Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Thank You, Jane Campion


One day last week I got up early, to watch the stream of presentations at the Washington session of the 2d Global Symposium of the Geena Davis Institute of Gender in Media (LA session coming soon). It was great to see and hear people I'd only read about and to see the involvement of UN Women.

I was especially inspired by activist, filmmaker and philanthropist Abigail Disney (Pray the Devil Back to HellWomen, War & Peace, founder of Peace is Loud and the outspoken great-niece of Walt.) 'Gatekeepers are wrong 50% of the time', she said, in a fresh version of screenwriter William Goldman's assertion that in the screen industry 'nobody knows anything'. 

The other statement that's stayed with me came from Dr Stacy Smith, of the Media, Diversity & Social Change Initiative, who led the Geena Davis Institute research launched at the symposium, Gender Bias Without Borders 'As money moves in, women are pushed out', she said. Still thinking about what I'd heard, and about to write about it, I saw this tweet.


Just about the best tweet ever. O wow. And how did it happen?

It seems to have happened like this.

Last weekend, New Zealand held its annual and wonderful Big Screen Symposium (where I'm told there was lots of talk about gender equality). And Dave Gibson, CEO at the New Zealand Film Commission (NZFC, our state funder), gave a widely ranging address that included the Jane Campion news within an announcement about the Government's new Screen Advisory Board. This board exists
[to] help the New Zealand screen sector create the skills and connections to be able to generate their own intellectual property, compete internationally and attract overseas finance [and to help] market and promote the New Zealand screen industry overseas.
Its members are James Cameron, Jon Landau, Sir Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh, Andrew Adamson and Jane Campion. In his speech, Dave Gibson said–
[T]he Screen Advisory Board members will work [with the NZFC and others] in particular areas of interest. Sir Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh have identified early talent and connections as theirs. James Cameron and Jon Landau are keen to help with US connections and a push we hope to make into Los Angeles next year. Jane Campion is interested in gender equality. Next year we hope to bring you more details of their work.
There's something very beautiful about the generosity of the New Zealand filmmakers, who have their own work to make and don't need the NZFC to do it; and about the allocation of individual tasks.

Peter Jackson has advocated the importance of finding and nurturing talent for a long time. Back in 2009, when we were waiting for the report from an NZFC Review that he headed, he commented in the Australian
My only advice to anybody is that it's about individuals. The strength of a film industry is based totally on the strength of the individuals, the creative individuals working within it, the writers especially, the directors and the producers and whatever can be done to talent hunt, to find those people and then train them and support them. We're not talking about many people because in an environment where a lot of people want to be a filmmaker or think they can write a screenplay, not many people can, quite honestly, and it's a case of finding those people and nurturing them. That's what a healthy film industry is, it's not really to do with infrastructure or anything else, it's about finding talent and nurturing that talent.
Part of finding early talent and making connections, according to another interview with Peter Jackson back in June, is to fight for a funding increase for the NZFC, because 'lack of funding is thwarting emerging young film-makers from following in his footsteps'. This funding would help those with potential to develop it and then to move beyond the NZFC and to gain international backing–
Think of the New Zealand directors who went on to have careers beyond NZFC-funding prior to 1995 and it's impressive. Post 1995 it's a very small list ... Anyone who really cares about our indigenous film industry should look at the real problem [funding of talent].
He and Fran Walsh seem perfect for the responsibilities they've accepted.

James Cameron and Jon Landau's commitment to serve as inaugural members of the Screen Advisory Board comes from the memorandum of understanding signed last year between the Crown, Lightstorm Entertainment Inc. and Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation in relation to the next Avatar movies. Their role, to help in the United States, seems 'just right' too.

But 'just rightest' of all, for me, is that Jane Campion will focus on gender equality, which in this context embraces both the current global reality that films by and about women are good business and the New Zealand reality that our Government and its agents have human rights responsibilities. How lucky New Zealand women writers and directors are. Probably the luckiest in the whole world. Jane Campion knows the challenges first hand. She knows the opportunities first hand. She has a long history of speaking out globally about women's storytelling on screen and a long history of supporting and advocating for women, of offering the kind of 'nurturing' Peter Jackson refers to. Just two examples of her many statements about women directors–

At Cannes five years ago
I would love to see more women directors because they represent half of the population – and gave birth to the whole world. Without them writing and being directors, the rest of us are not going to know the whole story.
At Cannes this year, at a press conference, as jury President, in response to a question about 'inherent sexism'–
There is some inherent sexism in the industry. Thierry Frémaux [Cannes festival director] told us that us only 7% out of the 1,800 films submitted to the Cannes Film Festival were directed by women. He was proud to say that we had 20% in all of the programs. Nevertheless, it feels very undemocratic, and women do notice. Time and time again we don’t get our share of representation. Excuse me gentlemen, but the guys seem to eat all the cake. It’s not that I resent the male filmmakers. I love all of them. But there is something that women are thinking of doing that we don’t get to know enough about. It’s always a surprise when a woman filmmaker does come about. 
When Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh find talented women to support, what a resource she will be. I imagine that Jane Campion will herself help find talented women, too. (I know first-hand how powerful even a tiny moment of her support is. Last year, she generously gave free all-comer workshops in memory of her father. In one, an 'in-depth inquiry into writing and directing...an exploratory and sharing session where you and I will address issues arising from your work' my question for her was one of those picked from among everyone else's questions dropped into her father's hat and I sat with her for a few minutes while she answered it. Her response continues to feed me.)

But I'm most hoping that her influence will permeate every single programme that the NZFC supports. This will give New Zealand filmmaking more opportunities to shine internationally in the 'new' environment where audiences are hungry for films by and about women and where her understanding of what 'women are thinking of doing that we don’t get to know enough about' will be invaluable. It will also facilitate justice for women filmmakers wherever there the industry's 'inherent sexism' may exist, both blatantly and subtly, for instance–
At the 48 Hour film competition, where only 6% of the directors are women and whose organisers are about share decision-making about allocation of NZFC feature funding to 'highly-ranked and talented teams' from the competition; 
At the New Zealand International Film Festival, where women writers and directors are under-represented; 
In the NZFC feature film programmes, where there will no longer be a distinction between dramas and docos and women directors' customary strong participation in doco-making could now mask the reality that we're not being funded to write and direct fictional features; and
In the short film programme (to which I've never applied).
This is how projects with women writers/directors shared the short film cakes in 2014, at shortlisting and final allocation–

Short Film programme shortlist 2014– female writers/directors 27%, male 65%, female/male 8%


Short Film programme successful applicants 2014– female writers/directors 21%, male 79%

This is the share of the overall dollar investment cake that's been allocated to these short film projects. As you can see, the share of investment in projects written/directed by women is even lower in dollar terms than the ratio of individual projects selected for funding, because only one of the eight projects funded at the highest level, $30,000, is to be written/directed by women–

Short Film programme investment 2014– female writers/directors 19% of $320,000 ($60,000),  male 81% ($260,000)

This is especially unfortunate when the NZFC's own research into short filmmaking, which I can't now find online, shows that our women's short films do better in A-list international festivals than men's do. It's unfortunate given New Zealand's human rights obligations. And it's unfortunate because there's evidence that audiences want diversity in this country's only Academy Awards® accredited film festival, Show Me Shorts. Festival Director, Gina Dellabarca, had this to say on Twitter the other day–






Will Jane Campion perhaps persuade the NZFC to emulate the BFI 'tick' concept in relation to gender? Or will she perhaps persuade it to follow the Swedish Film Institute's example, probably the most advanced in the world so far?

The Swedish Film Institute spreads funding equally between male and female filmmakers and the ratio of features with a woman director that it's funded has shifted from 19% 2000-2005, to 26% 2006-2012, to the current 35%. (In contrast, the proportion of female directors of Swedish films that the institute hasn't funded is currently 18 per cent.) Typically, the institute also provides 40% of the budget for films by women, compared with 30-33% for men, according to Anna Serner, chief executive of the institute, because women usually find it more difficult to secure financial support. 'The problem is not that there isn't any competence, it's that there is no will to let women through,' she says. Anna Serner also acknowledges that to award funds equally between the sexes was 'extremely scary for the industry', as it would be in New Zealand.

Jane Campion might be just the person to help New Zealand make a Swedish-type (or BFI) transition here.  Or will her powerful imagination and big heart come up with something no-one's thought of before?  It's entirely possible, I reckon, especially because Dave Gibson opened his address with this statement–
There is one thing that is not a problem for the industry, and that's overall Government financial support. The amounts of money that will be spent on the industry next year will, I believe, surprise you.
Peter Jackson's lobbying for funds – presumably with assistance from others – seems to have paid off. The NZFC can now afford to take more risks than usual. It will have to. And with more resources to fulfil the Government's ambitions for the screen sector, including the collective wisdom and connections of the Screen Advisory Board, this seems the ideal moment for it to embrace Abigail Disney's idea, that as gatekeepers the NZFC may be wrong 50% of the time, so why not use gender equity as a criterion among other criteria? Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh and Jane Campion's engagement means it's also probably the least risky time and place in the world to resist the cultural practice Stacy Smith refers to, where women are pushed out when money comes in, to take risks on women and men equally, to explore that 'something that women are thinking of doing that we don’t get to know enough about'. However, although further on in Dave Gibson's speech he stated that 'Diversity is a key goal. By budget, genre and audience appeal', he didn't include 'diversity by filmmaker'.

On the other hand, he also announced that–
Selina Joe as Strategy and Insights Advisor...has also provided the industry with some relevant statistics on gender imbalance which are going up on our website today. We hope to improve these statistics following consultation and engagement with WIFT, the Writers Guild and the Directors and Editors Guild. As always our preference is to have these engagements with the relevant guilds rather than individuals.
I hope that the NZFC will also engage and consult with all the relevant guilds: the Screen Production and Development Association (SPADA), because NZFC resolution of gender equity issues will affect producers too; with the Techos Guild, where women are underrepresented and which also will be affected by NZFC gender equity decisions; and with Actors Equity, because there's a dynamic cohort of actors who are also writers and directors. And Actors Equity is relevant tot he discussion because the Geena Davis research found this–



Women who act need work. Some of them want to work for the big screen. If the NZFC's gender equity policies are successful, they'll get more work.

I'm very excited by the new NZFC stats that Dave Gibson announced. It's the first time ever the NZFC has published gender statistics and they've started with feature development funding statistics, in this document–


So far I haven't had time to read it closely, but I'm very appreciative of it because it seems to include the application data that I've been requesting since early this year, latterly through Official Information Act requests. Selina Joe has produced a document that is far fuller and more elegant than I could ever make, so I'm thrilled, because it will be very useful for the guilds and for the rest of us. (Here's a big thank you to Fiona Lovatt, who helped me record the feature development recipients and sums allocated to them, from the NZFC annual reports 2009-2013 and to Vera Zambonelli of Hawai'i Women in Filmmaking, for her offer to help analyse the application data when I received it.)

One more cause for hope comes from Dame Patsy Reddy, Chair of the NZFC Board. At the NZFC, the Board sets policy and budgets, monitors progress against targets and budgets and considers applications for feature film production financing. Ultimately, it is responsible for the NZFC's gender equity policies. So the other day I wrote to let Dame Patsy know that I was writing a series in response to the Directors & Editors Guild and NZWIFT's Where Are The Women Filmmakers? meeting a few weeks ago. 'I imagine that the NZFC board will undertake a careful inquiry before assigning any gender-specific funding and I’d like my work to contribute to this', I wrote. it was heart-warming to read this in her response– 'I...confirm that I am keen to encourage the involvement of more women in all aspects of filmmaking'.  (Perhaps this means that the NZFC is consulting about gender with every guild, already.)

So, what more could New Zealand women writers and directors want? We have official data that shows that they've (we've) been disadvantaged. We have evidence from the latest Short Film programme allocations that this disadvantage is immediate and substantial, even in a programme where in the past we have demonstrated high achievement and in a context where there is audience demand for our work. We have a government that believes in New Zealand filmmakers and wants us to excel and more state funding about to flow in than ever before. The Chair of Board responsible for gender policy is a woman who supports women's involvement in all aspects of filmmaking. We have a fabulous Screen Advisory Board that includes two women filmmakers who are outstanding in global terms, one of whom has chosen to take responsibility for gender equality. We have film guilds that care about gender equality, one of which – the New Zealand Writers Guild – has demonstrated that women will participate strongly when an organisation's culture embraces them and their work–we're doing wonderfully well in the feature film script programme it administers for the NZFC.

As I reflected on all this, at first I thought 'O, why don't I just concentrate on my own work as a small-time screenwriter and director, forget that little series I planned? It's not necessary now.' I felt relief. But then I remembered that short conversation with Jane Campion, within her larger workshop topic of 'inquiry'. In the conversation she reminded me that the frame can be brutal and she compelled me to continue the inquiry that prompted my question, not to be distracted or deflected. And now, I think that the 'new' NZFC frame, in all its beauty, has the potential to be brutal to women writers and directors. And anyway the inquiry and the stories fascinate me. So on I go with the series. Coming soon.

Friday, September 19, 2014

The BFI Greenlights Diversity

Kate Sheppard as green light
Yesterday was the 121st anniversary of women's suffrage in New Zealand. Yes, we were the first country in the world to give women the vote. And this year the Wellington City Council has commemorated this with some special pedestrian green lights near Parliament, portraying suffragist Kate Sheppard.

Also yesterday, I caught up with the British Film Institute (BFI)'s 'three ticks' policy, 'designed to address diversity in relation to ethnicity, disability, gender, sexual orientation and socio-economic status'. Green-lit in July, the policy went live on 1 September. The BFI is the largest public film fund in the United Kingdom, invests over £27m into film development, production, international sales and distribution, and supports around 30 new film productions each year.

From now on, to be eligible for BFI Film Fund support for production, producers who apply must demonstrate their commitment to encouraging diverse representation, across their workforces and in the portrayal of under-represented stories and groups on screen. To qualify under the 'three ticks' policy they need at least one tick in a minimum of two areas–
On-screen diversity– diverse subject matter, at least one lead character positively reflecting diversity, at least 30% of supporting and background characters positively reflecting diversity; 
Off-screen diversity– diverse key creatives (director, screenwriter, composer, cinematographer [note: this list does not include 'producer']), at least two Heads of Department from diverse backgrounds, production crew and production company staff (both with a range of targets across different diverse groups); 
Creating opportunities and promoting social mobility– paid internships and employment opportunities for new entrants from diverse backgrounds, training placements for people from diverse backgrounds, demonstrable opportunities for former trainees or interns to progress within their careers.
There will be challenges I imagine – even the Kate Sheppard green light is dependent on the other associated traffic lights –  but it will help that 'the BFI is also committed to engaging the UK film sector to build consensus around the best ways to approach diversity industry-wide, to develop an action-plan for change right across the UK’s film industry value chain'.

These new policies may mean that the UK will be the first country in the world where (diverse) women direct half of its features, instead of New Zealand, as I've always hoped, or Sweden, where gender equity policies have been in place for some time. The 'three ticks' concept must also influence other state funders committed to diversity in allocating production funds and to gender equity policies that reflect current best practice.

Will the BFI model spread to other parts of Europe, to Canada, Australia and even New Zealand?Very recently, the Directors & Editors Guild of New Zealand (DEGNZ) held a meeting that resolved to work towards increasing the participation of women directors and editors in feature film making and suggested a state-funded women's film fund, but will it now feel encouraged to advocate for the 'three ticks' concept, or a variant of it?  How might a 'three ticks' idea work alongside He Ara, a  New Zealand Film Commission devolved development fund to assist 'established New Zealand writers, producers and directors of Māori and/or Pasifika heritage to express authentic Māori and Pasifika film perspectives'?

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Directors & Editors Guild of New Zealand & WIFT Take Action


Every so often magic happens. Like this public meeting organised by Directors & Editors Guild of New Zealand (DEGNZ) and WIFTNZ. I was sad I couldn't go and look forward to seeing the video that was recorded, as shown in the audience pic below.

Many thanks to DEGNZ Executive Director Fiona Copland and to Lucy Stonex, for this brief report of the historic event, including the pics, followed by my response. For those of you not familiar with New Zealand, Annie Goldson is a documentary director and producer and academic, Cushla Dillon is an editor, Gaylene Preston is a director, writer and producer in film and television and Jackie Van Beek is an actor and a writer and director for stage and screen.


l. to r. Gaylene Preston, Kim Hill, Annie Goldson, Jackie Van Beek

by Lucy Stonex
Responding to the release of some concerning international statistics, members of DEGNZ and WIFT gathered in Auckland last week to talk about gender imbalance amongst directors and editors in the NZ screen industry. Broadcaster Kim Hill moderated a discussion with panellists Gaylene Preston, Annie Goldson, Cushla Dillon and Jackie van Beek, looking at why the imbalance exists and what can be done about it. 
The statistics are not readily available for television but are clear for film: in New Zealand only 17% of dramatic features with New Zealand Film Commission (NZFC) investment are directed by women. Women are accessing less than half their appropriate share of public funding for film. The packed house at the event expressed overwhelming support for affirmative action to address this imbalance, by way of a targeted fund. 
DEGNZ will collaborate with NZFC and New Zealand On Air, to more fully analyse the data available and look at ways to move the discussion forward. Let us know your view.

The Audience
My Response

An earlier online report stated that the panellists ‘had varying views on how the situation had arisen and what could be done about it’. This isn’t surprising of course. It’s inevitable that a New Zealand discussion will echo global debates, where views also differ widely.

I'm curious about the representation of screenwriters, directors and producers in the audience and hope that there’ll now be a supplementary inquiry amongst women practitioners throughout the country. Even a brief questionnaire would be great.

Because the issues are so complex, I also look forward to a vigorous debate about what strategies will best encourage gender equity in New Zealand filmmaking. I love women's funds, but who would benefit from the one being proposed, and how? What's happened in the past with state-funded women's film funds? What can we learn from that? What's the range of contemporary approaches and how well are these approaches working?

Thursday, September 11, 2014

The Fledgling Fund & Social Impact Assessment


The Fledgling Fund is a private foundation 'driven by the passionate belief that film can inspire a better world'. The list of films it's supported is truly impressive, lots by and about women. Here's just a few– Brave Miss World, Budrus, Girl Rising, Leaving the Life, Miss Representation, Mothers of BedfordSaving Face, The Invisible War, The Light in Her Eyes. Other significant projects include The Mask You Live In and Seed: The Untold Story. And there are many many more.

I love it that each project on the Fledgling Fund site has its own social impact page, powered by Sparkwise. On those pages I can read a synopsis and about the filmmakers, see the trailer, get a snapshot of the project's communities and social media reach, find out who its main supporters are. Learn about how I can become a supporter and/or viewer. There are graphs! There are maps even!

I can't show you a full screenshot of any of the pages, many of them rich and complex. But here's a partial example, from Seed: The Untold Story, chosen because I'm raising bee-loved plants from untreated seeds at the moment and, years ago, I was deeply affected by New Zealander Barry Barclay's The Neglected Miracle (1985), which covers similar themes.



The Fledgling Fund funds only docos, as far as I can see. But there are of course narrative films that aim for social engagement,  Sophie Hyde's wonderful and multi-award-winning narrative feature 52 Tuesdays for instance. Its website has a front page not unlike a Sparkwise page and its 'My 52 Tuesdays' is–
...a worldwide participatory project where people build and share a unique portrait of a year in their lives. Every week, every Tuesday, a question is posed to everyone involved – you answer by writing down your response and taking your photo with it. See answers to the same questions from your closest friends and creative people all over the world. Share your photos or keep them private. It is a project about you, set in time, distinctly personal and lovingly communal – but only if you choose it to be so, because ultimately it is a project about choice. And only on Tuesdays. How much will you share?
Branded entertainment does it too. Miranda July's contribution to Miu Miu's Women's TalesSomebody, has an associated app which seems like a lot of fun. It allows users to send a message to a friend and have it delivered, in person, by a stranger who is geographically near the recipient. I was thinking that it might be problematic to use Somebody in Welly, with its small population but 'The artist advises that Somebody works best with a critical mass of users in a given area; any social gathering can become a Somebody hotspot'. In the Huffington Post, Naz Riahi reported on her experience–
I was one of the first handfuls of people to download and use the app, zealously running all over Brooklyn and Manhattan to act out and deliver messages to strangers. The experience was exhilarating...It was a whole new way of communication and connection.
(Miranda July's website is content rich, too.)

To me, this thoughtful letter from the women at the Fledgling Fund, about whether and how to assess the impact of creative media, is both timely and useful, for all of us.  I like their Crafting An Impact Assessment Plan: Some Questions To Get You Started, too, which follows the letter.

This is also a Happy Birthday post for Ruth Gerzon and for her life's work, making a social impact.

September 2, 2014

To Our Community,


Over the past several months, Fledgling has participated in many discussions with fellow funders, filmmakers, practitioners and others who are all wrestling with the question of whether and how to assess the social impact of creative media, and especially documentary film. Emerging tools and platforms, like The Participant Index (TPI), Harmony Institute’s Story PilotSparkwise and ConTEXT, are attempting to capture social impact in different ways, many using techniques that rely in part on access to big data. We expect others will follow. Like many of you, we have reviewed these platforms and tools as they have evolved and have listened to the robust debate they have sparked, revealing the concerns and push back from many filmmakers and others about this increased focus on 'measurement'.  This came through loud and clear in Aggregate’s survey of True/False filmmakers released in July in which 62% of respondents answered “no” to the question “Do you think there should be metrics to measure the social change created by a film?”  In light of this, we have been thinking a lot about what all of this means for Fledgling, for our grantees, and for the field.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

'The Patriarch' & Producer Matriarch Robin Scholes – Equity Crowdfunding Reaches New Zealand




Just over a month ago, Pledgeme and Snowball Effect became New Zealand’s first equity crowd funders, licensed to act as intermediaries between entrepreneurial companies wanting to sell shares and investors wanting to buy them. This week, The Patriarch, through Snowball, became the first feature film to seek equity crowdfunding in New Zealand. It may not be the first feature in the world to be equity crowd funded but it’s close.

New Zealanders have engaged with equity crowdfunding before, when Spanner Films, led by New Zealander Lizzie Gillett, produced Franny Armstrong’s The Age of Stupid in the United Kingdom and later provided a step-by-step guide to their model. Also in the United Kingdom, Simon West (Tomb Raider, Con Air) is using equity crowdfunding to raise money for his Salty.

The Patriarch, from the novel Bulibasha, is the fourth feature from a Witi Ihimaera story. It follows Whale Rider (2002, wr/dir Niki Caro), Kawa (2010, from Nights in the Garden of Spain, wr Kate McDermott dir Katie Wolfe) and White Lies|Tuakiri Huna (2013, from Medicine Woman, wr/dir Dana Rotberg).

The Patriarch’s producer, Robin Scholes, has teamed up with director Lee Tamahori, whose Once Were Warriors (1994) she also produced. The writer is John Collee.

This felt like a fine opportunity to interview Robin about The Patriarch and her role as a woman producer. Although I’ve often interviewed writers, directors and actors who also produce, I think Robin’s the first producer I’ve interviewed since Karin Chien, way back, and the first New Zealand producer. Robin provides a great place to start. Like Karin, she’s a legend.

The Once Were Warriors premiere
l. to r. Neil Roberts, Cliff Curtis, Robin, Temuera Morrison, Garry McAlpine, Lee Tamahori 

What’s The Patriarch about?

Women Wrote Half SWANZ 2014 Nominated Scripts!


The New Zealand Writers Guild has announced the Finalists for the Script Writer Awards NZ 2014. Fantastic to see so many women's names. Warm congratulations to you all!

BEST FEATURE FILM SCRIPT
Max Currie – Everything We Loved
James Napier Robertson – Dark Horse
Gerard Johnstone – Housebound
Sophie Henderson – Fantail

BEST TELEVISION ONE-OFF DRAMA
Fiona Samuel – Consent: The Louise Nicholas Stor
Donna Malane & Paula Boock – Field Punishment No.1 
Donna Malane & Paula Boock – Pirates of the Airwaves

UNPRODUCED FEATURE FILM SCRIPT COMPETITION
Gillian Ashurst – Gnats 
Dianne Taylor – The Last Hippie Trail 
Tania Wheeler – Umbrella Man
Richard Goodwin – Immortal Diamond
Jackie Owens – Three Gardens

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Ally Acker's 'Reel Herstory'



I fell over Ally Acker’s work via this tweet. Not Ally’s tweet, you’ll notice, because she doesn’t engage with social media, which may be why I missed her before.


I was immediately curious about Ally's extraordinary magnum opus, Reel Women, the two-volume revised and expanded book and the 10 discs (see below) and the forthcoming Reel Herstory: The REAL Story of Reel Women. Introduced by Jodie Foster, Reel Herstory is a feature-length documentary that runs two and a half hours. It's in two parts. The first covers The Silent Era and the second Talkies Through Today (first ten minutes below).

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Kano Life

Kano – outside Gidan Almajirai, the House of Scholars

I love quest movies. Why don't we have more movies about women's quests, beyond romance-quests? I love road movies, too. There aren't enough of them with women protagonists. That's one reason I'm so excited by Afia Nathaniel's Dukhtar, debuting at Toronto, released in Pakistan soon and here on Facebook.

When Fiona Lovatt and I re-met on Facebook, after thirty years of no contact, she sent me an image for my
Keeping An Eye On The Washing board. Then she arrived at my place and I asked her probably too many questions. And when I heard her stories, their quest elements and their road elements enthralled me. 

Before Fiona left for Nigeria, for a third period living in Kano, an ancient northern city with a population of over 4 million, I asked her a few more questions. I'm delighted that she transcends them and that her Facebook page contributes fragments of dialogue with others – persevere with the small print, it's worth it. Please introduce yourself to Fiona on Facebook if you'd like to friend her and join the conversation.  A 'Fiona Lovatt & Kano' Pinterest board provides more images and commentary, here.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Safety in Paradise?

Eleven photo: Jimena Murray
Children play in safety on the beach beyond my window. Some aren't safe at home, but they do not die in rocket attacks. Along our promenade, this year’s most sustained sirens wailed from motorbike cavalcades, as they escorted royalty to and from the airport. At school, our children may arrive hungry. But they're safe from abduction. The closest I’ve ever been to a war is my parents' silence about 'their' war, refuge women's stories about men returned from wars and Bruce Cunningham’s stories, after I met him selling Anzac poppies. (He was a Lancaster pilot in World War II and then a prisoner-of-war and I’m making a short doco about him.)

Yes, in many ways Wellington, New Zealand is paradise and I’m blessed to live here and to benefit from love and generosity from women and men, my beautiful sons now among those men. But in an interview with Matthew Hammett Knott earlier this year, I found myself saying–
We have to deal with serial violation, direct and subtle, on a daily basis. We may have learned the truth that golden boys usually win. So we have to apportion our energies and manage risk with great care. 
I met a friend in the street recently, who’d been active in a campaign around violence against women. You’ve been busy, I said. Yes, he said, I’ll be glad to get back to normal. And I realised that for women, there is often no ‘normal’ like his to get back to. Certainly not for me. I don’t see myself as a victim – I’m too committed to problem solving. But because ‘normal’ is living among actual and attempted violation of women, like many women I’m very careful to expose myself to more risk only when I have appropriate support in place.
This post is a continuation of that conversation with Matthew. It also attempts to understand the mechanisms that institutions use to compromise the well-being of women and girls, even when those women and girls know how to care for themselves. This is a #longread. It moves from Air New Zealand to the New Zealand International Film Festival to conditions around the insertion and removal of vaginal mesh. It's also a tiny tribute to Jacqui Scott and the Mesh Warriors and Mesh Angels around the world who continue to support her quest for survival and health.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Jennifer Kent & 'The Babadook'

Jennifer Kent
Another wonderful interview from Le Deuxième Regard's newsletter, with many thanks to them. Australian Jennifer Kent's The Babadook is touring New Zealand in the New Zealand International Film Festival – other international release dates below.

The Babadook goes very deep into the themes of insanity and motherhood. How did this story come to you?

I've always felt passionately about the need to face the difficulties of life. Facing the darkness, I feel, actually allows us to more fully embrace the joys as well. I think in some cases, suppressing difficulties can also be the catalyst for mental illness. Keeping all this in mind, I was fascinated to explore a character who was suppressing her difficulties, and in particular, one very traumatic event. I wanted to see where this denial and suppression would take her. This is how the story began for me.

Having said that, I never felt judgemental towards Amelia for suppressing. She had suffered enormously and it made sense she wanted to run as far as she could from her pain. No human being wants to feel pain and Amelia is no different. But my point with her story is that you can only run for so long before what is plaguing you must be faced. You can keep denying, but you'll have to face the consequences of that denial.

Re: Motherhood, I wasn't consciously focused on including that to be honest. It just sort of grew out of my core idea. My inclusion of the young child fit this very strong feeling I have that if we suppress darkness, we don't just hurt ourselves; we can also do enormous damage to those around us. And what worse damage can be done than by a mother to her child?


Sunday, July 13, 2014

#DirectedByWomen - A Global Celebration



As you know, globally, women make far fewer films than men do. And those that we do make often have inadequate marketing budgets and are not well distributed, so often our potential audiences don’t hear about them. This means – as you also know – that it’s very very easy for women directors to be isolated from one another and for traditions of women’s filmmaking to remain partial and fragmented. This is how renowned British director Andrea Arnold described her experience, a few years back–
I always notice how few [films by women] there are at film festivals. I went to Créteil International Women’s Film Festival in France with Wasp [for which she won an Academy Award] in 2004, stayed on for a few days and watched all these films by women. I spent the whole time crying because there were so many films that had so much resonance for me, being female. It actually made me realise how male-dominated the film industry is in terms of perspective. If you think about a film being a very popular and expressive way of showing a mirror on life, we’re getting a mainly male perspective. It’s a shame. I saw a lot of fantastic films at Créteil that I never heard about again. 
Among multiple strategies to bring ‘lost’ films and their women directors into public consciousness, some women create lists of women directors and their work.

Destri Martino is the first director I know of to create this kind of list and I love her current Pinterest board. Beti Ellerson has developed a huge database at African Women in Cinema which includes directors, often represented in video interviews and blog posts. Yvonne Welbon has a list of African American women film directors on Sisters in Cinema. Nordic Women in Film is launching its major site about Nordic women film workers, including directors, in 2015. I have a New Zealand list here.

There are also Wikipedia lists. One has links to individual entries. One lists Indian women directors. There are probably more lists there that I haven’t seen.

Some film sites have lists of women-directed films, too. On those I can access easily here in New Zealand, Ally the Manic List Maker has made a list of films directed by women on MUBI, over 1400 films. And there’s a list of women-directed films on Indiereign.

And now there’s Barbara Ann O’Leary’s work. She’s created Women Film Directors: Active in the Past Decade, on the Internet Movie Database (IMDb). It currently runs at 5,326.

Barbara’s next step is Directed by Women, a worldwide celebration of women directors, September 1-15, 2015, a global viewing party. It's a visionary idea, I reckon.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Anoushka Klaus, from 'Jake'

Anoushka Klaus (photo: Sacha Stejko)

I'm fascinated by actors and how they shift into other roles in filmmaking, especially writing. Anoushka Klaus is a recent find. She's appeared in Shortland Street and Nothing Trivial, in lots of theatre (including Girl In Tan Boots, F*ck Love, Golden Boys and The Sex Show) and in three features, including Bloodlines, written by Donna Malane and Paula Boock (Best Script NZWG awards 2010) and directed by Peter Burger.

Anoushka produced her latest feature, Jake, a sci-fi movie just out in New Zealand. Jake will be playing at the Paramount in Wellington from 11 July, when there'll be a Q & A session hosted by Jonathan King. It's had great reviews–
'Imaginative and endlessly witty.' – Sarah Watt Sunday Star Times
'The smartest bit of low-fi high-IQ science fiction New Zealand has produced.' – David Larsen Listener
'An entertaining and insightful slice of Twilight Zone-ish fun.' Dominic Corry Flicks.co.nz


Tell me a little bit about your pathways, as an actor, and from acting to producing.

I came to acting via a somewhat different route than most, so my journey is actually in the reverse – producing to acting. I always wanted to be an actor but while I was at university I had put on weight and lost the confidence I needed to pursue acting properly. I had an agent and I was creating and performing in plays, singing and dancing publicly but for some reason pursuing acting professionally just became too scary so I turned to directing and producing my own short films for a few years as it seemed the closest I could get to acting without 'acting'.

Then, as fate would have it, I decided to do Meisner as a means of becoming a 'better director' and by the end of the first class I knew I was kidding myself. This was around the time I met Alastair. Al and I were both working at Images & Sound and he was doing the titles for a short film I'd made when he invited me to join Hybrid for their weekend 'filmmaking practices'.

When Jake first came up, I was going to be a much smaller role but we entered the 48hour film competition right before we went into casting and on the strength of my performance Doug offered me the role of Violet.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Gaylene Preston on Her Earthquake Experiences



In an hour the first of three ninety-minute episodes of Gaylene Preston's Hope and Wire will debut on New Zealand television. 

When I saw half of tonight's episode, a while back, I liked how it seemed to bring ALL of Gaylene's skills and experience together in one space in an interesting example of media convergence. Gaylene as a veteran writer/director/producer. Gaylene as doco maker and oral historian. Gaylene as creator of screen fiction. (And Gaylene as enthusiastic community member. As highly politicised community member.)

If you're not familiar with her work, think of Gaylene as a kind of New Zealand Charles Dickens (Oliver Twist, Bleak House, Hard Times). Or Alison Bechdel (Dykes To Watch Out For, Fun Home, Are You My Mother?). Or our very own Callie Khouri (Thelma & Louise, Nashville). I think Hope and Wire may be the work she will be most remembered for.




The run-up to the screening has been quite a trip for Gaylene; she's needed her hard hat. I've been collecting the press articles here and am delighted to reprint one of them, Gaylene's personal earthquakes story. And I think my mate will like it too. The one who used to live in Christchurch. The one who just texted me about wanting and not wanting to watch Hope and Wire. Thanks, GP!

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

From The Lighthouse – the Swedish Film Institute's Anna Serner

Anna Serner

I love Le Deuxième Regard, the French network for cinema professionals that aims to challenge ideas about about the place of women in cinema. It's the group (remember?) that made history with the Charte Pour l’Égalité Entre Les Femmes et Les Hommes Dans Le Secteur Du Cinéma, the Charte de l’Égalité for short. This year, it continued its good work within a strong collaborative publishing programme programme from Cannes.




Le Deuxième Regard also produces an excellent monthly newsletter. This month's newsletter features an interview with Anna Serner, director of the Swedish Film Institute, that legendary state funding body where where gender equity policies are more developed than anywhere else in the world – it's a lighthouse for every woman filmmaker in a country which has a state film fund (it also keeps track of gender statistics in some other countries) and maybe a lighthouse for all the other film funds, too. And the results of its policies are beginning to show, as in this year's list of nominations for the Guldbagge Awards.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Disappointment, Gratitude & A Call For Help

Eleven

Disappointment

It's New Zealand International Film Festival (#nziff) Time! Again. I've asked if the festival will follow Cannes' example and release details about how many women-directed works were submitted this year. My request was passed on to the programmers. No response yet.

And now the New Zealand feature-length selections have been announced, plus a doco by Florian Habicht which was not on the initial list (perhaps there are more to come).

Five narrative features. Not one has a woman writer or director. Only one, Gerard Johnstone's Housebound, has a woman protagonist.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Sophie Henderson and Fantail


Fantail opens in New Zealand cinemas this Thursday, 5 June. It’s the story of service station worker Tania, a blonde-haired, blue-eyed woman who identifies as Maori, working to take her little bro Pi to Surfer’s to find their Dad. But flitting Pi causes plans to go awry. (The Maori myth of Hine-Nui-Te-Po, Maui and the fantail/piwakawaka is its starting point, see links below if you're unfamiliar with the story.)

Fantail was made through the New Zealand Film Commission’s low-budget Escalator scheme and it's been very successful. It premiered at the New Zealand International Film Festival last year and screened at the International Film Festival Rotterdam, where Level K snapped up the global rights (Curious Film has the Australian and New Zealand distribution rights). It received eight nominations at the New Zealand Film Awards 2013, including a nomination for Best Film. And the reviews are very enthusiastic, too, look at all those stars! I'm excited because Fantail has a woman protagonist – true for only 14% of New Zealand Film Commission-funded features over the last decade – and it's written by a woman, Sophie Henderson, who also plays the lead role.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Jane Campion at #Cannes2014; & A series about Cannes and the Bechdel Test



There have been many reports of Jane Campion's statements at the Cannes press conference for the main jury, where she said, in response to a question about 'inherent sexism'–
There is some inherent sexism in the industry. Thierry Frémaux told us that us only 7% out of the 1,800 films submitted to the Cannes Film Festival were directed by women. He was proud to say that we had 20% in all of the programs. Nevertheless, it feels very undemocratic, and women do notice. Time and time again we don’t get our share of representation. Excuse me gentlemen, but the guys seem to eat all the cake. It’s not that I resent the male filmmakers. I love all of them. But there is something that women are thinking of doing that we don’t get to know enough about. It’s always a surprise when a woman filmmaker does come about.
But, as president of the jury, she's also been interviewed many times, and it seems that every time she's spoken, she's addressed the 'woman question'. Staunchly. Even in her speech on opening night. I've been collecting links here. And she's provided new information, a transparency that's unique to date. For instance, we've never before heard what proportion of films submitted to Cannes were directed by women.

In one interview, with Libération (a French daily newspaper founded in Paris by Jean-Paul Sartre and Serge July in 1973 in the wake of the protest movements of May 1968), Jane Campion reveals that she suggested that the jury be all women. With help from Sue Sullivan – many thanks, Sue! – here's a translation of part of the published interview. We don't know whether the interview was originally in French or whether Libération translated from English, and now we've put it back into English, it's maybe a slightly different English. Whichever, we hope this is accurate.

Have Gilles Jacob and Thierry Frémaux provided you with rules that govern your presidency?

Ah yes, there are, how to say it... (she stands up) a kind of little regulation (she goes to rummage in her handbag and fishes out a folded paper, brings it back to our table, consults it briefly and refolds it). All the rules are made to be broken, I presume, like the fact that we mustn’t award a second Palme d’Or to a director who’s already had one, even though there are examples of this having been done. Someone also explained to me that if it’s difficult to choose between two contenders, it’s better to choose the one whose work will reach the largest audience… It’s an interesting question… (The idea that this isn’t necessarily her view flies into the silence.)

Have you contributed to the jury selection?

I had a conversation about this with Thierry. I mostly left it up to him, with his address book which is far superior to mine, saying to him that he should do what he wished. He asked me “Have you got enemies?” I don’t think so. (laughter) At some point, I suggested that he select a jury entirely of women. He didn’t respond.

Great idea though!

Yes, firstly because it would have been easy to find nine distinguished women, respected by everyone in the world of cinema. And it would have been interesting to imagine the contestants for the award asking how their films would be received by a jury of women. That would have been a change, because as a woman you spend your life asking yourself what the men are going to think of you and your work. I mentioned my idea to a male friend and he immediately replied “Oh no, that would be understood as a gender campaign.” That was an interesting response, too. There are sixteen male directors this year; it would have been amusing.

It looks like Jane Campion's sisterhood extends to the other women in the jury too (of course!). Here they are with Thierry Fremaux, on their way to view Alice Rohrwacher's Le Meraviglie (The Wonders), one of the two films by women in competition.



Cannes and the Bechdel Test

Also in Libération, a terrific Bechdel Test series, thanks to Tess Magazine, in partnership with Le Deuxième Regard, WIFT Sweden and Sweden's A-Rating. For next year, I'm going to improve my French!

New book of interviews with Jane Campion launched

And finally, I've just seen a report of a new book of interviews with Jane Campion, by Michel Ciment. The photo at the top is of Jane in conversation with Michel on Saturday. This one, of Jane in 1979, taken by John Lethbridge, ends the report. A lovely closing bracket. (And I'll be limping through the text of that report asap, lots more quotes there from this wonderful woman!)


Saturday, May 3, 2014

Who Will Speak These Days, If Not I, If Not You?

It's been a while. I've been writing an essay for a book: Women Screenwriters: An International Guide, edited by Jill Nelmes and Jule Nelbo, to be published by Palgrave Macmillan. I had to catch up with New Zealand women's screenwriting for features, and I've been wholly absorbed with that. What an amazing and talented and diverse group our women screenwriters are, and very generous with their time, answering my questionnaire, expanding on their responses by email, phone and in person. Asking me questions. I learned lots. Today's most interesting women screenwriter facts? In the last decade 14 percent of New Zealand Film Commission-funded feature films had female protagonists. But over 70 percent of my respondents' feature film scripts had female protagonists. Questionnaires are still coming in and I'll take another look at them all in a future post. Many thanks to Katalin Galambos for her help with the stats.

Now the chapter's done, except for editing conversations, and I'm back. With news of four books. And a poem. Like writing that chapter, in their various ways they remind me of Muriel Rukeyser's question in her poem The Speed of Darkness, which I've used as the title of this post. And of Jacqui Scott's involvement in courageous campaigns against the (ab)use of vaginal mesh and in a personal campaign to fund removal of the mesh inserted into her after she was raped.



First up– Celluloid Ceiling; Women Film Directors Breaking Through, edited by Gabrielle Kelly and Cheryl Robson, who both work in film, so it's not an 'academic' book. I'm still reading this and hope to interview the editors before too long. So far, I've most enjoyed a reprinted Ana Maria Bahiana interview with Kathryn Bigelow (from 1992). Look out for Sophie Mayer's review, forthcoming over at The F Word.


Then there's Bridget Conor's Creative Labor and Professional Practice. I haven't it yet seen but am looking forward to a careful read. It "analyzes the histories, practices, identities and subjects which form and shape the daily working lives of screenwriters" and includes a chapter on inequalities. Bridget's a New Zealander, whose earlier analysed the political economy of the New Zealand film industry and the ‘runaway production’ phenomenon in the context of the filming of The Lord of The Rings trilogy.


I read some of Helen Rickerby's Cinema in Unity Books and loved it. Am debating whether to buy these poems and probably will, though I own only a couple of dozen books and rarely buy them. Here's Paula Green's review, which is better than anything I could write.



Then there's Snakes' I Hate Plot. 'Snakes' is New Zealand filmmaker Rachel Davies and I Hate Plot is astonishing and breathtaking and gave great thumps to my heart. I read it in a single gulp and decided that Rachel is New Zealand's Nora Ephron, but without anxiety about how her neck looks. The title story alone is a must read for any woman with connections to the film 'world'. I think I Hate Plot is an instant classic, and now it's forever grouped in my mind with Virginia Woolf's A Room of Her Own and Tillie Olsen's Silences and Audre Lorde's Sister Outsider. You can download a Kindle edition for free until Monday (U.S time). But if you want to read any of these books, why not order them from your local bookshop?

Finally, Fiona Lovatt's #bringbackourgirls poem. Fiona lives and works in Nigeria and is one of my heroines. Another New Zealander.

Night After Night

Night after night after night
They drop the K: no knights.
No chivalry. No rescue.

Night after night after night
The girls remain in the forest
While submarines sweep the ocean
Searching for a black box.

Night after night after night
Women's stories, women's lives
Rank as nothing without heels

So we wear red today
We march today
We weep today
We ask today for
Knight after knight

To saddle up



Sunday, April 6, 2014

Sophie Hyde on '52 Tuesdays' & a whole lot more...


Australian women directors did brilliantly at Sundance. Jennifer Kent’s The Babadook, a horror about a single mother losing her grip on reality, enjoyed rave reviews and will be distributed in the United States and Latin America. Ashlee Page won a prestigious Sundance Institute | Mahindra Global Filmmaking Award (given in recognition and support of emerging independent filmmakers from around the world), for her single character feature Archive. And Sophie Hyde won the Directing Award: World Cinema Dramatic for 52 Tuesdays (for which she co-wrote the story with the screenwriter, Matthew Cormack). 52 Tuesdays then won a Crystal Bear, for the Best Youth Film, at the Berlinale.

Sophie Hyde & her Silver Bear
52 Tuesdays' logline is '16-year-old Billie’s reluctant path to independence is accelerated when her mother reveals plans for gender transition and their time together becomes limited to Tuesday afternoons'. And although it’s a drama, not a documentary, it was shot chronologically every Tuesday for a year: the filmmakers set themselves a rule, that they could only shoot on Tuesdays up until midnight and only consecutively, so whatever filmed on that day is what happens in the story on that day. All the actors are non-professionals. Before 52 Tuesdays, Sophie directed three narrative shorts and a short documentary and co-directed Life in Movement, a feature documentary about choreographer Tanja Liedtke. She’s also a writer and producer.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Making Noise, Hearing Noise, by Pip Adam


Lake Bell’s In A World… is a film about voice. Which, if you stop to think about it for even a second, is a pretty odd thing. We watch movies, we go to see them. Film is a ‘visual’ medium. This strange transplant of an audial mode in a visually-dominated domain made me think about the noises we make and how these are heard.

In A World...’s protagonist Carole Solomon (Lake Bell) is a voice coach and daughter of the successful voice artist, Sam Sotto (Fred Melamed). The film begins with the death of the real Don LaFontaine voice of over 5,000 movie trailers and inseparable from the phrase ‘In a world…’. With the appearance of LaFontaine, movie trailers are positioned as the pinnacle of voice acting work. Which makes you think, When was the last time I heard a woman voicing a movie trailer?

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

The Lauzen-Silverstein Test

One of Walt Hickey's tables

Yesterday, a man called Walt Hickey published his excellent analysis of The Dollar-And-Cents Case Against Hollywood’s Exclusion of Women. Sure, in stating that 'Movies that are female-driven do not travel...maybe with the exception of Sandra Bullock' and that 'recently, Hollywood has been able to boast about the success of female-dominated films in the marketplace', he and his informants seem to have forgotten, for example, that Meryl Streep films travel superbly well. And have been doing so for years. And, as Alice Lytton points out in her lovely response, the money's just part of the story.

But the article does show that using the Bechdel Test as a default measure for how women are represented in films doesn't work. I treasure films that – consciously or unconsciously – embrace the Bechdel Test and run with it and am always happy when even a short sequence in a film passes the test. But all the Bechdel Test can do is measure whether two women in the film talk to each other about something other than men. Cherishing women's conversations about something other than men is important. I hope that the Swedish A-Rating idea becomes embedded in cinema-going round the world to remind us of this. However, it's necessary to find other ways to measure how women are represented on screen.

Melissa Silverstein, with a hat-tip to Martha Lauzen, has just suggested a new form of measurement, with these criteria–
1) Does the film have a female lead or leads?

2) Does the woman/women have agency in her/their life, i.e., is she a real and meaningful character?

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

News From The Front LIne

Haifaa al-Mansour on set
There's been some amazing reading this week, from women who are both practitioners (screenwriters, actors, directors) and activists. Courageous inventive women, whose tweets I follow avidly. They're all problem solvers. They analyse the problems that face diverse women who want to participate in filmmaking, as the storytellers. They experiment with ways to address those problems. They inspire me. I love them!

First, Kate Kaminski's remarkable Rocking the Boat: A Call for Solidarity. Kate makes films and is co-director of The Bluestocking series, the only Bechdel Test film fest I know of. Her call isn't new. Almost exactly five years ago, for example, Women & Hollywood published A Young Voice From The Trenches that also questioned how women in film undermine other women. But Kate also provides suggestions about how we can make a difference. This week, Kate started a new Pinterest board, Action! Women Directing, Women Shooting!, too. (Twitter Kate, Bluestocking Films)

Then Anatomy: The Making of Wadjda, by Haifaa al-Mansour. It has a hidden treasure, an embedded pdf that details problems and solutions from making her marvellous Wadjda. (Twitter)



Sunday, March 23, 2014

Women Directors of Feature Films in New Zealand


Dana Rotberg shooting White Lies|Tuakiri Huna

Last week, two lovely people questioned me about my work. I don't look back at it often, but returned to my PhD thesis and various statistics-oriented posts I'd almost forgotten, like this one and this one. And then remembered a survey that I wrote for Geoff Lealand, the New Zealand editor of the second edition of the Directory of World Cinema: Australia and New Zealand. When I looked at it again, I realised that even in the year since I wrote it lots has changed. (I think you can also tell that I don't enjoy writing 'academic', am much happier in real-time immediate responses). 

So here it is while some of it's still relevant and to accompany Matthew Hammett Knott's interview with me, for his Heroines of Cinema series (blush). 

If I were writing a survey today, I'd include all the short films New Zealand actresses write and direct and their potential as multihyphenates. I'd include Marama Killen's self-funded feature, Kaikahu Road. I'd add more about webseries. And more--

And I'd love to know what you question, or think is missing. That would help me as I research and write a New Zealand chapter for a book about women screenwriters around the world. Have at it, please, in the comments, emails, tweets, on Facebook, on the phone, in the supermarket.

Whenever women directors are grouped together in an international context, New Zealand’s Jane Campion is always among the first mentioned. Niki Caro, Christine Jeffs and Alison Maclean are often included too. This global reputation is remarkable when New Zealand’s population is only 4.4 million. Within New Zealand, Gaylene Preston is prominent as well, with a career that outstrips that of any director of her generation. These women’s collective presence is so strong that until very recently it was generally believed that New Zealand had no woman director ‘problem’. But the low numbers of feature films directed by – and about – women are similar to those in many other countries. In the ten years to December 2012, women wrote and directed 12 per cent of feature films made in New Zealand by New Zealanders, men wrote and directed 72 per cent and the balance had mixed gender writer/director teams. Five per cent of feature films had women as writers and directors and a female central protagonist and a further 5 per cent that men wrote and directed also told stories about women.

The New Zealand Film Commission (NZFC), the state funding body, has no gender equity policy and, unlike Screen Australia, it does not generate gender data [September 2014: I now know that it has the raw data but does not publish it]. Recent research, however, shows that it consistently invests far less in women-directed narrative feature films than in men’s. It also invests much less in women’s projects on the pathways to feature film-making (short films, feature development funding and talent investment programmes). The research also shows that women directors tend to be represented in NZFC investments in the proportion that they (or their producers) apply to the various programmes, with occasional exceptions. For example, although women were attached as directors to 27 percent of the successful NZFC Fresh Shorts programme in 2012 and this roughly reflected their representation in applications, in 2011 when the applications were at the same level, half the successful projects had women directors attached. Outside NZFC-funded projects, women directors tend to be better represented in telemovies funded by NZ On Air (NZOA) than in NZFC-funded features. Many women direct documentaries, some of them with a global perspective, but there are no documentary-specific statistics. (In 2013 the NZFC and NZOA established new documentary funds so it will soon be possible to track those.)

New Zealand women directors are also profoundly under-represented in ‘self-funded’ feature film-making, undertaken with an un(der)paid cast and crew and dependent on in-kind support of equipment and other resources from individuals, institutions and crowd-funding. In a recent list of New Zealand feature films made over the past decade, of all the features written and directed by women, just one was self-funded, Athina Tsoulis’s Jinx Sister (2008), 6 per cent, while of the films written and directed by men the proportion was 36 per cent. Two more, Astrid Glitter’s John (2005), and Rosemary Riddell’s The Insatiable Moon (2010) were written by men. Andrea Bosshard co-directed two, Taking the Waewae Express (2007) and Hook, Line & Sinker (2011). Alyx Duncan’s The Red House won the Sorta Unofficial New Zealand Film Awards (the MOAs) Best Self-Funded Film Award in 2012, but was partially funded under the Screen Innovation Production Fund – a now defunct Creative New Zealand programme – by Asia New Zealand and by the NZFC for post-production. There is to date only one New Zealand webseries written or directed by a woman, Roseanne Liang’s Flat3 (2012). Women directors are a tiny minority in the local 48 Hours competition; and in a recent major Make My Movie competition organized by people also involved in 48 Hours, women directors’ representation in the twelve finalists was limited to one co-director.

It is not possible to identify definitively the factors that affect women’s participation as feature film directors in New Zealand. The starting point is always that a film director’s life is very demanding for anyone, woman or man. Gaylene Preston has speculated that there are few women directors in the 48 Hours competition because women participate strongly in ‘director’ roles alongside men right up to the moment that shooting starts, but at that point they tend to take one step back and the men take one step forward. She suggests that this stepping forward/stepping back could be negotiated so that more women get directing experience and take responsibility for what appears in the frame. If this ‘stepping back’ exists in 48 Hours, perhaps its presence supports the view that it is pervasive on all the pathways to feature film-making, because many women are less ‘competitive’ and less ‘obsessive’ than men. It may also help explain why many more women are producers than directors and why many women prefer to produce projects by and about men.