We hear from WIFT
In 1982 a group of women, committed to improving the position and representation of women in the film and television industries, established Women in Film and Television NSW (WIFT). WIFT founded the World of Women Film Festival (WOW Film Festival) in the early 1990’s, in Sydney. Its ambitions, then and now were to recognise the diversity of independent filmmaking by women and present the unique vision of seeing the world through the eyes of women. For this article Screen NSW talked to WIFT about their thoughts on the state of the screen industry in relation to the representation of women behind and in front of the camera and the evolution of its WOW Film Festival.
When we asked them how the availability and ease of sourcing quality female created content for the festival has changed over the last 20 years they said that “it’s not all grim news” but “it is difficult for women’s films to get noticed”.
“There are plenty of short films by female filmmakers and or with female content. The WOW Film Festival has seen a doubling of entries in recent years. However, women’s films are not getting screened at key festivals, leaving a shortfall in the opportunities for recognition and awards, needed to trigger funding, which are often driven by the historic success of similar films and/or filmmakers. This vicious cycle of the absence of successful women, leads to fewer women’s films being seen.
“Compared to 20 years ago, there are now so many micro budget films in the marketplace that it is difficult for quality women’s films to get noticed in the clutter. That most buyers are men, who may have less interest in stories that connect with women, doesn’t help.
“Platforms like TUGG are offering alternative release avenues, and VOD is making most of its money from women’s films, although there aren’t enough being financed and made to meet the demand,” they told Screen NSW.
As a recognised and respected organisation in the industry, WIFT has been a leader in unearthing and nurtuting female content and has seen the emergence of many female practitioners in its years. We asked them their thoughts on why there had been an improvement in the representation of women in roles such as producer but not as director. They said: "There is a perception that all women are high risk, irrespective of whether they have children or not.
“There seems to be a similar number of female and male directors entering training programs, however, female directors seem to have less success moving into paid work. Those that do succeed in securing jobs or internships or placements, seem to get their breaks during child-free years, when they have the flexibility to take any opportunity when it arises, locally or abroad.
“This propagates the male dominated production environment. Being less available after or between jobs, due to family commitments, means women have fewer networking opportunities, where the seeds for a future job may get sown,” they said.
The festival, which has delivered 21 programs, has been a well-founded advocate for changing the gender balance in the industry and also on the festival circuit, a role that has undoubtedly been an intimidating, time-consuming process, but WIFT has taken a firm approach in over 20 years of advocacy.
“The real highlight of the festival is to support and promote women filmmakers whose voices are not heard or seen. For this there has been so much support from all areas of the screen industry and government.
“The festival has also grown and evolved, and been innovative as the first festival in Australia to have an online festival component. WOW Film Festival supported digital media creativity by initiating its multimedia platform competition and digi-vodule competition.”
WIFT is steadfast that the screen is the one place where we have the power to make an immediate change, and its 2016 program will continue to showcase the skills of women in the industry from around the world. We asked them what they had planned for 2016.
“WOW will also have a special screening to inspire female high school students on International Women’s Day. There will be a couple of pop-up events and guest panels, as well as the usual opening night festivities and the closing night awards and party. We are also planning a little surprise for our 21st Birthday Festival,” they said.
To read our full interview with WIFT please follow this link.
To find out more about and volunteer with WIFT visit wiftnsw.org.au