Ask the Expert … Pilar Alessandra – Beyond the Chick Flick


Question: What are the top ten things to remember when writing a female-driven screenplay?


1. Turn The Tables on Female Stereotypes
Don’t ignore negative perceptions about women; challenge them by turning negative labels into positive traits for your character. “Gossipy” becomes well informed. “Catty” becomes competitive. And don’t forget that positive stereotypes are still stereotypes. Humanize the perfect model of a woman by showing the darker side.

2. Heighten Your Female Character’s Goals
The unappreciated temp doesn’t want to be noticed; she wants to be boss. The neglected wife doesn’t want to find out about her husband’s infidelity, she wants to get even. Scripts that think big sell!

3. Give Your Female Character More Traditionally “Masculine” Activity
Are you undermining your character just because she’s a woman? Ask yourself “what would a guy do?” Perhaps then your character will build the house she wants, instead of just dreaming about it. Perhaps she’ll wait in the dark with a weapon for the burglar, rather than just calling the cops.

4. But Don’t Forget She’s A Woman
The female experience can bring its own activity and entertainment to a scene. In Kill Bill two female assassins suddenly hide their knives as a school bus pulls up and a child comes home. It’s a funny, revealing moment that we normally wouldn’t expect from a kung-fu action pic.

5. Create Sharp Act Breaks
Even if your script falls into coming-of-age, dramedy, or stage-of-life category, we should still get a strong sense of what the goals are for the characters at each act break. Don’t force the reader or audience to have to analyze or interpret a murky script. Define those high and low points.

6. Bring Edge to Your Tone
Don’t give the reader a chance to write off your female-driven screenplay as soft. Watch the dreamy voice-over, sepia-toned southern settings, and mother/daughter bonding moments. Kick it up a notch. Have a sense of humor. Don’t write a movie for your mom!

7. Use “Macho” Format
Flowery descriptions and over-choreographed scene direction only weighs down a script and, again, makes it feel soft. If the genre allows for it, hit hard with your words. Be lean and mean in your description. And move purposely down the page.

8. Put a Spin on Familiar Male-Driven Templates
It’s Rocky … but with a woman. Sound familiar?

9. Put a Spin on Familiar Female-Driven Templates
There’s a reason we’ve seen so many modern-day princess stories. It’s fun to spin the familiar. Modernize or come from a different point of view with a fairy-tale or classic story and you could find yourself with a pitch-friendly, high-concept project.

10. What’s Her Story?
Remember the girl in the “guy movie:” the helpless girlfriend, the supportive wife, the stoic mom. What’s her movie? What would she do if she were the lead character? Isn’t it time to tell her story?


About liftingasweclimb

Mildred Lewis writes and directs for theater, television, film and the web. She's also a full time professor, Christian, activist and troublemaker with a passion to save as much of the world as she can.
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One Response to Ask the Expert … Pilar Alessandra – Beyond the Chick Flick

  1. liftingasweclimb says:

    It’s credited to Storylink but has been bouncing around. Still a great piece. Enjoy!

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