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NZFC to target female filmmakers

The NZFC has shared information on a bunch of new activities which it hopes will boost the numbers of females represented in certain areas of the profession.

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CEO Dave Gibson introduced the initiatives to Auckland industry members on Thursday evening.

The headline initiative is the introduction of an annual scholarship, proposed by and named for Jane Campion, to support a female filmmaker. The first scholarship will be for a cinematographer, who’ll be mentored by a local or international cinematographer of their choosing – so long as Ms Campion of the NZFC can persuade the mentor to accept.

Details of the scholarship are on the NZFC website, with a 1 May closing date for applications.

At home, the NZFC has been almost inadvertently collecting data on the sex of people in various above the line roles for several, but has only recently decided to publish it. The numbers back up what anecdotal evidence suggests, that there’s a good share of female producers (52%), an OK if not great number of female writers (32%), and pretty poor numbers of female directors (8%). Those numbers reflect applications to the NZFC.

Gibson noted in his speech in Auckland that if the numbers are those for successfully funded features, the percentages of female producers and writers remain similar, while the percentage of female directors climbs to 12%.

“We also have a separate interesting statistic relating to NZFC-funded features that achieve theatrical release,” said Gibson. “There female directors make up 27% from 2010 to now.”

Clearly there’s no parity beyond producers, and that’s something the NZFC hopes to alter with the raft of measures announced. Among the measures the NZFC is implementing, it will publish annually data on applications and funded projects showing breakdowns by gender. Over time it will become possible to see where and if progress is being made.

The agency has also committed to “a 50% target participation rate for women filmmakers in the professional development area”.

The NZFC’s Talent Development team will work harder to identify and build with relationships “with promising female feature screen-writers and directors” while guilds are encouraged to develop programmes that will “support the professional development of women in the screen industry”.

It shold be fairly easy to attract such proposals since one area of the few areas of the industry where women do make up more than 50% of the workforce is in heading up industry guilds and organisations.

Will it all make a difference? “I think it can and I think it has to,” said Gibson today.

Internationally, positive discrimination policies have had, at best, mixed success since they became popular in the 1980s. Over time, they’ve generally had more impact if implemented at intake/early career levels. The effects aren’t short term but magnify over time – a point Robin Scholes’ own experience echoed in the video part of the NZFC presentation.

Had she not been given an opportunity as part of an all-female crew, we might now not have several features including Once Were Warriors, Mr Pip and the upcoming The Patriarch.

Regardless of any PC brownie points collected for introducing the measures, Gibson noted that were sound commercial reasons for giving more female filmmakers more opportunities to ply their trade. Among cinema-goers, there’s increasing value in the 40+ female demographic. Few films target that audience but, particularly in the documentary sector, women have directed and/or driven some of the most successful NZ titles serving that audience in recent years: The Topp Twins, How Far is Heaven?, Gardening With Soul, Beyond the Edge and Hip Hop-eration.

Further detail on the NZFC initiatives is on the NZFC website. The initiatives on gender won’t be the only NZFC activity around diversity coming. The agency will also take a look at Asian participation in the industry later this year.

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