Last night ITV’s Controller of Comedy Saskia Schuster hosted an event with RTS, The Writers’ Guild, Era 50:50, Funny Women and BAFTA to launch Comedy 50:50, an initiative seeking to implement measures to address the gender imbalance in comedy, starting with writers.
The event brought together producers, writers and agents and Schuster talked about her plans to build on ITV’s Social Partnership agreement to increase the number of female writers in comedy teams on ITV productions. We also heard from Deirdre Mullins, Bafta-winning actress and founding committee member for the Equal Representation for Actresses campaign (ERA 50-50).
The event gave producers, writers and agents the opportunity to network, including focussed introductory producer/writer meetings, with each producer hosting at least three, ten-minute introductory meetings with female writers at the event. Attendees also had the opportunity to hear about and engage with a number of other aims Comedy 50:50 plans to drive forward, including:
Creating an independent database of female comedy writers, which can be accessed free of charge by producers. This is not related solely to ITV productions, this is for use on any show for any broadcaster.
Setting up mentorships whereby established writers commission less experienced writers to write an episode of their show and will work alongside them in the storylining and writing process. This suggestion has come from more established writers who benefitted from this early in their careers and perceive that there is generally less occurrence of this practice in the industry today.
Regular targeted networking that sets up short introductory meetings between writers and producers to expand the network of contacts.
Saskia Schuster said “A few months ago a disgruntled female writer crossly pointed out to me that commissioners have the privileged opportunity to create change. She was right. And a bit scary. This is the start of that change, not with the ambition of meeting targets or quotas, but of changing our comedy culture. We can’t be making the best shows possible for our audiences if our shows aren’t inclusive or representative of the gender diversity of our viewers.”
Lynne Parker, founder of Funny Women said: “Any initiative that enhances the opportunity for true diversity gets our support. We have been championing female comedy writers through the Funny Women Awards since 2010 and it was good to see so many of our alumni in the room last night. We are at the vanguard of changing the narrative.”
Comedy 50:50 is supported by the RTS, BAFTA, The Writers’ Guild, ERA 50:50 and Funny Women, who have helped in extending invites to female writers with at least one TV, theatre or radio credit.