Dame Changer aims to advance the careers of women in screen

Rachel Ward on the set of ‘Beautiful Kate.’

Ausfilm CEO Debra Richards, Film Finances Australia’s Anni Browning and executive producer Bridget Ikin are among the founding members of Dame Changer, which will launch on International Women’s Day on Thursday.

The new organisation will run programs designed to build women’s business skills, professional knowledge and commercial confidence. The primary focus will be on mid-career women who have projects that are close-to-market and need assistance to launch.

Other members of the Dame Changer management team are Jane Corden, MD of MoneyPenny Production Accounting, production executive Heather Oxenham and lawyer and banker Amanda Dobbie.

Ikin said: “We all know there’s a massive gender imbalance in the film and television industry. The stats are alarming, and aren’t getting better.

“Dame Changer will offer very practical support to women as they aspire to put together their first substantial project – via leadership, mentoring and specific coaching. A very healthy by-product of this support is that we’ll all be the beneficiary of more female-centred stories, designed to depict and explore our diverse lives as women.”

Oxenham said: “We aim to build resilient, sustainable and successful careers for women in screen. Teaching women how to lead and develop successful projects and teams to ensure long term viability is our business objective.”

At the launch event Margaret Pomeranz and Gretel Killeen will discuss the challenges and opportunities facing women in the industry.

Two programs will be offered. Screen Tank is an intensive three-day program with local and international industry professionals to be held from April 30 – May 2. Projects will be hot-housed by industry experts and participants will receive constructive and actionable feedback to apply directly to their projects.

A combination of professional development, mentoring and coaching knowledge with networking access will help women who are keen on breaking through the glass ceiling to achieve success. Applications close on April 9. To apply go here.

The Mentor to Market “Project Accelerator” will offer a structured 12-month project development program. Entry will be offered to selected Screen Tank participants who show tenacity and leadership. They will be paired with industry professionals and mentors tasked with developing their project to be market ready. For further information go here.

Dame Changer will also offer a Lottie Lyell Scholarship every year to a woman who displays the grit and tenacity required to succeed in this industry and will help subsidise participation in an approved international training program.

Pomeranz, the organisation’s patron, said she hopes the initiative will produce a dynamic shift in the status quo.

Director and writer Rachel Ward said: “I don’t believe any more in the adage, ‘best person for the job.’ Nothing will change for women in the industry unless action is gender focused, for a time, in order for women to catch up. We need to organise and consolidate our power bases as men have done so well for so long. Dame Changer gives us that arena.”

The initiative has been supported by Create NSW through its Industry Development Fund. Outgoing Create NSW CEO Michael Brealey said: “In collaboration with our industry which, to its credit, was able to see the urgent need for change, the Create NSW 50:50 by 2020 gender target was achieved three years ahead of schedule and we now have gender parity across overall numbers in director, writer and producer roles in all screen productions receiving Create NSW funding.

“We see Dame Changer as having an important contribution to make to ensure women continue to be given opportunities for career progression.”

“If our vision for sexual equality in this industry and on our screens is to be realised it has to start with ensuring sustainable careers for our mid-career women,” Jane Corden said.

The Thursday event will be held at the Parkroyal Darling Harbour from 6pm.  You can book here.