Film and TV industries in Canada lacking in gender and ethnic diversity

The first-ever study of Canadian screenwriters, conducted by  researchers at Ryerson’s RTA School of Media, reveals that professional  screenwriters in Canada are well-educated, mostly middle-aged, and  versatile in writing for a variety of film and television genres in a  volatile freelance market. The study also revealed a lack of gender and ethnic diversity in the industry.

The 2012 Report on Canadian Screenwriters,   authored by RTA School of Media professors Michael Coutanche and Dr.  Charles Davis, provides a snapshot of the screenwriting occupation in  Canada including income and employment levels, where screenwriters live and work, age, education, gender and ethnicity.

“Screenwriting is a vital occupation in the Canadian cultural  industries, but one that is not often in the spotlight. We felt it was  time to begin an examination of who is writing for our screens, what  they are writing and how they are writing,” said Michael Coutanche,  Assistant Professor with the RTA School of Media and a former film and  television industry development executive.

Screenwriting is at the heart of the film, television and other  screen-based media industries and successful productions depend directly   on the quality and creativity of Canadian screenwriting talent. Despite  its importance, the screenwriting occupation has received little  attention in Canada. The 2012 Report on Canadian Screenwriters   sheds light on the working conditions and career dynamics of the men  and women who write for Canadian screens and audiences. The report is  based on a survey of 266 members of the Writers Guild of Canada (WGC),  the union that represents professional Canadian English-speaking  screenwriters. Similar studies have been conducted regularly in the  United States since 1987 with similar results – women, visible  minorities, and older workers are underrepresented in the screenwriting occupation.

“This research demonstrates Toronto’s importance as the centre of  screenwriting in English-speaking Canada,” said Dr. Charles Davis, ES  Rogers Research Chair in Media Management and Entrepreneurship RTA  School of Media.

Key findings include:

  • There are nearly twice as many male screenwriters (65%) as females  (35%). Men dominate the highest-paying and most powerful writing  positions while female screenwriters have less overall experience in the  industry and earn less for screenwriting work.
  •  Visible minorities are underrepresented in the Canadian  screenwriting industry. 4.1% of screenwriters who responded to the  survey are visible minorities – about one-quarter of the representation of minorities in Canada’s overall population. Visible  minority  screenwriters have less industry experience than white screenwriters and   36% of them report having experienced occupational discrimination due to their ethnic or racial background.
  • Well over half of Canadian screenwriters are in their 40s and 50s.  Middle-aged screenwriters have the most influence and power in the   Canadian screenwriting industry as they occupy most (64.8%) of the  showrunner and writer/producer positions in television.
  • Nearly half of all screenwriters (49%) live in the Greater Toronto  Area, followed by Vancouver (15%), Los Angeles (10%) and Montreal (8%).  Screenwriters in Toronto and Los Angeles report higher incomes from  screenwriting than writers in other cities.
  • Canadian screenwriters are highly educated with 80.4% of survey respondents having a post-secondary degree. More than half (55%) gain  additional education and training through a variety of sources such as  internships, professional workshops and industry seminars. In addition  to training, mentorship is important to Canadian screenwriters with  nearly half of all survey respondents reporting having had a  screenwriting mentor.

To read the complete report, click here.

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