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.