Screen Australia launches initiative for female directors, cinematographers and composers

As part of its ongoing Gender Matters initiative, Screen Australia has launched a new program to see female directors, cinematographers and composers attain ‘career-defining’ credits.

Titled Credit Maker, the program will be delivered by the Australian Directors Guild (ADG), Australian Cinematographers Society (ACS) and the Australian Guild of Screen Composers (AGSC).

Up to 12 female practitioners (four from each discipline) will be supported to shadow an established practitioner on a scripted project in production.

The initiative aims to to accelerate career pathways while also bringing about change in heads of department representation.

“We know that female heads of department are under-represented in roles in scripted projects due to credit requirements and career access and progression opportunities,” said Screen Australia head of development Louise Gough.

“Screen Australia is committed to helping increase the representation of women across all areas of our industry and fostering an equitable sector. We are proud to support the guilds to deliver the program and provide these opportunities within the production sector for women to gain credits at the calibre that will allow them to secure their next role.”

When Screen Australia launched its Gender Matters program back in 2015, the focus was on getting gender parity among key creatives – writers, directors and producers – and female protagonists on screen.

However, it has been long identified that gender parity issues also exist below-the-line, particularly in cinematography and composing.

For instance, just 18 of the 437 accredited members of the ACS are women. The ACS acknowledges the number of women in cinematography is low, and has worked hard over the last decade to boost the rates of women in the profession, including forming the ACS Women’s Advisory Panel.

Similarly, a 2017 RMIT research study commissioned by APRA AMCOS found only 13 per cent of working screen composers in Australia identify as women, something the AGSC has been working to rectify via its Gender Equity Committee.

Female composers and cinematographers have also pushed Screen Australia to consider these roles within their Gender Matter KPIs.

“There is still a long way to go for gender parity in heads of department roles,” said head of the Gender Matters taskforce, producer Joanna Werner.

“Credit Maker aims to improve this, building on the success of the ADG’s Shadow Directing program supported through Screen Australia’s Gender Matters: Brilliant Careers funding scheme which helped 12 women gain credits in directing.

“Credit Maker is an exciting beginning, and we hope that this initiative brings real impact and change. The Gender Matters Taskforce will continue to work strategically to plan for other under-served areas of female representation in the sector.”

In a statement, the ACS described the Credit Maker program was a “dream come true”, noting it would be career and life-changing for woman DOPs.

“Data has long shown the loss and attrition of talented female cinematographers who did not make it through to shoot high level productions was because they did not get the opportunity. 

“The ACS recently commissioned a world-first survey specifically of the Australian camera workforce, which will soon be launched and the results continue to highlight the shocking paucity of women’s participation and engagement as cinematographers across the Australian film and television industry. The impact of the Credit Maker scheme on the careers of female cinematographers will last for generations to come.”

Similarly, the AGSC said the Credit Maker program marked the potential for a “fundamental shift” in the careers of mid-tier female composers.

“The Gender Equity Committee has done ground-breaking work in the analysis of and support for female screen composers and the Credit Maker program will provide a credit that will be recognised throughout the industry and will have ongoing significance,” it said.

In terms of directors, industry-wide research conducted by Screen Australia suggests improvements in women’s participation rates in recent years have been slow to change, despite significant push by the agency and other bodies.

From 2015-16 through 2018-19, only 18 per cent of all Australian features were directed by women. Television however, was a slightly brighter picture, with 33 per cent of directors female, and in documentary, the rate was 37 per cent.

For projects that received Screen Australia production funding over the same period, rates were much higher – 50 per cent of directors were women on features, 51 per cent on TV projects, and 37 per cent in documentary.

ADG senior development manager Belinda Button said: “Having seen first-hand the career-changing opportunities provided to 12 female directors participating in the predecessor program DirectOne, the ADG are now thrilled to be involved in Credit Maker also.

“We commend Screen Australia on this critical Gender Matters initiative. With our guild colleagues, we look forward to helping more women realise success in HOD roles across the screen industry.”

To apply for Credit Maker, register your interest with the relevant guild via their website.