WOMEN IN FILM: WHY GENDER EQUALITY STILL MATTERS!, News

WOMEN IN FILM: WHY GENDER EQUALITY STILL MATTERS!

AFTRS LAUNCHES Issue 14 of LUMINA, The Australian Journal of Screen Arts and Business

The reality for women working in Australian film and television, revealed in the WOMEN IN FILM issue of the AFTRS publication, LUMINA, explains why gender equality still matters.

More than 40 prominent Australian women screenwriters, producers, directors, journalists, academics and reviewers have contributed to this compelling collection of essays, articles, analysis and personal reflections, which includes a keynote paper from Monica Davidson, Knocking on a Locked Door: Women in Australian Feature Films.

Below is the introduction to this significant and challending edition, written by Sandra Levy, an eminent television and feature film producer and Tracey Mair, one of Australia’s leading film and television publicists:

Who would have guessed back in the 1970s, in the heady days of feminism, that in 2015 a resurgence of activism was arising from the same issues of gender inequality, and that women were again fighting to have their voices heard and their rights respected. Certainly not me, I thought we had moved on from those early battles and that most of them had been won.

In the screen sector as Monica Davidson says in her keynote essay "men dominate creative leadership in Australian feature films and always have.” This issue of LUMINA looks at both the data and the experiences of women in the screen sector and the numbers tell the story. I’ve always liked numbers, they tell you so many things that anecdotes and personal experiences just don’t. And these numbers are shocking:

• in 2015, only 16% of feature film directed by women
• in 2015, only 20% of feature films written by women
• in 2015, only 29% of feature films produced by women

 

This is in spite of the fact that women make up about half of the graduates from film schools and about half of the workers in the screen industry.
 In the USA, women directors accounted for only six per cent of 250 of top features, in the UK, only 14 per cent. And this situation hasn’t changed much over the last 40 or more years.
 In 1971, four per cent of directors were women and ten percent producers. At this glacial speed it will be over 100 years before we can expect that half of the films being made will be directed by women.
 So, in spite of all the studies, surveys, reports, initiatives and positive discrimination they haven’t yet led to significant change.
 Let’s imagine for a moment that the shoe is on the other foot and picture a role reversal that places a man in the same situation as women:
 A young man sets out on his career of choice in the Australian screen industry, an industry where 85 per cent of the directing jobs go to women. More than 70 per cent of the writing and producing positions also go to women.
 If our young, male, emerging filmmaker wants to work in front of the camera he will be paid less than the women for the exact same work and his career prospects and roles will always be affected by his gender and appearance. There will be fewer roles, and mostly he will be playing a minor role like a boyfriend, or lackey.
 He will also be expected to get the tea and coffee, as par for the course, and to pick up his female boss’s dry cleaning from time to time.
 Is this a career a man would see as worth pursuing? Because this is the reality for women.
 This issue of LUMINA explores the gender gap in the film and television industry, and looks at the role of women both behind and in front of the camera, by women and about women in the screen industry at the exact moment in time when more and more women are considering the status quo. This collection of essays, article, analysis and personal reflections contributes to a conversation about it, and challenges anyone who reads them to not acknowledge that our industry has an important role to play in all facets of gender equality. Hope you enjoy the read.
Sandra Levy.

 When Sandra asked me to co-edit this edition of LUMINA, my first thought was the opportunity this would present to honour and celebrate the many extraordinary woman who surround me in this industry. After 25 years working in publicity and marketing, I’ve met a lot both in front of and behind the cameras.
 I thought our research and our mining of the lives and professional experiences of women in our industry would reveal early years of battling genre stereotypes and male dominated work places, tales of male bad behaviour and the tenacity required to demand and receive equal pay, respect, opportunity and recognition, but that—surely—we would discover just far how far we’d come.
 As the next generation of women in my family, my daughter, is taking her first steps into the film and television industry, it was frankly shocking to discover that so little has changed.
 As I began to speak to women about contributing to this issue—to film journalists, festival directors, producers, directors, writers, actresses, academics —I was flung back to my 17 year-old self and my first job out of school in the blokesy and—dare I say it, alcoholic—world of a metropolitan TV newsroom. It was terrifying. There was a lot of yelling and intimidation. On day one, the news director, several beers under his belt, looked me in the eye and told me that if I couldn’t stand the heat, I’d better get out of the kitchen. I gritted my teeth and got on with it. That’s what women did, and still do!
 There were amazing female role models in that newsroom getting the news out every night and, when I went next to work as runner on a nightly TV variety show, I quickly realised that it was the all-women team of researchers and segment producers who pulled a rabbit out of the hat every day to get that show to air. They were hard working, inspiring and fun!
 But they were not the decision makers. It was the male presenter and the male executive producer who ultimately called the shots and took the glory.
 In contemporary Australia, the reality remains that the decision makers in our industry are most often men. The key creative roles are overwhelmingly taken by men. However you look at it, the figures are terrible.
 It’s been fascinating to hear the stories of women and their insights into what happens in writing rooms, what discussions are had around boardroom tables, how film festivals make decisions, what films are reviewed, and to understand
how hard women have worked to become successful despite the pervasiveness of sexism and lack of opportunity.
 I’ve been struck again and again that women’s natural inclination is to shrug it off. ‘I’ve been lucky’ they say. ‘I’ve just had to work harder’ or ‘I’ve laughed if off when asked to make the coffee.’
 In editing this edition, we’ve had to prod and poke a bit to get women to open up about the struggles, the challenges, the blows to self-esteem. There are definitely encouraging signs. There have now been many recent television programs in  Australia with complex female protagonists produced by, written by and directed by women, and collectives of smart and creative young women are coming together to create films and television programs that represent their worldview.
 I’ve been encouraged by the optimism of younger women in our industry who, mostly, think the industry has become more gender blind. Let’s hope they can move change forward from its current glacial pace. I’ve been heartened by the commitment of senior women to mentoring young women in the workplace.
 So, while this issue of LUMINA does shine, I hope, a powerful spotlight on the continuing gender inequalities faced by women in Australia, it is also I hope a celebration of women who, against the odds, have made our industry richer, deeper, more thoughtful and fulfilling for audiences because of their passion, creativity and sheer hard work. It’s been a privilege to talk and debate and write with them.
Tracey Mair

   Hard copy paperback issues of  LUMINA  are available to purchase for $10 AU from the AFTRS online store: A free e-book version of LUMINA can be downloaded from the iTunes store (available soon) 
Every LUMINA article published to date is available via the AFTRS website as an individual viewable  'flip book'.  Issue 14 chapters are online soon in the LUMINA section.
Media enquiries:
Tracey Mair, TM Publicity
Ph: 02 8333 9066 or 0419 221 493

Related Documents

Go Back