too, and if I made a list of the worst movies I have ever seen, that would be mostly populated by male directors too, but I know at least four out of that twenty would be women. This is just my taste, perhaps, and all statistics I think are incidental.

    I went to film school in the USA, and it was majority male I think by about an 80:20 ratio. Surely, the school cannot have discriminatory enrollment procedure. So, where are the girls that dream of become movie industry professionals? I worked in live sports, and I never saw a woman anywhere on the field, except in the broadcast bus. Similar ratio I think.

    Having worked in Hollywood, British and Indian productions, with professionals from these industries and Canada, I can say I never saw a woman being refused a job because she was a woman. If anything she was treated more considerately and kindly because of that. Female professionals I have worked with have been producers, writers, directors, DPs, costume designers, make-up artists, assistant directors, and make up artists. Good and bad in more or less same measure as men – not much to distinguish here. I am looking forward to working with a female music composer now, and I think she will be great!

    But as an audience member, I have been more irritated by movies women make. Awards don’t mean much to me, and I don’t care about the whole Oscar shebang, but forgive my bad language, what the fuck was “Hurt Locker”? It seemed to me the academy lost its mind and thought of somehow breaking the long streak enjoyed by male winners. The box office showed the truth of how well liked this film was! But somehow, if it made women happy, then good for them! I have seen much better films made by women that didn’t get anywhere near this kind of attention. So warped.

    Specific to India, the worst directors are women, by far. Oh, yes, they have issues, I mean issues to base their movies on, and they have the intellectual ammunition to justify and glorify the shit they make, but they have a very hard time finding finance. They do get the awards and the accolades, but they’re always scrounging around for the next issue they want to pick on. I wonder why. They’re great in interviews, but their movies suck. Everybody knows this. But somehow they always come up with one more crappy movie that is full of issue based nonsense. How do they do that? Heck, it is their domain entirely! I don’t even want to know.

    I have come across very few really “fun” female storytellers in cinema. It may be just the choice of work they make, and just a matter of my taste not quite taking up their work. But where are the fun stories ladies want to tell? I’d be excited to see women take on bigger numbers for sure, but for heavens’ sake, if I may beg here, please spare us the Hurt Lockers. I saw “Whale Rider” six times and cried each time. That rascal Niki Caro then made another one of those “issue” movies and it lost money, big time. Sure, sexual harassment is a real issue, and an important one, and it needs to be addressed but maybe audiences (53% female, huh?) are telling us we don’t want to pay money to watch a movie about it?

    Women storytellers don’t seem to make business sense yet, to the majority of the money that has to go into making films. From personal experience I pulled a financier out of a movie a woman was going to make. The reasons were outside the merit of the script, which was written by a male writer, but the female director later went on to make the movie with other financiers and it recovered 10% of its budget. My financiers thanked me like I did something to help them! I still don’t know what to think about that experience, but she hasn’t made a movie since.

    The USA is a country of liberty, truth, justice, equality and democracy, right? Does it mean percentages should be entirely gender agnostic and accurately represent demographics in every profession? Seriously, can it ever be? It can’t be purely business sense either, because Hollywood makes the majority of its revenue from overseas markets, right? So how come in Hollywood development circles in studios you only see Americans with absolutely no life experience outside the USA?

    I don’t know the truth, but I’d like to know. Here’s some truth I can vouch for – Every time a woman drives a car, she drives a male invention. Who can we blame more for the horrendously inefficient internal combustion engine screwing up the environment some more? I don’t know, but I certainly don’t like one woman in a giant SUV endangering me on a motorcycle. Is this sexist? Heck, I think it is survival. I don’t stand a chance here, so if I could, I’d put her on a scooter, for sure! Didn’t I already say two of the three best drivers I know are women? So maybe they can do better?

    – BSK.


  6. XFunc_CaRteR says:

    Write a good script or shut up.


  7. Joey Joseph says:

    White women are complaining…. IMAGINE THE AFRICAN AMERICAN film-maker, they get a lot less.


  8. fedupwithphonies says:

    Spare me the tears. Bigelow did not even deserve an Oscar for a run-of-the-mill suspense movie that has been made a hundred times before. A pity the voters had never seen the previous, superior tales of similar exploits by bomb squads and their oh-so-complex! characters..


  9. Kevin says:

    The thing that makes me the most curious about these stats would be the ratio. 9 from 64 = 55. Now if 100 wemon and 1000 men applied to give you these final numbers the perception should be completely different. Ceilings absolutely do exist “for both sexes”. Denying that would be very silly indeed. Most of my ceiling have been largely self imposed but this does give one the unique opportunity to create a new paradigm. Change largely comes from action, but one should have all the facts before starting a revolution in my humble opinion. I also hear pole dancing is a great cardio workout. Might have to try that someday. 🙂


  10. Pingback: A Work in Progress | Princess Scribe's Blog

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