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Is Your Script Gender-Balanced? Try This Test

The big hurdle in the industry will be buy-in. In response to questions from The New York Times about its products, Final Draft, maker of a leading screenplay software, said in a statement on Thursday that its next iteration, Final Draft 11, due out within the year, will offer “enhancements” that allow writersto analyze many different aspects of the script, including gender representation.” (The company has long offered a free add-on called Tagger that lets writers tag attributes, including gender and race, for characters. The new version will make this a bigger standard feature.)

Even before Highland 2 hit the marketplace, it was making waves. In April, Ms. Hodson and Mr. August released a podcast about their collaboration and their hopes for it. Guy Goldstein, the founder of WriterDuet Inc., another screenplay software product, was listening, and inspired. His team immediately got to work.

The podcast “made us know that it was something that we really needed to do,” Mr. Goldstein said. “We didn’t realize the impact we could have until then. I think it’s our responsibility as software developers to offer tools that help build awareness.”

The WriterDuet tool, available online now, also includes an automated Bechdel test — which measures how many female characters there are and whether they discuss something other than a man — and even a reverse Bechdel test, which looks at men the same way. The tool also noted how many times the test was passed, using a minimum of seven lines of dialogue to qualify.

An examination of the last 10 Oscar winners for original screenplay offered dismal, if not surprising, results: Only one screenplay, Spike Jonze’s “Her,” passed WriterDuet’s Bechdel test, Mr. Goldstein said in an email, when the unseen digital assistant, voiced by Scarlett Johansson, has one conversation with a little girl. “In contrast, every single script passes our reverse Bechdel test multiple times (as many as 40 times, in ‘Spotlight’),” he said.

Ms. Hodson and the software makers say they expect their tools will be expanded to address other issues of representation, like race and ethnicity, although that is more complicated, because those details are not always mentioned in scripts.

MELENA RYZIK

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