This Is 40: Meryl Streep Just Created a Writers’ Program for Women

The actor funded a new initiative to encourage female scribes to write to their heart’s content.
Meryl Streep at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. (Photo: Getty Images/Eugene Gologursky)
Apr 19, 2015· 1 MIN READ
Jennifer Swann is TakePart’s culture and lifestyle reporter.

Meryl Streep has long been heralded as one of the few actors of her generation who has consistently landed a wide range of complex roles well into the later half of her life.

In the last decade alone, the 65-year-old Academy Award winner portrayed British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in the biopic Iron Lady, chef Julia Child in the true story of Julie & Julia, an entrepreneur and single mother in the romantic comedy It’s Complicated, a hotel owner and singer in the hit musical Mamma Mia!, and the magazine editor everyone loves to hate in The Devil Wears Prada.

While those characters couldn’t be more different, the films all have one thing in common: Women wrote them. Call it self-serving or a gift to us all, but Streep aims to up the ante and encourage more female screenwriters with her latest initiative, The Writers Lab.

Funded by Streep and run by New York Women in Film and Television and the women filmmakers collective IRIS, the screenplay development program will focus on supporting women writers over the age of 40, Variety reported from the Tribeca Film Festival on Sunday.

Following a screenplay submission period from May 1 through June 1, eight writers will be chosen in August to participate in an inaugural retreat in upstate New York under the guidance of screenwriter and director Gina Prince-Bythewood, producer Caroline Kaplan, and writers Kirsten Smith and Jessica Bendinger, according to Variety.

The Writers Lab comes at a time when the number of women screenwriters working on the top blockbusters has steadily declined since the late ’90s. In 2014, women penned just 11 percent of the year’s top-grossing 250 films, down from 13 percent in 1998, according to a 2014 report by the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University. In a separate analysis by the same center, researcher Martha Lauzen found that the number of women working behind the scenes directly correlated to the number of major female characters in a movie.

A self-proclaimed feminist, Streep cited similar statistics when she urged the industry to create more female-fronted movies at the L.A. Film Awards in 2012, bashed Walt Disney for his reported sexism at a National Board of Review gala last year, and provided fodder for the ultimate GIF when she gave Patricia Arquette’s equal pay speech a standing ovation at this year’s Oscars ceremony.

jennifer lopez animated GIF