Record applications for Gender Matters programs, assessors announced

Sophie Lowe in Rachel Ward's Beautiful Kate.

Screen Australia has received 452 applications – the most applications ever received for any funding program – for Brilliant Stories and Brilliant Careers, the two programs announced last December under the Gender Matters initiative. 

334 female-led creative teams applied for Brilliant Stories, according to a Screen Australia statement. 

Successful applicants for Brilliant Stories will receive up to $100,000 for feature films; up to $50,000 for teams to develop an inventive concept into a scripted television series of any genre or budget size; and up to $50,000 for scripted online and interactive projects.

The Brilliant Careers fund is for proposals of up to $250,000 that generate sustainable careers in the screen industry for women; identify gaps in career development pathways for female creatives; and support slates of projects and businesses that connect content to audiences. 

118 companies from all around Australia applied for this program, Screen Australia said.

“Screen Australia’s Gender Matters initiative was created to boost the number of female-led creative teams in the screen industry", Screen Australia COO Fiona Cameron said.

"We have been so encouraged by the extraordinary and high-quality response to call outs for Brilliant Careers and Brilliant Stories. Among these proposals and applicants are vibrant and exciting new voices and innovative plans for professional development opportunities. These ‘big picture’ ideas and proposals mean that we can help to foster greater business sustainability.”

All applications will be assessed by Screen Australia and a longlist will be submitted to external industry assessors. 

The assessors for Brilliant Stories are screenwriter John Collee; writer/director/producer Sally Chesher; Head of Australia and NZ Acquisitions at Transmission Films Megan Young; producer Mimi Butler; CEO and Festival Director of the Adelaide Film Festival Amanda Duthie; Head of Australian Production at Roadshow Films Seph McKenna; producer Pauline Clague and actor Sacha Horler.

The industry assessors for Brilliant Careers are Matchbox Pictures' Helen Panckhurst; CEO of the First Australian Completion Bond Company, Corrie Soeterboek; Head of Arts at the ABC Mandy Chang and Head of Australian Production at Roadshow Films Seph McKenna.

Screen Australia will announce the successful applicants for both initiatives by the end of June.

More information can be found here.

  1. There has been a good deal of talk of late about ‘quotas’ as a way of encouraging more women to direct feature films. There has been little debate, however, about precisely why there are less women than men directing feature films. How can a solution to the ‘problem’ (indeed, any problem) be found if the causes of the problem remain unknown.


    (1) Being a good mother (or father) to young children whilst directing a feature film is close to impossible. There are only so many hours in a day and, when directing a film, most of those hours are required for the professional task at hand.

    (2) Most women feature film directors who also want to be mother will, in all likelihood, be wanting to direct their first few feature films at roughly the same time as they are thinking about (if not having) their first baby.

    Working backwards from one possible solution to this conundrum:

    Provide all feature film directors with children (up to 18, say) with a child care allowance that commences in pre-production (perhaps even earlier) and carries through to the final sound mix.

    Such an allowance would be specifically intended to provide children with quality care whilst their mum (or dad) are working the grueling hours required of any feature film director. (It is a 15 – 18 hour a day job that leaves little time for anything else – other than a little sleep, if the director is lucky!)

    Let’s say (I am talking ballpark figures here) that from pre-production through to final mix is 9 months and that $1000 a week is set aside for quality ‘child care’ of a kind that enables mum (or dad) to both do her (or his) job secure in the knowledge that the kids are well taken care of – in every sense of the word. The pressure would be off mum (or dad) – a plus for parents and kids alike.

    This would add $36,000 (ballpark) to the budget for a feature film. This in not a great deal of money in the grand scheme of things. An initiative that would achieve some of the goals that the ‘Quota Contengent’ (for want of a better expression) hope to achieve by pushing for quotas.

    With such an initiative in place, and agreed upon by the funding bodies, young women would-be feature film directors would, from the beginning of their career, know that they can both have a family and pursue their directing dreams.

    Knowing that at the time they choose to have children they will not be confronted by a stark choice between parenting and profession would, I suspect, have a very positive effect on young women’s early decision-making vis a vis pursuing the time and energy consuming job that is feature film direction. So is parenting – especially with young kids.

    This initiative should include fathers also, for the obvious reason that in this day and age many (hopefully most) fathers wish to be as involved in the parenting of children has women have traditionally been and will, for 20 years between their mid – late 20s to mid – late 30s be confronted by the same professional versus parenting condundrum.

    Of course not all women want to have children but those that do, or at least think they might, do not need to have, even in the back of their minds the thought, “Oh, but how can I, in my thirties, be both a mother to young children and a feature film director?”

    In the interests of discussion, debate, I would love to know if women feature film directors (both current and aspirational) think that what I have suggested here is relevant or way off beam!?

  2. Most directors aren’t making films back to back so yes, film-making is time consuming for the period of the shoot. 30-60 days. Commercials 1-5 days but there is large spaces of time not working, doing pat-time gigs etc, especially in Australia. Pre-production is demanding but if you get the chance to do a feature, wether your a boy or a girl, father or mother, you need a supportive partner and family in this period. At this point in time I think getting opportunities for women is of a bigger concern, the idea of benefits for child-care may be relevant but I think most working film-makers are struggling to get consistent work to have the problems you’re discussing, only a few people have this problem as far as film directors are concerned within the Australia film industry. Although you’ve included fathers it’s obvious this is directed at women. I’m a male film-maker and it’s fairly embarrassing at the amount of male to female film-makers. So many great women graduate film-school only to get barred out of the boys club.

  3. To answer James’s post, childcare and parent-friendly workplaces are are huge part of the picture. But not all…there is also unconscious bias going on in decision-making (both male and females are guilty of it, it’s cultural). That’s very hard to combat because people don’t even know they’re doing it. The only way to make a change, therefore, may be top down with measures by Gender Matters. I hope it will make a difference but if it doesn’t things like actual quotas should be considered. Ie. 50 % of money should go to female-written or directed projects.

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