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Short Film Fund decisions: NZ Film Commission opts to fund men and women equally?

It's that logo again! And more great news for women filmmakers.

Every year, the New Zealand Film Commission appoints three executive producer groups to select and  manage a total of nine projects funded through the Short Film Fund. Over the last few years, this programme has invested much less in projects written and directed by women than in projects written and directed by men (see 28 April post).

In this year's short list, of twenty-seven films, twenty-four had only male or only female storytellers (writers and directors). But just seven of these single gender projects (29%) had only women as the storytellers. Seventeen single gender projects had only men. So I sighed, and thought, oh, nothing's changed. 

But the Film Commission has now announced eight of the nine greenlit projects—the ninth due shortly—in its latest newsletter. And YAY women wrote and directed four (57%) of the single gender projects selected and a woman will direct a fifth project, that she co-wrote with men. Here's the list:

writer Branwen Millar (also a playwright; & graduate of Victoria University's Institute of Modern Letters scriptwriting MA) director Katie Wolfe, producers Rachel Lorimer and Felicity Letcher

writer/director Zia Mandviwalla, producer Owen Hughes

writer/director Suzy Jowsey Featherstone, producer Annelise Yarrell

(Do they know about writer/director Rachel Davies' Sweetness, one of my favorite short films ever? A classic: here's a still. View Sweetness here.)

The Winter Boy
writer Kylie Meehan, director Rachel House, producer Hineani Melbourne

As well, Jane Shearer will direct Bird, one of the other selected projects, which she co-wrote with Greg King and Steve Ayson.

And it's great news for us scriptwriters that two of the four women's projects are written by women who are primarily writers, always good to see that.

It seems that the Film Commission may be moving towards equal funding for men and women writers and directors in all their programmes, and that's wonderful. The Commission may be the first state-funded film agency in the world to do this. But, because the changes have been so rapid, I have a few questions, & would be interested in yours:
  1. Will the new balance of representation be sustainable without appropriate legislation? (I doubt it, and so does a gender expert/public servant I spoke with the other day.)
  2. Is the Commission thinking strategically? Does it have a coherent gender plan? Is it thinking about women as film audiences or only women as storytellers? Are some women writers and directors going to be encouraged to experiment? Are they (we) going to be allowed to fail—artistically and/or commercially—and then get another chance, as some men have done in the past?
  3. What about Maori women? A older, highly-networked, Maori woman told me yesterday that Pakeha women writers and directors who want to make features may face a glass (or celluloid) ceiling, but Maori women writers and directors face a heavily steel-reinforced concrete wall.
  4. Has the Commission considered how to advance the careers of women writers and directors in their thirties and early forties who missed out over the last decade or so when the Commission could 'only cope with one of us women at a time' as feature writers & directors? There's a large cohort of these talented, skilled, women, who've made their successful short films and—I imagine—have feature scripts ready to go. I want to see their stories up there on the screen soon, along with those of the younger women now making shorts. 


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