Women in film and television: Interview with Julie Kalceff
Screen NSW talks to Kalceff about her career, the challenges, the highlights and her thoughts on gender issues within Australia’s screen industry.
Recent research indicates that there remains a significant gender imbalance in our industry. In your career, have you felt it more challenging to be a woman than a man?
Throughout the course of my career I have found there are fewer opportunities in the film industry for women than there are for men. There appears to be a misconception that stories by and about men are somehow more valid, commercial, appealing – none of which is correct.
Have you experienced sexism in your career (i.e. been passed over for a job which was given to a less experienced/talented man?
I haven’t experienced this personally as I tend to work more independently, but I have certainly seen it affect other women.
Do you think things are better in 2015 than, say, 20 years ago?
I actually think they’re worse. I’m constantly surprised at how conservative and sexist we still are as an industry and, in fact, as a nation.
It seems women writers and producers and other technicians are doing well, but there is a dearth of women directors and DOPs. Why do you think that is?
I think there are a number of talented female directors and DOPs in the industry who aren’t being giving the opportunities their male counterparts are. Like any industry, the reasons behind this are complex but are in large part due to living in a patriarchal society where men are seen to be more skilled and valued than women. This, again, is an entirely outdated way of thinking and one that is detrimental to the industry and society in general.
Has thinking around gender issues informed your work – in writing room, development etc?
Gender has always been an important factor in my writing and story telling. My focus is, and has always been, on telling stories about female protagonists, women who are complex and flawed but who also have an inner strength and a distinct sense of independence.
Who have been your female role models? Have you had female mentors or yourself mentored younger women coming through?
I greatly admire the women who have succeeded in telling their own stories within a male dominated industry. Filmmakers such as Gillian Armstrong, Jane Campion, Tracey Moffat, Rachel Perkins, Jocelyn Moorhouse, and Jan Chapman have paved the way within the industry. I have recently been introduced to a number of exceptional women who have helped guide me and my current project -web series Starting From … Now!. Amongst them is Amanda Higgs who I’ve had the pleasure to work with on the scripts for Seasons 4 and 5 of Starting From … Now!. This was not only a career highlight, but invaluable to me as a writer/director. I believe it’s extremely important to nurture the next generation of female filmmakers and try to do so whenever possible.
Can you talk about your own career path – how did you start out, what were your ambitions?
I started out as a screenwriter. I did a Master of Arts (Scriptwriting) at AFTRS in 2001-2002. I had always loved writing and had no intentions of being a director. Whilst at film school it became apparent that only certain types of films were being made. As a woman, and a lesbian, these films did not reflect my experience, the stories I wanted to tell, nor did they even interest me. Amongst the entirely male intake of directors during that time I found it impossible to find a director I wanted to work with or who wanted to tell the same stories that I did. I started directing, therefore, more out of necessity and frustration than anything else. It’s been a long journey since then but I’m glad it’s one I felt forced to take.
What have been your career highlights and why?
As stated above, one of my career highlights has been working with Amanda Higgs on Seasons 4 and 5 of Starting From … Now!. The success of the series and the number of views it’s amassed, 19 million to date, has also been a highlight. Part of making the series was the desire to show there was an audience for female-driven drama. The engagement we’ve had with our audience has proven that not only is there a demand for stories by and about women, but there is a distinct void that needs to be filled.
What are you working on now?
We’re about to finish filming Seasons 4 and 5 of Starting From … Now!. It’s been an intense and extremely rewarding shoot. I’m really excited about releasing these next two seasons. The storylines are darker and explore issues not commonly dealt with in a web series. I’m looking forward to sharing these episodes with an audience and seeing how they respond. I’m also working on scripts for a longer form series and a feature film.
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