Often touted as the greatest actress of her time, Meryl Streep has a record 18 Oscar nominations and three Academy Awards under her belt. Now, the legendary movie star – who is a vocal proponent of equality in Hollywood – is trying to get more women involved in the filmmaking process with a new program called Writers Lab.
Run in collaboration with New York Women in Film and Television (NYWIFT), Meryl, 65, reportedly contributed a “significant” amount of money to the project, which aims to give female screenwriters over the age of 40 a boost in their field.
Here's how it works. Women are encouraged to submit original scripts between May 1 and June 1. Then, eight winners will be selected for a weekend workshop in upstate New York in September, where they will be mentored by legendary female screenwriters like Kirsten Smith (Legally Blonde), Jessica Bendinger (Bring it On), Mary Jane Skalski (The Station Agent) and Gina Prince-Bythewood (Beyond the Lights).
The inaugural lab comes at a time when more and more women are speaking out against sexism in the film industry. A Writer’s Guild of America study last year reported that women made up just 15 per cent of screenwriters in Hollywood – down from 17 per cent in 2009 – and were paid significantly less than their male counterparts.
"The Writers Lab evolved in recognition of the absence of the female voice in narrative film, along with the dearth of support for script development," the lab's webpage reads. "The lab offers 8 promising films by women over 40 a springboard to production."
It's not the first time Meryl has advocated for women in film. At this year's Oscars, both Meryl and Jennifer Lopezgave Patricia Arquette a standing ovation after she appealed for equal pay for women during her acceptance speech.
Last year, the Into the Woods star famously presented an award to Emma Thompson – in which she appreciatively described her as a "a rabid, man-eating feminist, like I am" – and at the 2012 Women in Film Crystal + Lucy Awards, Meryl rallied filmmakers to create more movies aimed at women, arguing that films like Bridesmaids, Mamma Mia!, The Devil Wears Prada and The Iron Lady were "pure profit."