A return to the Silver Screen if you please

Playing catch up with the original film noirs, last weekend I watched Sunset Boulevard for the first time! I know, a late bloomer you may say. The tension, the inciting incidents, the fashion and tragic-comedy are difficult to match in today’s movies. What’s also difficult to match 100 years on, is the prominence of women on the silver screen.

Female Face Time

Cast your minds back to the black and white movies you’ve seen. Women were given as much screen time as men and were cast as complex, multi dimensional characters, capable of great power, love, good and evil.

Sunset Boulevard

What a classic film noir! Plot spoiler coming…ageing actor falls in love with younger man and goes crazy – note to self.

The leading lady, Norma Desmond (played by silver screen legend, Gloria Swanson) quite literally leads the movie from the moment she comes on screen. In a classic line from the movie, Norma lives and breathes her diva image with the words:

“I am big, it’s the pictures that got small.”

Gloria was big. For Sunset Boulevard she earned an Academy Award nomination and a Golden Globe win. As well as starring in, Gloria produced her own independent films.

Influence change through independent film

As Gloria Swanson knew, independent film is a great place to influence change. It can be used to project a picture of the real world or how it ought to be portrayed to the world at large. The faces and places we see in independent film, are often more representative of the real world we live in; rather than the one chosen by wealthy studio executives and powerful production companies who get to decide what we watch. 

I experienced this real world feeling at the opening night of The Raindance Film Festival  with ‘Krow’s Transformation.’ It told the heartwarming journey of a transgender young model. There was a palpable feeling of euphoria as the credits rolled. I recognised that feeling as one of happiness and coming together of us as a ‘people’, regardless of personal characteristics, be they race, sex, sexual preference, disability, religion or any other differences that make us greater as a whole.

At the Collab Writers October meet up I overheard a conversation between a screenwriter and actor about the most common question asked by studio executives or film financiers about a movie:

“Who is the leading male?”

Outraged, and wanting to hear more I butted in and asked several actors in the room if they had experienced this. Each one of them, female and male, rolled their eyes and replied:

“All of the time.”

A change has got to come

If you don’t want to have to hear that question again. I for one, don’t wish to (unless of course the question is the gender neutral “who is leading actor?”) take a stand, and object. In the words of the great lawyer, Mahatma Gandhi:

“you must be the change you want to see in the world.”

So, how do we bring about change?  For starters, if you experience discrimination or unfair treatment in any way, shape or form, stand up and call it out. And remember, there are laws that prohibit it. Change begins at the grass roots level, including in the world of independent film. If you are afraid, ask yourself what Gloria Swanson would do or say. I doubt she would have stayed quiet – with six husbands under her belt she likely knew when to call bad behaviour out.

Write scripts and books that give fair representation across the sexes, or that are gender neutral. You get to choose what books you write and movies you make.

Two minds are better than one

Collab Writers, with lights, camera and action are ready to lead the disruption. Join us to connect, collaborate and co-create. To quote a line from Norma at the end of Sunset Boulevard as the police lie in wait, all she can see are the stage lights and cameras:

“All right, Mr DeMille, I’m ready for my close-up.”


For a taste of collaboration, join us at The Library Club on November 7 for Collab Writers monthly meet up and a game of Halloween themed spooky ‘Consequences’. Prepare to embrace your inner ghoul.

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