Only fifteen percent of features backed by Screen Australia, that country’s state film fund, are directed by female filmmakers. Just 23% are written by women, and a mere 32% are produced by women.
These are numbers that a new $5 million strategy aims to improve.
The three-year plan will address gender imbalance in local film and TV production. Titled Gender Matters, the program will kick off with a $3 million investment toward finding new female-fronted projects and companies, while an additional $2 million will be invested in career development and business support over the next two years.
To qualify for funding, a project must meet three of the following requirements: female director, female writer, female protagonist and/or female producer.
Screen Australia honcho Graeme Mason emphasized that the “three-tick test” is not a quota system. “I don’t believe in the idea of quotas,” he commented. “I just don’t think they work for the people you’re doing them for.”
The producer behind “The Dressmaker,” Sue Maslin, shares Mason’s sentiment. She observed, “I think [quotas] have the capacity to divide the industry at the very time we need to bring it together [and] the carrot is a far better incentive than the stick.” “The Dressmaker,” which stars Kate Winslet in a revenge plot, has made $15 million at the Australian box office so far.
Mason elaborated, “What we’re trying to do is make sure the stories [by, for and about women] get told, because creatively, culturally and commercially that makes sense. You’ve still got a lot of white gentlemen of a certain age dominating the industry. We’re not criticizing the work they’re doing, but we think it could do with a bit of a shake-up.”
The Screen Australia CEO identified the focus of the plan as “female-led creative teams.” “We are aiming to ensure our production funding is targeted to creative teams that are at least 50% female by [the end of] 2018,” he said.
Women account for 48% of graduates from the Australian Film, Television and Radio School in screenwriting, production and directing between 1973 and 2015.
The BFI recently introduced a similar three-tick system for funding in England.