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Telefilm Commits to Gender Parity in Canadian Film

Let’s make some movies

Anne Emond Photo
Nov 11, 2016

Telefilm Canada has announced that it will be committed to full gender parity in film financing by the year 2020, for women in the roles of director, screenwriter and producer.

The announcement arrives on the heels of some focused discussion around the role of women in the Canadian film industry, a subject that has appeared everywhere from our TIFF 16 Industry Conference to a cover story in NOW Magazine. During a TIFF Industry panel titled “Women at the Helm,” Telefilm Canada executive director Carolle Brabant participated alongside speakers that included the Swedish Film Board’s Anna Serner and actor/producer Freida Pinto. The sense of urgency was clear. As Pinto wrote afterward in a special edition of our biweekly TIFF newsletter The Review regarding the subject of women in film: “There's no point in playing the blame game. Yes, there is an inner anger sometimes and a frustration. But to channel that into making better films is the smarter way to go.”

A recent study from the organization Women in View showed that from 2013 to 2004, 20 per cent of Telefilm-funded projects were directed by women, predominantly in the low-budget market. Only four per cent of funded work with a budget of over $1 million were led by female filmmakers. Telefilm has detailed five clear steps to achieve gender parity in the Canadian film industry by 2020.

The first, they say, is to encourage a diversity of projects. The second is to evaluate work with the idea of equality in mind. (The organization has mandated that work that boasts a female director and/or screenwriter will be a priority over male filmmakers.) Thirdly, they will continue to be transparent about their data of key creatives submitting applications, particularly from the Indigenous population. Fourth: programs that raise the profile and celebrate women in the industry, such as the St. John’s International Women’s Film Festival and the Birks Diamond Tribute (a regular event during TIFF) will continue to be promoted. And lastly, professional development programs such as Women in the Director’s Chair and Women in Film and Television will continue to evaluate and forge a community of uniquely diverse and celebrated female filmmakers.

Feature films by both established and emerging female Canadian directors were celebrated on the world stage at TIFF this year, including Chloé Robichaud’s Boundaries, Anne Émond’s Nelly, Ashley McKenzie’s Werewolf, Deepa Mehta’s Anatomy of Violence, and Alanis Obomsawin’s We Can’t Make the Same Mistake Twice. In a joint interview conducted for The Review, Robichaud and Émond spoke candidly about the challenges of being Canadian female filmmakers:

Émond: I find these questions always so difficult, there are no good answers. Are our films different because we are women? Are they less appreciated because we are women? It puts us in an uncomfortable position because there is no way to give a complete and intelligent response. And above all, a man never has to take up five minutes of his interview to talk about that.

Robichaud: Exactly! I realize that there are very few women directors and we need to encourage others to follow. It is necessary that you and I can have some media exposure, so we can act as role models. So that’s why I always feel torn.

The more female filmmakers enter the playing field, the greater the diversity of voices and representation of women our industry will have. This includes an already great legacy of Canadian filmmakers and screenwriters such as Patricia Rozema, Semi Chellas, Sarah Polley, Andrea Dorfman, Mina Shum, Joyce Wieland, and Karen Walton, amongst many others — and many of whose works are included in our Canada 150 list.

Said Brabant in today’s Telefilm press release: “Our goal is to level the playing field for Canadian female talent, and we encourage creators to submit projects directed and/or written by women. This can only benefit the industry as whole; increased competition can lead to better quality projects that connect with audiences whose tastes and interests are changing along with the cultural landscape.”

She continued: “I want to make it clear that this is just a first step. We will now take the same measured, consultative approach to ensuring our feature film portfolio also better reflects cultural diversity and Indigenous communities. We have already begun work with Indigenous creators, and are taking steps to address the challenges faced by creators from culturally diverse communities. Sustainable long-term solutions are key, not interim initiatives.”

Enough talking. Enough panels. Telefilm agrees, it’s time for Canadian female filmmakers to make movies.

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