Geena Davis handpicked Madeline Di Nonno to challenge the representation of females in Hollywood and the world, News

Geena Davis handpicked Madeline Di Nonno to challenge the representation of females in Hollywood and the world

This is not news: there is a long way to go in the depictions of girls and women onscreen and to address the serious under-representation behind the camera. The Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media (GDIGM) is leading the charge on those depictions in the entertainment world, holding a mirror to Hollywood, with a firm belief that we can change what the future looks like - globally. Screen NSW spoke to Madeline about the work of the Institute.

The Institute, which targets the fictional world of film to make a better place for women, uses research and social media to point out inequalities and to educate people about them on a global scale– especially the industry's decision makers - but also the young girls watching the telly and their sometimes absent minded dads, brothers, co-workers and friends.

Madeline Di Nonno, the CEO of GDIGM is committed to a media landscape that delivers good female role models. She told Screen NSW, “If the fictional world of film and TV shows a landscape of female characters that are diverse, that’s how we can make a change.”

“Geena Davis pioneered the research looking at kids’ TV and film because she realised through her experiences, particularly through being a mother, how the media can shape the mind of a child when they are just forming a sense of themselves. Children don’t have that unconscious bias and behaviours that we have as adults, so we can have a real positive influence on them,”

When we asked Di Nonno how men in the industry react to the Institute’s call for change she said,  “It's important to show men the studies and we find men are actually very interested. For the most part, when they realise they are parents of girls, care takers of women or have wives in some shape or form they are very positive about making a change,”

Since its beginnings in 2004, the Institute has built the largest amount of research on gender in media; commissioning more than 12 research studies and is the largest body of research on the prevalence of gender in family entertainment that covers over 20 years of film and television. Its research has shown that gender disparity in the US media is irrefutable.

Its very first study was a rude shock to the entertainment industry when its research revealed the ratio male-to-female characters across TV and film was 3-to-1 across all the aspects of female characters. And this was only the tip of the iceberg for a study that revealed huge disparities between male and female representation across the board.

Di Nonno, who came to the Institute from her own desire to affect social change through film, grabbed the opportunity to empower women and girls through its research, “I had 30 years in home entertainment cable and film and wanted to use that experience for social change and that's when Geena found me.”

“Geena had started the Institute in 2004, as a result of a lot of things from the dearth of good roles for females to her own personal experiences as an actor in the industry and as a mother. It took time for her to raise money for the studies and at the time she was formulating her work, perfecting the theory of affecting change and she wanted a business executive who understood the industry and the non-profit sector,”

Geena’s extremely hands on. As a team we are embracing, collective and sharing and we work hand in hand with decision makers and content creators through our workshops, training sessions with aims to educate and inspire the next generation on gender equality. And when we study characters or hold panels we look all women and reach out to panels to create diversity in its fullest sense,” she tells Screen NSW.

“One thing that is important is that we take this message to the media industry but also to NGOs, leading content creators from different industries and companies that can use storytelling and media as a platform for social change.”

“I’ve just returned from India where we ran a symposium where we talked to content creators, business leaders, actors, directors, policy makers in the country about the influence of film on audiences and how to work together to diminish the gender gap. We are heading to Brazil next, and we have had a lot of interest around the world. We'd love to come to Australia.”


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