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August 4, 2023

How to Include Diversity In Your Script

Culture’s always changing and as screenwriters, it’s important to incorporate those changes in our writing to stay relevant. Diversity in writing is one way we can do that. 

About twenty years ago it was not uncommon for casts and crews to be predominately made up of mostly men. Now, a lot of work has been done to include the voices of the many different people who make the world tick. 

In recent years, there are increasingly more stories that feature diversity. It’s clear that Hollywood and the film and television industry as a whole are actively making their stories more inclusive. 

Including diversity and more representation in your stories isn’t just about keeping up with cultural changes and ensuring greater representation, it also makes sense on the business side of filmmaking. In fact, according to this recent report, movies that feature a more diverse set of cast members and storylines actually make more at the box office than those that don’t.

With that in mind, let’s dive into some ways that diversity can benefit your writing and how you can write stories with more inclusivity in mind.

What does diversity look like? 

Diversity, in the strictest sense of the word, is simply a collection of things that are usually different from one another. 

However, in the screenwriting industry, what does this look like in application? A diverse story typically means that its principal cast and crew come from many different backgrounds, ethnicities, sexualities, genders, and socio-economic statuses.

For the majority of film and TV history, casts and crews were made up of very similar people. A modern mindset suggests that we look forward and try to include lots of people from different backgrounds instead. Their stories and culture have often been overlooked.

Why diversity is important

Screenwriting is much more than entertainment. What people watch and engage with helps inform their worldview. Thus, the stories that writers write, and the stories that get produced inform the culture of the world.

Storytellers should promote authentic and nuanced representations that can change minds, showcase the good, and explore experiences and topics from a more inclusive stand point. Storytellers have great power!

Including more people behind and in front of the camera means the kinds of stories we get will change and become in turn more diverse. 

Considering diversity and inclusivity when writing your screenplay can help minority groups feel included and represented. Actively including diverse aspects to our stories is a simple but powerful way to help address inequities, even if it’s in a small way. 

Practical steps to include diversity

So, how can you actively incorporate more diversity into your writing? Here are a few tips on how you can write stories that promote more authentic representations and encourage important conversations for all. 

Change your perspective

Often, a screenwriter when creating characters will have certain defaults that they unconsciously enact on the page. We all have our own biases and experiences that have shaped us. However, your experience is unique, just as others have unique experiences. 

It’s important to be aware of the biases you might have and how they come out in your writing. Luckily, now you know how to look for it, you can try to shift your perspective to try something different than the default option.

Specify diverse characteristics in the script

Some screenwriters have increasingly argued for not specifying race, gender, or sexuality in the screenplay. This allows for any and all actors to audition for a role. However, often this may lead to a default position of the same old that has come before.

Instead, it’s often useful to specifically state in the action of your script these characteristics. This makes it unavoidable for the casting manager further down the line, and they will have to canvas for the specific groups of people your character could be played by.

Integrate where possible

Not every story is about the background of a protagonist. For example, no one mentions Ethan Hunt’s race in Mission Impossible. Similarly, Sterling K. Brown’s race is irrelevant in Hotel Artemis. In other words, it’s very simple to specify these character’s races and have it not affect the story in any way.

However, it’s worth seriously considering how these factors could change the story. You should absolutely endeavor to make a diverse cast, but make sure that you don’t indulge in tokenism (the practice of including one minority character just to “tick a box”) and instead think through how that character’s experience and choices may differ with this different background. 

Nothing may change and that’s totally fine. However, it’s very important to think it all the way through. If something rings false, the audience will know, and the whole facade may come crashing down.

Don’t forget about telling great stories

Diversity should be about telling stories that have never been told before; it shouldn’t be about tickboxing. 

You need to balance diverse characters with all of the skills you’ve learned along the way about building characters, creating nail-biting plots, and constructing satisfying story arcs.

Embrace diversity

To succeed at writing a diverse script be conscientious about your choices and engage with new and underrepresented voices with an eagerness to learn and a willingness to understand. 

If you do, the end result will be a script that will sing with passion and fresh voices that may just prove irresistible and meaningful to more people than you might imagine.

If you’re struggling with where to start Arc Studio’s free screenwriting software and all the resources on our blog can be a great place to start.


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How to Include Diversity In Your Script
Alex D. Reid

Alex is a professional screenwriter who loves writing horror. He won the horror category at Austin Film Festival for his screenplay Delirium in 2019 and is currently studying for a Ph.D in English Literature with a focus on the horror genre

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