I was so honoured and empowered to speak before the screening of Tiny Furniture by Lena Dunham as part of the hugely important and inspiring film festival Bechdel Test Fest .
A clip of me speaking is on their facebook page here, and for my full feminist manifesto, please see below.
Girls Make Shit Happen
by Sarah Kosar
Girls make shit happen. Because we have to. With a male dominated film and theatre industry and overflowing testosterone in executive power, women in the arts, like Lord Lena Dunham are paving their own ways. By holding the reins and doing it herself, Lena has spearheaded the importance and validity of a woman’s story. Through her cultural impact, she has inspired diverse groups of underrepresented women and groups to tell their own stories.
As a playwright, I’m constantly writing things that matter to me and then trying to make them happen. In this youtube culture, there will be no magical ding in your inbox calling you to your success or your Hollywood, you need to do it yourself. And by being the force making your own stories happen, you can have the full vision and authority to not let the higher ups dilute the truth you want to tell.
As women, we are told our stories aren’t valid, aren’t going to make money, and aren’t interesting to the other half of the population. That there isn’t room for us. It’s easy to think that women still don’t hear this in 2015, but it lives in our memories from meetings and coffees with the gatekeepers from years or even days ago. We need to block this influence and tell ourselves that there is room for us, because Lena and many other successful young women have. You can’t think about the other woman that might have done your thing “first,” you just need to do it. This habit doesn’t stop when you get successful - Anna Sale, creator and host of podcast Death, Sex and Money felt that there wasn’t room for her to do her own show after the success of Sarah Koenig’s Serial. But she pushed that criticism and locked thoughts in her head aside and made shit happen. And it hit the top of iTunes charts.
We can argue that women’s stories are coming to the forefront of television with shows like Girls, Orange is the New Black, New Girl, The Mindy Project, and so on but this is only the beginning. We have proof that art with women at the center does make money. And a lot of it. Our biggest challenge is to fight the thoughts or ill-conceived beliefs that there isn’t room for us because there is.
So how do us girls make shit happen?
It’s firstly about empowerment by women for women. We need to scream and shout for other women that are doing great things. Don’t hide our fandom for our friend’s great new play. Don’t not retweet just because you’re jealous. We need to be real fans of each other. And when we get big enough, we can guest star on each other’s shows (who saw Lena in Scandal last week?) and when we see a career that we want, we can follow the path of bread crumbs another woman has left behind.
Last week I was listening Improv Nerd with Jimmy Carrane and was surprised to learn that Jill Soloway, creator of Transparent had been jealous of Lena Dunham and fanning out about her when Girls premiered. She wanted what Lena had; she loved her shame-pride. She was able to tell her story the way she wanted from the get go and under her control. Jill had pitched her own shows, but didn’t land any of them. It was really surprising that to me that a woman who has had years of experience in TV as a staff writer on Six Feet Under and showrunning United States of Tara, was seeping jealously at someone who just entered the business. Why couldn’t she do it too? Jill looked at Lena’s bread crumbs and saw that with a proven hit of an independent, it’s much easier to get your own show. Jill then made her feature, Afternoon Delight, winning her a best director at Sundance, and with her award in her armpit, she pitched Transparent and got it. Now Jill was able to take a stab at Dunhaming. With a huge hit, and a best series Golden Globe, Jill Soloway took a page out of Lena’s book and made shit happen.
My advice for any woman is that instead of constantly refreshing to see how much better a female frenemy of yours is doing and feeling that they have a spot that should or could be yours, just make shit happen and carve your own spot. There is room for us all. And I’ll retweet your project if you retweet mine.
As women, we must keep making shit happen to tell the stories that matter to us because if we don’t, no one will be doing it for us. More women were nominated for screenwriting awards in the 30s and 40s than in the past twenty years and we need to change this now. Take a page out of a woman’s book that inspires you and use it. It’s not stealing, it’s empowerment. Ask women you look up to for advice or suggestions on how to navigate your own career route. You’ll be surprised, but more women want to help each other than you think, because the closer we can get to equality, the better it is for everyone. We are storytellers and in solidarity, we must continue to fight for feminism in the arts.
If you’re also a writer out there, let’s all keep writing women, keep them talking to each other (not just about men) and tell the many complicated, loving, terrifying, hilarious, beautiful and disturbing truths about what it means to be a woman today.
It's also posted on the fabulous blog PUCK here.