Film School Blog

Blog posts about navigating film school

Violence Against Women: Lazy Storytelling Tropes

Or: Why Writers Must Do A Better Job

I stumbled across this article at video gaming site Kotaku, and it highlights some issues I’ve often had with not just issues of depicting violence against women, but of lazy storytelling in general. The video (attached), by scholar and critic Anita Sarkeesian, spends considerable time highlighting the many ways in which videos games often use grotesque depictions of violence against women as a shorthand for saying “This is the bad guy. Kill him!”

The problem with these kinds of depictions isn’t so much in that these kinds of acts are depicted at all, of course. It’s that when they’re depicted, it’s usually against some “fluff” character whom the player never sees again, or for whom the depiction is really there for no other reason than to set mood or highlight how “bad” the bad guy is. Drawn differently, these depictions of violence against women could be used to a much more positive effect.

Take, for example, a woman caught in a bad relationship, perhaps she’s abused by her husband. Rather than have her die gruesomely just to demonstrate his badness, or to save her only to never see her again, what if she had a story arc that continued on, in which the protagonist played a role in helping her break free and become a stronger character? Maybe she could become a partner, or a hero in her own right, whose path sometimes crosses with that of the protagonist. Or maybe she could, herself, become a player character with an entirely different kind of mission that thematically ties in with that of the main protagonist? What if her character were developed to a significant enough degree that she could become the protagonist of the game’s inevitable sequel, or a spinoff at least?

As Sarkeesian comments in her critique, it isn’t enough to simply show a female character being abused, one has to critique it in a meaningful way. Doing this in a narratively meaningful way is certainly not an easy task, but it’s one to which writers of any kind of media, games or film and television, really ought to devote some of their time and energy.

Film, television and video games are stuffed with clichΓ©d writing that takes a lazy approach to depictions of women, and it’s high time we all take a breather and realize that each time we write something that falls into this “trope trap”, we’re betraying our own art and letting our skills go soft.

We can do better, and part of that means honoring the experience of women, and celebrating the heroes they can be.

Check out Ms. Sarkeesian’s video for a more in-depth discussion of this significant problem. Then think about ways you can make a difference.

Film School: First Cinematography Dailies


This quarter I’m enjoying a hilariously fun course in cinematography with 15 of the coolest peeps around. About a week ago, we shot our first 16mm footage on the Arri S camera, and a few days ago got to take a gander at our work. While watching the projection, my classmate and friend Pablo Velazquez-Martin recorded the projection with his phone and cut together this very fun little video of all our pieces. Hilarity ensues. Enjoy!

Short Film: Last First Kiss

It May Surprise You

Watch it first, then head on past the break for some fun background info about it!

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Short Film: Bring It On Down

Adapted from my poem “Bring It On Down”

This was shot in about 12 hours in two locations. It’s an adaptation and interpretation of my poem by the same name, which won second place in the 2013 writing competition at Santiago Canyon College.

Isa Espy, as “The Girl”
Dani Jae, as “The Mother”
Dan Belzer, as “The Father”

Written, Directed & Edited by Jason G. Ward
Assistant Director: Thientam Nguyen
Art Director: Kelley Frisby
Director of Photography: Charlie Wang
“Stuck” Composed and Performed by Nerris Nassiri
Special Thanks to: Fabian Wagminster, Sam Icklow and Bill Barminski
Filmed entirely at the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television

Set Photos from David Gauche’s Shoot “I Accuse Myself”


I worked on David Gauche’s Winter Quarter shoot for his short film, “I accuse myself”. I won’t spoil anything, but it’s an interesting story with a heck of a twist! Can’t wait to see the final version.