Screen Australia reveals $5 million plan to tackle gender diversity

Screen Australia is investing $5 million over three years to address the gender imbalance in the Australian film industry.

The screen funding body has unveiled a five point plan which includes an immediate $3 million allocation of ‘jump start’ funding to get female-led projects production-ready within two years, and a further $2 million of support for placements, distribution incentives, marketing and industry networking.

This also includes a goal to have production funding targeted at teams that are at least 50 per cent female by the end of 2018. 

The plan follows the Australian Directors Guild's commitment to have women fill 50 per cent of the attachments and for 75 per cent of the attachemnts to reflect both gender and cultural diversity. 

According to Screen Australia, the imbalance is most notable in tradtional film with 32 per cent of women working as producers, 23 per cent as writers and only 16 per cent as directors. 

"Screen Australia film production funding is provided to producers, writers and directors in direct proportion to applications received, suggesting that initiatives to stimulate projects led by women are key," according to a statement.

Screen Australia chief executive, Graeme Mason said there needed to be a holistic, integrated approach to people, projects and business infrastructure that was sustainable and self-generating. 

"We need to support women to build a range and breadth of skills in this industry,” he said.

“Our focus is on female led creative teams rather than individuals. 

"We are aiming to ensure our production funding is targeted to creative teams (writer, producer, director and protagonist) that are at least 50 per cent female by 2018 year end.

"While across all our funding programs we exceed this target, production funding in film, at 29 per cent, is well off the pace,” he said.

"The poor showing in production funding for film can in part be explained by less applications, competitive market attachments and scripts.

An experienced Gender Matters Taskforce, headed by Screen Australia deputy Chair Deanne Weir, will act as advocates, using their experience and expertise to refine and develop the five point plan to focus on the cultural, social and economic value of better representing and appealing to women.

The taskforce includes actor Miranda Tapsell (Love Child, Redfern Now, The Sapphires) screenwriter and TV producer, Imogen Banks (The Beautiful Lie, Offspring, Puberty Blues, Tangle, Paper Giants: The Birth of Cleo), producer Sue Maslin (The Dressmaker) and director and president of the Australian Directors Guild, Samantha Lang.

Weir said it was a targeted and practical plan to combat gender inequality in the industry starting from now. 

"These trends are not unique to our industry, or Australia, but we have a responsibility to make these changes. This is not just a women’s issue, but one for all of us to address," she said. 

"As a federal agency and a representative of the screen sector, we must do everything we  can to encourage and support the outstanding female talent in this country – both emerging and established. 

"We have done the research, now it’s time for action,” she said.

Screen Australia is working to combat these issues through an unprecedented call-out for women key creatives to pitch their projects and business concepts for an opportunity to secure development or seed funding. 

As part of the five point plan in consultation with the taksforce, Screen Australia will develop a women’s story fund – an initiative to stimulate awareness and increase industry activity around storytelling by women, focusing on bold, original and compelling fully-formed story concepts.

Secondly, there will be a new initiative called Enterprise Women. This will provide business support to create industry infrastructure around women, encouraging mentorship schemes, placements, slate development, workshops, events and proposals for strategy and business development.

Thirdly, they will institue attachments for Women: in circumstances where Screen Australia invests more than $500,000 in a project, attachments or reverse attachments are proposed to provide valuable production experience for women who want to break into the industry as creatives or crew.

There will also be a Matched Distribution Guarantee Support of up to $300,000, to enhance the distribution and marketing of quality Australian films with significant female content, encouraging close partnership with distributors on female-driven projects.

Lastly, there will be assessment criteria changes – to be made across Screen Australia, aimed at encouraging projects that promote gender diversity and removing the barriers faced by women who take time out of the workforce, including added consideration of Gender Diversity in overall slate assessment.

Sue Maslin, feature film producer (The Dressmaker) and member of the Gender Matters Taskforce, said: “My first credit was a film called Thanks Girls and Goodbye – ironic I think, because it was a film about female invisibility," she said.

"I’ve always been interested in stories that revolve around women because I think they’re funny, dramatic, and largely untold. 

"My vision for the future is a world where stories about women, told by women, are equally of interest to all audiences. 

"Gender Matters will help make this happen. I look forward to 2018 and more diversity and richness on screen.”

Gender Matters is a direct response to the status of women in the screen industry, but Screen Australia recognises that there are other groups that are under-represented. 

In conjunction with national broadcasters, Screen Australia is working on a new benchmark study on cultural diversity in TV drama, which it expects to release in 2016.

The Gender Matters Taskforce:

Deanne Weir – Deputy Chair of Screen Australia and Head of the Gender Matters Taskforce

Imogen Banks – Producer and screenwriter

Corrie Chen – Director and screenwriter

Sandie Don – Head of Distribution, eOne ANZ

Sophie Hyde – Director and producer

Emma Jensen – Screenwriter

Samantha Lang – Director, screenwriter and President of the Australian Directors Guild

Sue Maslin – Producer

Miranda Tapsell – Actor

Natalie Tran – Vlogger, act

  1. What? Are they serious? Are there any men on this task force? The government bodies are already overloaded with females. Just think that money could finance ten (maybe more) low low budget feature films1

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