Incorporating the Variety Artistes' Federation
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Summary of Branch Meeting - Feb

19 February 2012

A spirited & detailed debate - sadly in Jean's absence due to work commitments & unfortunate dental problems for Maggie!

As usual tho we were not stuck for words - with comments as follows:

"Women contribute 50 per cent of licence fee funding to the BBC. If we aren't 50 per cent of the faces on TV, I suggest we get a discount. The majority of roles are stereotypical whiny, teary woman or the "strong woman" - why can't female characters be as flawed, interesting & funny as the male ones?"

We have seen this borne out in the fabulous "Scott & Bailey" - written, produced & directed by women but these are the exception. Mostly the median age for the lead female actors is somewhere in the 20's. There is sadly a somewhat sexist writing in Steven Moffat's Doctor Who  which is therefore not spreading a good message to our younger viewers who will be the next generation writers, directors & producers.

Worryingly it is worse within theatre than TV so depressing that The Bush  Theatre's season was a ratio of 5 men to 1 women in their upcoming season:

This is not just gender specific however - the problem of poor range of parts is indissolubly linked with that of few good parts for actors of middle age & older. One difficulty is that the manner in which emerging playwrights are recognised and supported creates a lot of the problem.

Most festivals of New Writing specify that playwrights must be under (typically) 30 and/or not had public performance before. Many, if not most, doubtless in order to showcase the largest number possible (and sell tickets to all their friends) specify short pieces: 10. 20 mins. Some set a time limit on the writing/devising/rehearsal process, or limit the subject matter to a 'response' to a particular issue or play. Old Vic New Voices adds to these vices, an age limit in directors & cast.

The result is that playwrights with limited life experience, utterly unaware that an age exists between their own and 'old, like my nan/grandad' are encouraged.pressurised/taught that the way to advancement is callow, uncrafted, underdeveloped squibs. The fact that very a very few achieve genuine quality under these circumstances is remarkable & admirable.

In the meantime concientious, excellent developing playwrights are out to pasture or self-producing on the frings the minute the clock stops chiming on their 30th birthday, just as they are beginning to know enough about the world & people to write work worth performing & watching.

The BIG question is what can we all do about it? ................

1) Continue backing Equity's campaign for equality

2) Raise awareness at every opportunity

3) Need women in top jobs across the board in every job.

4) Be persistent & remind people in POWER

5) Continue with all equal pay campaigns - Womens wages are still 60% lower than men. On Forbidden Planet a few years ago - the actresses were paid £200 - £100 less than the male actors.

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