Federation of European Film Directors Demands “Urgent Action” to Tackle the Underrepresentation of Women Filmmakers

Federation of European Film Directors Demands "Urgent Action" to Tackle the Underrepresentation of Women Filmmakers

In the wake of Cannes jury president Jane Campion’s condemnation
of the “inherent sexism” in the film industry
last month, the Federation of European Film Directors
(FERA) has called for concerted action to promote equal representation in
European filmmaking.

The only organisation which represents directors
across Europe, FERA made its entreaty after the results of a study it commissioned
from the European Audiovisual Observatory were published, which showed that the work of women directors amounted to
only 16% of European films released from 2003 to 2011. The Federation
appealed directly to the legislative bodies of the European Union in its recent
press
release
, demanding the European Parliament and Commission take action on
the issue, and calling for the implementation of “targets for women directors, based on the percentage of female
directors in the workforce.”

FERA CEO Pauline Durand-Vialle credits Sweden with
playing a major role in inspiring the push for gender equality by directors in
the European industry – a country which has long been at the forefront of
progressive policy-making in this area. The current Swedish National Film
Agreement’s equality directive demands funding be divided equally between women
and men (in the key positions of director, screenwriter, and producer) on
projects funded by the country’s Film Institute. FERA has similarly placed the
issue of funding at the heart of its call for policy initiatives designed to
promote equality. 

As Durand-Vialle told Women and Hollywood:

In countries such as France and the UK,
the issue is starting to be more openly talked about between directors in their
national guilds and the relevant stakeholders (public funding entities as well
as broadcasters employing directors and/or financing their projects): that’s
already a huge step.

It felt necessary for our Federation to back up those initiatives
here in Brussels; we co-organized an event last December to get through to MEPs
in Strasbourg [the event is detailed here], and considered that we
need concrete goals to actually get somewhere: the issue is more trendy than it
ever was at European level, but that’s not enough yet.

FERA has chosen to begin by calling for the
implementation of targets based on the proportion of female directors in the
workforce in the hope that this will level the playing field for women
currently in the industry. The Federation has close ties with the European Women’s Audiovisual Network, whose
continued research into the number of female professionals attaining key
positions it hopes will further discussion on these issues, and provide
sufficient momentum to prompt film funds at a national and European level to
take action by the end of 2015. Eurimages, the Council of Europe’s support fund
for European cinema, has already taken significant steps
towards addressing the problem
.

FERA’s decision to lead with an appeal to European
policy-makers is a reminder of the power there is to be harnessed in a
filmmaking culture in which state financial support of the industry plays a
vital role. The potential impact of achieving such wide-reaching policy changes
cannot be overstated. While this may seem of little comfort to those fighting
for gender equity in the US industry, it is encouraging to see that the kind of
concerns which are provoking debate and action in Europe are being voiced more
and more in Hollywood contexts. FERA’s highlighting of the “risk-averse
decisions” which so often dominate film finance and production – and prejudice
against women filmmakers – is something which is increasingly being echoed in the
US (a recent example being Cate
Blanchett and Kerry Washington’s comments on just this issue
at Women in
Film’s Crystal + Lucy Award Ceremony). We will certainly be following the
progress of FERA’s call for change with keen interest.

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