WIFT NSW pens open letter to AACTA board addressing selection transparency

11 December, 2016 by The WIFT NSW Committee

Dear AACTA Board, 

Five days ago we published the Charter for Gender Equity at the AACTA Awards and yet we have received no official comment or response from you.

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WIFT NSW, as a membership organization for female filmmakers, is dedicated to creating a fair and diverse industry and as such, must hold to account all bodies that have an impact on the current and future opportunities and exposure of our members and their work.

It is essential that Australia’s highest national awards body publicly commit to improving an opaque selection process that resulted in a disproportionately low representation of female-driven and focused films in the 2016 awards category. 

The Charter, drafted in consultation with members and film academics, addresses both immediate and long term strategic changes to the AACTA Award selection process and overall values, including but not limited to:

Transparency of selection criteria and assessment including a minimum fifty percent of female judges within all selection juries, clearly published demographic information of all judges, clearly published criteria by which a pre-selected film passes or fails eligibility as well as clearly stated rationale for any decision to waive eligibility for any pre-selected film.

Consistency of criteria to allow fair and honest assessment of all content including an immediate review of pre-selection criteria to include films released through hybrid or alternative release models.

Intensity of commitment to change through development of Gender Equity Policies with measurable KPIs that AACTA will be accountable for, in consultation with WIFT NSW and our affiliate scholars and researchers.

We call on AACTA president Geoffrey Rush, CEO Damian Trewhella and the AACTA Board to make an immediate response to the above and to the call for open dialogue between AACTA and WIFT NSW, both members of Australian Screen Industries Inter Guilds.

Sincerely,

WIFT NSW

 

 

 

 

 

 

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  • Ross Howden

    As a voting Industry member of the AACTA organisation I decided to NOT vote this year due to what I was seeing, hearing and experiencing in the selection and voting process. My protest was not to vote for the first time in all the years I have been a member. The whole selection process needs an urgent review, including the gender balance. Many great Australian films (and TV programs) are missing an opportunity to be reviewed. As an industry we deserve better.

  • Jessica

    The New Wift is very vocal in their criticisms of Aacta, but in the last WOW film festival, the festival director dismissed films that qualified against the published entry criteria and for which women filmmakers had paid hefty entry fees, because the festival director decided to change the criteria at her own discretion well after entries had well and truely closed.
    Ie to only accept films with female writers, directors and leads.

    We all know there are many more creative roles in filmmaking.

    Denying those films eligibilty on her whim was an enormous slap in the face to all women in technical roles. (Not yo mention wasting their money)

    In the next installment of Wow all the technical roles (which once ensured festival eligibility), have been entirely abolished.

    The addition of technical roles for WOW FF eligibilty began nearly two decades ago under the presidency of acclaimed cinematographer Erika Addis and was fleshed out to include the full compliment of creative roles with festival director Nyin Cameron.

    The eligibility was supported by corresponding award categories that recognised and rewarded the achievments of all creative women – not just writers, directors and actors. The judging of those awards was supported by all the screen industry guilds.

    That the new Wift committee have allowed this to happen is a disgrace.

    For them to then claim to support all female filmakers when their processing of WOW entries lacked transparency and fairness to all creative female roles is sheer hypocrisy.

    Their crass display in their sausage suits displayed a lack of professionalism and an embarrrassment to all professional women in the screen industries.

    The Wift membership was not advised nor consulted about the protest nor the manner of its execution.

    Yes, all screen women want to be treated fairly, BUT they dont want to be represented as turds !!!

  • Scot McPhie

    Art has nothing to do with awards – so if you want transparency start by being transparent with yourself and what your motivations are in wanting an award to begin with.

  • Lynne

    Transparency and accountability is vitally needed within AACTA and all film selection bodies but I do hope WIFT NSW will do this with their own process with WOW Festival. The criteria was changed without notification and Megan Raikos’s film Crushed was rejected by Sophie Mathieson who was the festival director. However Sophie Mathieson’s own film Drama was screened at the festival – who selected this one? Where is the accountability here? Those who live in glass houses should not throw stones.

  • Jessica

    Hi Jessica, thank you for your comments, it’s great to get a broad range of opinions. There were no eligibility requirement changes made to the WOW selection criteria during this years WOW Film Festival, it was just consciously decided that Female Directors, writers and leads were going to be the dominant force across the competition as WOW represents the telling of womens stories so having a male director for example just didn’t make sense.

    Your comments about the current WIFT committee and the ‘crass’ sausage display is certainly a strong one, thank you! That is exactly what we want and the need for such a display is something that needed to be done in order to draw attention to the inequality across the industry and that is exactly what has happened. WIFT is the voice for all women in the screen industry, if we are offending certain sensibilities then we are doing our job right.

  • Jessica

    Jessica, thank you, it’s great to get a broad range of comments and opinions. It’s exhilarating to know we are making such an impact which just goes to show that we are doing the right thing. The very fact that it doesn’t sit well with some people means that what we are doing is pressing buttons and making people take notice.

    Regarding this years WOW Film Festival, selection criteria was never changed, as a festival for Women in Film, a film by a male director, with a male lead, written by a man just doesn’t make sense. How would we be supporting ‘womens stories’ by doing that?

    Suggesting the ‘crass’ and ‘turd’-like display of WIFT is actually quite brilliant, thank you. We have started the debate to create the necessary change and it come as a given that not everyone will like it!

  • Sophie

    “I applaud WIFT’s colourful and “pointed” sausage action. When 18 percent of the film and television directors in this country are women and when the commercial production houses have only eight women and 92 men despite equal numbers of film school graduates and many brilliant young female short filmmakers winning awards like I did thirty years ago but not making it, something is very wrong and needs to be addressed. The whole world is now finally recognising the importance of gender equality. So if sausages make the news and make people think, then go girls!”

    – Gillian Armstrong, AM

  • Megan

    Hi Lynne – you note “Megan Raikos’s film Crushed was rejected by Sophie Mathieson who was the festival director”

    Crushed had already had it’s theatrical release by the time WOW finally settled on a festival date (the festival was originally supposed to be held the previous year but previous festival directors stepped down etc). Because Crushed screened publicly multiple times in Sydney before the judging even occurred, it makes sense completely to not include a film that has already officially released. The festival run for Crushed was well and truly over by the time WOW was held.

  • Jessica

    What doesn’t make sense is why the WOW Festival Director played favourites.

    Favouring writers, directors and actors at the expense of ALL the other key creative and technical roles.

    That was never a part of WOW.

    WOW was about giving ALL female filmmakers a fair chance, an equal opportunity and providing an avenue for ALL women filmmakers with creative talent to be showcased and rewarded.

    By favouring only female writers, directors and actors – the WOW festival director HAS INDEED “altered” the eligibility criteria after entries have closed, and not acted transparently, as these changes were never communicated to the entrants nor the membership.

    Noteworthy that the WOW Festival Director is an auteur writer, director, actor …

    While that may be dominating her actions
    Her actions and decisions are clearly biased.

    Clearly all the rest of us women and our careers don’t matter to her as she has taken active steps to change WOW and WIFT to STOP supporting ALL women.

    The call to action should be to the guilds to bring the “new” WIFT back to its core values and to re-establish it as an association for ALL women … not just writer-director-actors.

    Wakeup call.

  • Sophie Mathisen

    Hi Lynne,
    I debated whether or not to respond but felt I must as your assertion that Drama screened as part of WOW 2016 is entirely false. As part of WOWFF16 the following features screened: Dora or the sexual neuroses of our parents, My brillant career, GTFO, Thelma and Louise, Red Lines, Kings of Kallstadt (programmed but didn’t run due to technical difficulties). Drama never screened as part of WOW however I did hold a free public screening for the film for all WIFT members on November 11 of this year. On that evening I announced the opening of entries for WOWFF 2017 but in no way entered, programmed or under the WOW banner.
    All best,
    Sophie

  • Lynne

    Thanks for clarifying Sophie and my apologies for the confusion there. The work of WIFT is important and though I initially found the AACTAs sausauge party protest funny in a childish way, I also felt embarrassed by the belittling of the entire male population in the film industry by the terminology. Not all females (and WIFT members) want to change the gender inequality in the industry this way. Can you please keep doing strong public action that changes the inequality, but not by making it about physical attributes of the individuals who happen to be males doing what they do. There has been a lot of incredible, positive work done already thanks to the ADG and the other guilds but I haven’t seen them making these changes wearing sausage costumes. As the recently elected committee in the main body representing women in the film and tv industry in NSW, can you please continue to lead us forward in a respectful way and not destroy the work of women and men who previously worked hard to help make the recent positive changes in the industry.

  • Used to support wift

    WIFT makes themselves a caricature with these stunts. How many people in the van? Like 5? Hell of a protest… they blurr the issues. AACTA’s issue is simply not supporting Australian talent. Awards are for merit. Equal representation in production, Then let the films compete on the stage. You guys are pushing for facism. Aacta isn’t some Patriachal conspiracy.