Pay disparity is one of those big controversial topics in any business. But in the world of Hollywood, the whole deal gets an extra layer of complication in the form of overall marketability. It’s the main reason why one could argue that female actresses oftentimes get paid less than men. The projects aren’t there, in the past, haven’t been as conducive to female stars, and therefore there are fewer female stars getting to that high level. Things have gotten better in the past decade or so, but there’s still room to be made on that front.
However, how does something like this apply to something like screenwriting? Last year, Crazy Rich Asians came out to critical acclaim and mass appeal, going on to make over $238 million worldwide off its $30 million budget, and it seemed to prove once again that the world was ready for more diverse leads. Onboard to write that film was Peter Chiarelli, who broke out with 2009’s The Proposal and went on to get a “story by” credit in Now You See Me 2 as well as TV vet Adele Lim, who has written episodes in shows like Dynasty, Lethal Weapon, Reign, Star-Crossed, and Private Practice, among others.
For the sequel, the studio opted to lock down both writers — if ain’t broke, don’t fix it, after all. However, in the midst of a pay disparity issue, Lim has opted to leave the project. So, how much was the pay disparity? Sources tell THR that Chiarelli was expected to get $800,000 to $1 million for his work, while Lim would get $110,000-plus.
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Lim took offense to this, and it seems to only add to her belief that women and people of color are relegated to do things like sprinkling the script with “culturally specific” details as opposed to the craft of storytelling. In all honesty, it’s hard to argue with her, based on this.
“Being evaluated that way can’t help but make you feel that is how they view my contributions,” Lim told the outlet.
So, what is Warner Bros.’ excuse on this one? They claim that these quotes are “industry-standard established ranges based on experience and that making an exception would set a troubling precedent in the business.”
Studio chairman Toby Emmerich apparently backed this explanation.
So, I’m no expert (shocking, I know), but it does seem a bit baffling that one successful screenplay and one “story by” credit completely trumps Lim’s 18 episodes of written television content in the same period — not to mention the more than handful of co-executive producer credits she had on many of those same shows. Either Hollywood really devalues TV work, or it really is more of a token hiring.
Apparently, the studio fielded other Asian writers over the course of five months following Lim’s departure, and came back this past February, with pay closer to Chiarelli’s…but it only came after Chiarelli volunteered to split his fee with her. Understandably, Lim refused.
“Pete has been nothing but incredibly gracious, but what I make shouldn’t be dependent on the generosity of the white-guy writer,” she said. “If I couldn’t get pay equity after CRA, I can’t imagine what it would be like for anyone else, given that the standard for how much you’re worth is having established quotes from previous movies, which women of color would never have been [hired for]. There’s no realistic way to achieve true equity that way.”
So, what do you think? Is this an obvious case of pay disparity in Hollywood? Let us know your thoughts down below!
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