Since she took up her current position in October 2011, Serner has reached her stated intent of distributing state funds equally between male and female filmmakers. As with so many things gender-related, Sweden is the first country to reach this benchmark.
Just two-and-a-half years ago, the agency, which funds about 15 films a year with an average investment of $1 million, had a much more lopsided track record. “When I took over, we had 26 per cent of funding going to female directors,” Serner recalled. “I said that was a catastrophe. I used that word. I wanted the business to realize that there was a new sheriff in town. They are not stupid. They realize I am the head of the funding body, so maybe things are going to happen.”
The policy that had already been in place had a goal for a 40-60 split in favor of male directors — a ratio Serner could only view as compromise. “I said in my opinion 40-60 is rubbish. It should be 50-50 over time,” Serner affirmed. “One year you might have 70-30, but over time you should be able to balance it equally. Talking makes no difference. You have to act. Whatever you do, they will criticize, but you just have to live with that.”
There was backlash, of course: “I get a lot of support from men as… but a larger number feel threatened. They don’t say it to me because they are afraid that I won’t give them money — which is not very brave, in my opinion — but they talk. They have been up to the minister for culture [also a woman] to say: Don’t let the Swedish Film Institute have too much power because they misuse it … There have been quite a few men coming out in the papers, and there was a live TV interview with the lead actor in ‘Joe Hill,’ talking about ‘these bitches’ you have to pass around to get funding.”
“We didn’t earmark money,” she added. “We didn’t say to our commissioners that you can’t fund what you want. We just said that we take it very seriously, so please try to look at submissions with new eyes. … Actually, we have given a bit more to women and that is because they tend to have a lot harder time getting other finance, because the financiers don’t trust them.”
The results speak for themselves. “In 2014 we had 50 per cent female directors, 55 per cent female scriptwriters and 65 per cent female producers,” Serner said. “We like to measure over five years, but in the past three, we have had 43 per cent female directors, 49 per cent scriptwriters and 53 per cent producers.” Women creatives also take home 69% of the trophies at film awards ceremonies in Sweden.
“I say to the men who feel threatened by me that I think this will pass,” advised Serner, “because I don’t think that women are more competent or make better quality. But we have had a lack of female voices so they feel new and unique. And they are unique perspectives, because they have not been heard before.”
[via Sydney Morning Herald]