Australian filmmaker and film industry professional Sarah Steel today launched the Pass the Bechdel Test campaign, in advance of International Women’s Day this Saturday, calling on the international film industry to commit to improving their representation of women on film.

“Having made two short films myself that failed the test, I realised how easy it is to fall into the trap of only telling men’s stories. I believe that a substantial part of the hugely unequal gender representation in movies is down to filmmakers not really thinking about it, which is why there needs to be a considered effort early on in the filmmaking process for anything to change.”

The Bechdel Test started as a joke between friends, but decades later after little progress, is now considered the bare minimum indication of female participation in a movie. It involves three simple criteria:

1. Has to have two female characters in it

2. Who have a conversation with each other

3. About something besides a man

Yet many mainstream films don’t get over the very low bar. This is particularly troubling when looking at the animated films consumed by young minds across the world. Three quizzes form a part of the Pass the Bechdel Test website, where users can pick which of 10 films pass the test – and in the animated and top grossing films of all time categories, 6/10 films fail.

Women make up half of the population, but when it comes to movies they appear to be treated as a minority group. Studies by the New York Film Academy found that the average ratio of male to female actors in the top 500 films from 2007-2012 was 2.25:1, with only 10.7% of movies featuring a balanced cast where half the characters are female.

The Pass the Bechdel Test campaign calls on filmmakers to sign up to a voluntary charter, to take the first steps to broaden the representation of women in films and always try to pass the Bechdel Test in their feature filmmaking unless there is a specific reason* not to. Along with the charter, there is a petition that the public can sign to demonstrate audience support for seeing more and better female characters in movies.

*Examples of films where it's not practical to pass the Bechdel Test are: the film has three or less characters (e.g. Gravity, Buried), is set at a place and time where there were only men or very few women (e.g. Good Night, and Good Luck., Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World), is based on a text that limits the possibilities (e.g. The Road).

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