I can’t tell you! He has to seem like a real person, so if someone reading his script Googled his name and found this blog, the jig would be up. If you want an easy way to refer to him, just call him Max.
When I began this project, I wasn’t sure. However, over the course of administering SLAM and writing about my experience, I’ve decided that I am going to take on a gender-ambiguous pseudonym after this project is done. For more on the subject, read What’s In A Name, Anyway?.
There are no guarantees it won’t be recognized, but it’s unlikely. Most theatres and organizations change readers from year to year. Most also have multiple readers, so there is not a huge likelihood that my scripts end up back in the hands of the same reader AND that the reader remembers my script from however many years ago.
Nine years ago, after I graduated NYU’s Dramatic Writing program, I started submitting scripts. A few months in, out of combined organization/paranoia, I started an Excel to keep track of where I’d sent my stuff. The majority is submissions to theatres, theatre companies, fellowships, and festivals. A number of recent ones are applications to TV networks’ writing programs. All of them are submissions sent in response to open calls for scripts; none are works I sent unsolicited, and it doesn’t count anything sent to someone I know or a friend-of-a-friend who was looking for plays.
Today, that list is 117 entries long, and it specifies where I sent what and to whom, and what kind of response I received (if any). Max’s submissions will all be resends of my submissions from this list.
Short answer: No.
Longer Answer: Only the rejected scripts (about 85% of the list) are being resubmitted. In some cases, the submissions that were semi-finalists (about 5% of the list) are also being resubmitted, but those are being decided on a case-by-case basis; in some instances, it’s too likely that the script would be remembered.
Of the rejected scripts, I am resubmitting as many as I can. A significant number of the opportunities no longer exist—either the theatre company folded or the festival or other program is no longer being offered. In some cases, “Max” is actually not eligible to submit; I was only eligible for a number of programs because I am a woman. So in those cases, I had a foot in the door that Max does not. TAKE THAT, FAKE ALTERNATE MALE SELF!
Quite a few entries on the list of 117 are also duplicate submissions, where I resubmitted to the same program multiple years in a row. Since Max can only apply one time per year, I am picking one previous submission and sending it from him. If I keep this project running another year, he could potentially resubmit just like I did.
I am so grateful for all of the opportunities I’ve had, and have heard from a lot of people who say 10% success seems high in their opinion. When I’ve tried to do a comparison, I’ve found that most writers don’t actually know their own success rate; most have a guess, but almost nobody I know keeps track of their submissions and can truly verify their estimate. So it may be that 10% is on par or even better than average, and it may not—I haven’t found enough people with data to figure that out. Regardless, SLAM isn’t really about the rate of success, it’s about whether or not the responses are different when the gender changes.
Yes, there are lots of people who submit more than me, and this project is by no means meant to imply that I am The Greatest Submitter of All Time. But regardless of the quantity of submissions, what puts me in a unique position is that I have a detailed list of everything I’ve applied to (something I’ve found most peers & colleagues don’t have), which I can now use to conduct this project and resubmit as “Max.”
When I first graduated college and started submitting my work, I submitted fast and furious to anything and everything I could. After a few years, I realized that approach did not work for me. Instead of applying to everything I could get my hands on, I became more interested in submitting only to opportunities that I felt would really further my career. This decision meant I had to slow down my pace, because the bigger-name festivals and fellowships mostly required lengthy submissions of not just a script but also essay questions, artistic statements, recommendation letters, and more. Would I love to have time to do more submissions? Absolutely! But for me it’s not feasible to do more while also having time for other undertakings I enjoy like freelancing, improv, and (you guessed it!) writing.
No. As I’ve discussed in many of my posts, I do not consider SLAM to be a “science experiment” in any way. In fact, you may notice that I always use the word project (and not experiment), and that’s intentional. Although I am submitting the scripts to the same places, I can’t control for pretty much anything else at all—I will be amongst a different applicant pool, at a time when any given organization will be looking for different things than before, and in all likelihood will be evaluated by a different set of readers. There is nothing in this that will “prove” anything, it’s just a project I am conducting out of curiosity. To me, Submitting Like A Man is art; it’s a lens I am using to examine an experience.
Yes, I will share share the numbers on Max’s success/failure. However, I am not out to humiliate anyone or point fingers, so I don’t intend to share the name of which theatre company or which program rejected or accepted the submissions. As of now, I can’t see any way in which it would help. This project is about discussing and examining gender bias, not slinging blame or naming names.
Max is a pen name, and the reason for his existence has always been to investigate whether there would be a discrepancy in acceptances of scripts when they’re submitted under his name instead of mine. “His” work is still my work, and as such, his opportunities are still my opportunities. So the short answer to what I’ll do if he’s accepted is that I’ll participate.
The longer I administer this project, the more I’ve come to feel strongly that it’s my duty and my responsibility to SLAM to reveal my true gender to anyone who does accept one of Max’s scripts. To see what happens, and what kind of difference it makes (if any), needs to go hand-in-hand with the other goals of this project, and the experiences it allows me to have and to share.
As for when I’ll reveal my gender—that’s a more complicated subject on which I wrote an entire blog post, Exposing My Male Self. Give it a read. There are Groucho Glasses.
Yes, they are. Even though 51% of the population in the US is women, only about 20% of our writers in theatre and TV are female. If you want to see it for yourself, read The Count from the Dramatists Guild, or American Theatre’s article that aptly likens statistics on women writers to the old “Really?!?” bit from SNL’s Weekend Update. If that’s not enough, check our any number of the depressing studies from Women in Arts & Media Coalition and WomenArts. Or, just start paying attention to the writing credits when you watch TV or go to the theatre. More often than not, you’ll see a dude’s name.
Great question! Probably the best one on the list. Here are some suggestions:
- Make a deliberate point of seeing shows written by women. One idea is to do a half & half: For every play, TV show, and/or movie that you watch written by a man, make sure the next one you choose was written by a woman.
- THEATRE: I know your choices might be limited depending on where you live. Write an email to the artistic director of the place where you see shows, and let she/he know that you want a season that’s at least 50% women. *If your choice is not limited because of where you live, all the better! BUY TICKETS TO WOMEN’S SHOWS. Even if you’ve never heard of the writer, try it out!
- TV: Try to choose shows that have a significant number of women on their writing staff (you can check on IMDB). Or at the very least, choose shows that have strong female characters.
- MOVIES: You may not be able to find a lot of movies by female screenwriters in the theatre, but balance out what you see in the theatres with female-written movies you stream at home.
- Avoid awards shows that don’t nominate or support diversity. If you’re dying to see the outfits or hear a speech by your favorite celeb, catch the highlights online the next day. And don’t rely solely on these awards as a basis for what you should be seeing, so that you can cast a wider net.
- When you see something written by a woman, tell others about it! Tweet it, post it, text it, carrier-pigeon it. Spread.the.word.
Thanks, that’s flattering! Let’s talk. Drop me a line.