Female screenwriters should be “bossy” - why I made a web-series, and you should too
Recently, I have been pretty bossy. I wrote, co-produced and starred in a web-series called Live With It, and after this experience, I want more female screenwriters to create their own content.
Live With It tells the story of a couple who share nothing but a flat and a stubborn nature, and when they break up, neither of them want to move out. As they fight to co-exist, they irritate everyone around them and discover that their living situation may be more complicated than they first imagined. The protagonist is “bossy”; she’s basically a more annoying version of myself.
When I was younger, I was often described as “bossy”. Quite frankly, I believe anyone who uses the word as an insult deserves the treatment I gave to my Barbie dolls – cutting off their hair and scribbling on their faces. As I grew up, I was determined to become less “bossy”, because I was lead to believe that it was an unappealing personality trait. Despite this, I still get called "confident" in that tone that implies it’s a bad thing.
So, when I decided I wanted to write and star in my own web-series, I was worried. How would people perceive me? Was it an egotistical move? Was I being too “bossy”?
Seeing other “bossy” women in this industry is essential to realising that the word “bossy” is a load of sexist nonsense. Before I even thought about bringing a team together, I did a lot of research. I read Tina Fey’s autobiography, Bossypants, which discusses sexism in the writers’ room and how women were viewed liked ‘coffee machines’ – one was enough. From my research, it became obvious that kick-ass women like Tina Fey, Shonda Rhimes and Sally Wainwright don’t spend their time worrying about being “bossy”, as they’ve got too much to do. So, I took a step back and wondered whether a man would feel the way I was feeling. Would a man worry that he wasn’t qualified enough to write a web-series? And, more importantly, would a man worry that people would label him as egotistical or “bossy” for doing it?
It became clear to me. Being “bossy” is fantastic! Why wasn’t I more “bossy”?? Hey, you, read my script, isn’t it fantastic?! And make me a sandwich!
I’m being flippant, of course. Whilst I could see that I needed to put myself out there, gathering a team felt daunting. I had no experience of being the person that says, “hello, this is my project and I would love you to work on it with me”. I was used to being the person who’s asked to help someone else to achieve their vision, and I was terrified that people would take one look at me and my script and say, “you’re not a leader – now make me a sandwich!”
The first person I opened up to about seriously wanting to make Live With It was the editor, Paula, who is also my close friend. We went to see a comedy at the cinema, and afterwards I went into Serious Mode, discussing the pros and cons of making a web-series and expressing
my fears and anxieties about the whole thing. I distinctly remember her interrupting me, mid- woe, with something profound like this:
“Briony, we’ve just seen a terrible comedy that got made. You can write something ten times better than that. Just do it. Get a phone, shoot in your flat, use your friends, whatever. Just make it”.
It was the inspiration I needed. “Bossy” female filmmakers are the best people you’ll ever meet.
Live With It is exactly what I wanted to create. It’s fun, silly, sometimes disgusting, sometimes moving, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I surrounded myself with a wonderful, creative and diverse team of filmmakers who listened to each other and had something extraordinary to offer. I’ve still got a lot more to learn, but I’m insanely proud of the series and the people who brought it to life. Together, we made something, and it feels amazing.
However, I’ve realised that screenwriters can often be overlooked – viewed as no more than tools or accessories to the bigger picture. While it’s fairly common for another filmmaker to ask me to help them write or give structure to their idea, it’s much less common for them to ask me about my own ideas. Of course, I’m only at the beginning of my career and don’t expect to be flooded with offers, but this is what makes screenwriters lack the confidence to initiate their own projects. If you add being female to the mix, plucking up the courage to be “bossy” enough to create our own content can feel intimidating.
So, next time you speak to a female screenwriter and ask them to help you with a script, take a minute to ask them about their own ideas. Encourage them to make their own content, offer them a hand and reassure them it’s more than OK to be “bossy”. Trust me, we will return the favour.
And to fellow female screenwriters? BE BOSSY. Be proud to work alongside other kick-ass female filmmakers, and create what you want to see on-screen.
You can now watch Live With It
Main Article Photo by Debby Hudson.