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Equal Rights, Equal Opportunity: Progress For All

1. I love the ideas and invitations that come through Facebook and Twitter. So when shazbennett tweeted “I hope at least one girl wears a tux on the red carpet tomorrow”, I re-found an old newspaper clipping of me in a tux (thanks, Sue, for that clippings book) and replaced the blue-for-Derek-Jarman image on my Facebook page. Arranged a big vase of sweet peas. I wanted to dress up somehow, somewhere, for Kathryn Bigelow, whether she won or not. (I felt so nervous during the Oscar ceremony. And after Jeff Bridges won his Oscar for Crazy Heart, I ran down the hill to see his movie rather than endure more waiting.)

And this morning I’m imagining Kathryn Bigelow using her two statues for a little post-party weight training (I’ve read that she likes to be ‘strong’, no surprise). What a stunning International Women's Day for women filmmakers, as we celebrate her achievement.

In interviews, I’ve heard Kathryn Bigelow talk about ‘tenacity’, many times. So again, it’s no surprise to read that she said ‘I am grateful if I can inspire some young intrepid tenacious male or female filmmaker, make them feel the impossible is possible’. So although this International Women’s Day post starts with celebration, it’s mostly about tenacity. Acknowledging the tenacity of women who live not too far from Jordan where The Hurt Locker was shot, the women of Nasawiya in Lebanon and of the Women’s Rights Movement in Iran And reminding myself to be tenacious, too. Thanks, Gender Across Borders, for suggesting a theme for your blogfest: Equal Rights, Equal Opportunity: Progress for All. Because today that's enhanced my tenacity.

As writers based in New York, London, and Los Angeles have shown, it may be terrific that a woman has finally won an Oscar for directing a feature, but women filmmakers have a long way to go. What needs to change? In New Zealand, a changed culture at the New Zealand Film Commission (NZFC)—our state film funding body—would be a great start.

2. A few weeks back I went to an NZFC launch of its Escalator/ Te Whakapiki initiative, featuring a masterclass (chaired by Jonathan King) with two guys from Shifty, a successful film about a young crack cocaine dealer, made through the British equivalent low budget programme. Each year for the next three years, Escalator/ Te Whakapiki will provide four teams of ‘talented, visionary filmmakers’ with $250,000 each to make an ‘edgy, challenging’ first feature film. The initiative’s ‘all about teams’ AND ‘specifically designed to support directors who are ready to step up to their first feature film’. The NZFC’s intention is that ‘each of the four films will act as a stepping-stone to bigger features for writers, directors, producers and crew’.

We’d recently spent our first two days filming Development-the-movie and knew we were going to have to increase our budget, but NZFC programmes like Escalator/ Te Whakapiki are not for us. But I thought I might learn some low-budget tips from the masterclass and was of course curious, after three years of monitoring NZFC programmes for my thesis. So I went down the road to the Paramount, my favorite movie theatre, to join in.

I lasted an hour and a half of the day-long programme, for pheromonal reasons, I realised later. Sitting in the Paramount was like being in the room when the men in our family play cards: testosterone beats out gender-neutral adrenalin every time. (It’s different when the extended, mixed-gender, family plays Racing Demon.) I needed to escape. I laughed at myself: You wimp, I thought.

But a couple of days further on, when I saw that although about 40% of fans on the Escalator/ Te Whakapiki Facebook page are women, only men are contributing to the conversations, I thought again. 'Where are the women's voices?' I wondered. And, ‘Hold on! Does the NZFC realise that Escalator/ Te Whakapiki provides a golden opportunity to experiment with strategies to redress the profound gender imbalance in their investment of public money?’ Perhaps not, perhaps because Escalator/ Te Whakapiki appears to exist within a particular history.

As I understand it, not too long ago the NZFC set up another low-budget initiative, for which Headstrong—producers Ant Timpson (the founder of the local 48 hour film competition now known as V48), Paul Swadel (now a development executive at the NZFC) and Leanne Saunders—won the tender. They produced two films before the initiative ended, with another group of features (still) in development with Headstrong the company. Men write and direct all their projects.

The NZFC knows, because I’ve reported the results of my research (a sample here) to staff members who still work there, that New Zealand women film writers and directors—our storytellers

• Want to make films
• Are talented: some of our foremost filmmakers are women, and women have a better track record than men at getting their NZFC-funded short films into ‘A-list’ film festivals (1997-2007)
• Made only 16% of the 30 NZFC-funded features 2003-2008
• Made only 9% of the 75 features made in New Zealand by New Zealanders 2003-2008 (including the 30 NZFC-funded films)
• Do not participate in great numbers as the storytellers in the 48 hour film competition now known as V48
• Often tell stories differently than men do (see here—sometimes the link doesn't work but the post's there—and here)
• Often compete differently than men and may compete better if we know that resources are set aside for women (researchers have found that ‘…a quota-like affirmative action environment in which women must be equally represented encourages many more women to compete’: Niederle and Vesterlund “Gender differences in competition.” Negotiation Journal October 2008)
• Are sometimes unsupported by women producers and decision-makers, for reasons that have nothing to do with the quality of the filmmakers’ work
• Sometimes have difficulties attracting the necessary international investment in their projects because of international attitudes towards ‘women’s’ projects

And the NZFC acknowledged over two years ago that it has a ‘gender problem’. The problem includes groups of problems within specific programmes. In relation to short filmmaking, for example, there's the problem that fewer women than men have made their first features after doing well with their NZFC-funded short films. And the problem that NZFC’s commitment to investment in women’s short filmmaking has been variable over the last few years, although it knows about the ‘gender problem’, and knows how well women’s short films do at ‘A’-list festivals: this year of 22 short-listed Short Film Fund projects women wrote only 13%.

3. So I wrote to the NZFC people I'd had contact with:
Can you let me know please, what strategies are in place to ensure that women directors and writers participate more strongly in Escalator than they generally do in NZFC initiatives?

I wish I didn’t feel I have to ask this question but I’m concerned for the following reasons:

At the Wellington launch it seemed to me that the audience was about 60% men, 40% women, and I think that the proportion of women there who were primarily producers rather than writers/directors was higher than the proportion of men who were primarily producers. But you have the list of who was there and I’ll love it if you tell me I’m wrong.

Also at the launch, the completely male panel put me off —though I wasn’t planning on becoming involved, but was really interested because Escalator seems in many ways a great idea—and I wonder if it made a difference to other women; I totally understand why it was so male, but a woman/women somewhere in there would have been terrific.

I’m working on an analysis of the Film Commission Review submissions for someone at the moment, went to a link Ant Timpson gave in his submission on Facebook and then to the Escalator page, and it’s remarkable how few women are contributing to lo-budget conversations (&, I’m not sure why, I hesitate to participate myself though I love Facebook, & am happy contributing to various international conversations online, though usually with women filmmakers).

I agree with those who say that Escalator has a kind of V48 feel and I know that women are not strongly represented as writers and directors in the V48 teams in past years; maybe it’s not a ‘feel’ that suits women.

Few New Zealand women writers and directors have participated in low budget filmmaking to date…(etc)

In the submissions you’ve had so far, is there an equal proportion of women and men storytellers (writers and directors) in the teams? I’d love to hear a ‘yes’ (if it’s true). If not, please can you work on achieving gender equity in the NZFC investment in writers and directors over those three Escalator years? It’s now over two years since the NZFC acknowledged that there is a gender problem within its programmes, and that’s given you a bit of time to consider possible solutions.

Do you really want to exclude the potential contributions of half the population, by failing to investigate/address the problem? Or have you got wonderful ideas no-one knows about yet? I so so hope you have—

I haven’t received any answers yet. Just some responses to my concerns, all from other scriptwriters. From one of my favorites (a man): ‘It feels to me like your frustration lies with women not stepping up to the plate as directors and writers. I really don’t see how that can be fixed unless -- well -- More women step up’. From a 21-year-old woman who suggested that women’s sports team experiences are different and perhaps less easily transferable to filmmaking than men’s: her netball team had been catty. She also supported another guy’s suggestion that women filmmakers are disadvantaged because they have less exposure to computers and to filming gear from an early age; this surprised me because I thought young people’s fluency with computers and probably with film gear was not gendered. From a woman who reminded me that the celluloid ceiling for pakeha women is a concrete wall for Maori women: this is a significant problem because our national founding document is the Treaty of Waitangi.

In the meantime, I chanced on an article about changing cultures when women’s participation is problematic.

4. I’d been thinking about how to use my brand new PhD in creative writing with my law masters, to get work. I have a contract to analyse the submissions to the government's NZFC Review, undertaken last year by Peter Jackson and David Court. But that won’t take long. So I wondered about advertising in LawTalk the New Zealand Law Society publication, to see if any lawyers could use a writer. And when I looked there—I love the serendipity—I found Brigid McArthur’s article in the latest issue, about the glass ceiling that prevents women lawyers becoming partners.

Brigid McArthur's a partner in a major law firm where women are partners in about the same low proportion as women directors’ and writers’ share of the feature projects funded by the NZFC 2003-2009. ‘Much of the change that has to happen is attitudinal’, she writes, ‘and attitudes are often unconscious and hard to shift’. She names ‘systemic failure’ as the cause of women’s low participation as partners. This failure carries financial and social cost, ‘not just for the women who are lost to the firm but for our clients and for the firm as a whole’. In my view, a similar systemic failure within the NZFC costs the women who are lost to the industry. It costs audiences too, and it costs the industry as a whole.

Brigid McArthur refers to research that’s found that when businesses recruit, train and promote women they make better and more innovative decisions, produce better products and ultimately attain better financial results than more traditional firms, and quotes Mary Cranston, the first woman to lead a large United States law firm: ‘it’s crystal clear that you can’t win the war for talent without winning the war for women’. To win the war for talent and for women (and with The Hurt Locker’s success the war metaphor seems apposite) cultural changes are necessary, to ensure that women have confidence that they will be given opportunities to develop their career ambitions. To make these cultural changes, Brigid McArthur’s firm has instituted an active programme; the NZFC could do the same with Escalator/ Te Whakapiki. I hope it will.

5. What could the NZFC do quickly and easily to acknowledge its systemic failure and the difficulties of changing unconscious attitudes, to win the war for talent and for women, and to encourage women to step up and participate in Escalator/ Te Whakapiki? Especially as the filmmakers selected will be fully funded in New Zealand and, if women, will not have to deal with—as is common with feature films—international funders’ attitudes towards women’s projects. And especially as those twelve whose projects are selected for Escalator/ Te Whakapihi are likely to have opportunities to go on to larger projects. Providing information about the initiative is not enough, in my view. Here are some ideas:

• Ring fence a portion of the money available: I suggest following the Swedish Film Institute’s example, by deciding to allocate no less than 40% to projects with women as writers and directors, and no less than 40% to projects with men as writers and directors: say five films each with some discretion over the remaining two, are films that have a woman writer and a man as director, or vice versa
• Extend individual invitations to each woman writer and director who contributed to an NZFC-funded short film over the last decade
• Seek advice from Maori women’s television companies, about talent and how to nurture it
• Check out the women who’ve applied unsuccessfully to recent Short Film Fund programmes: are some of them ready to step up?
• Monitor the applications and seek more women’s applications, unless women writers and directors are attached at least 40% of the applications: if necessary ask individual women, especially Maori women, what would encourage them to apply
• Ask the industry guilds to extend a specific, warm and enthusiastic invitation to women filmmakers, on NZFC’s behalf, seeking our active participation as storytellers
• Bring in distinguished woman practitioners from other mediums and women filmmakers who are ineligible for the initiative to assess proposals and to plan the second stage of the programme, a boot camp for selected applicants. There’s a lot of collective wisdom out there about recognising and nurturing talent, successful storytelling, team work, and women as audiences. For example, in alphabetical order, and with some indications of the depth of experience available, and omitting the many well-known women who write and direct television where globally women are more strongly represented: Anne Salmond, Christine Jeffs, Cilla McQueen (an actor and visual artist as well as poet laureate), Eleanor Catton, Elizabeth Knox, Fiona Kidman (a script writer from way back), Gaylene Preston, Jenny Pattrick (a visual artist as well as a novelist), Joy Cowley (whose work’s been filmed in the past), Keri Hulme (trained as a director), Keri Kaa (a former NZFC assessor), Ngahuia Te Awekotuku, Niki Caro, Margaret Mahy (some of her work’s been filmed), Merata Mita, Patricia Grace, Renee, Riwia Brown, Roseanne Liang, Sima Urale.
• Make sure that some writers/directors/producers of completed features NOT funded by the NZFC share in the assessment an the planning for the boot camp, alongside other experienced and successful storytellers/producers like Indian Ink —there’s a wealth of experience and knowledge there, too, that could benefit women and men.
• Ask women writers and directors whose projects are selected for the boot camp what specific needs they would like met at the camp, if any
And that’s just for starters-- I'm sure others have more ideas, or will have, if they acknowledge that that equal opportunity means progress for all. Feel free you add them here, anonymously if you like. Or, maybe, someone will provide evidence that there's no problem (yet) with women's participation because 40% of the applications to date have women writers/directors. And that would be another reason to celebrate. More sweet peas, and some late roses, too.


  1. Thankyou for your passion and commitment to advocating for equal access for women. How do you keep your momentuum faced by these devastating stats? It boggles my mind that these issues are not getting more atention - especially when it is public money and our stories - women's stories are not getting told on the big screen.

  2. Wow Marian, what a wordsmith warrior you are. Glad too to see you are keeping forward on your own film. Feels like you are leading the charge by example, beating the bushes to get the rest of us up and flying while also agitating to distract as many keepers as possible so we can stay airborne. While also negotiating for the removal of some pretty conspicuous glass ceilings that have been overhanging for far too long.

    Thankyou and energy your way my friend

  3. Hi well done - It's a pleasure to see things verbalised as they then seem more real.

    The biggest problem is that when you say this stuff you either sound like a lesbian (irrelevant I know), a moaning minnie or a someone who makes mediocre stuff and just sits around whinging and expecting a free ride. Either that or people mention Jane Campion and Nikki Caro as sufficient reason for the fact women are doing OK.

    Suggestions I have:
    1 Create a space (like this) where women creatives can voice their frustration and discuss what they need.

    2 Create an awareness of the "female dollar" - if we can have a green dollar and a pink dollar I think it's time that economically we ally ourselves with goods, products and services that recognise women in key roles. In this way we might also find alliances with the women's global network set up by Helen Clark and Mei Chen.

    3 I've now set up a Trust, inspired in part by reading an online article by Marian, called Femmes d'Arts.
    The aim is to create a high quality cultural product made by women in key creative roles, foreground women's stories and create opportunities for women to upskill. For this to go ahead it would be great to talk to other women about how to move it forward. Afterall we don't want a multiplicity of things that do the same.

    One of the challenges I see is that, as a mother it is difficult for me to make a short film and have another project ready to go the following year. And I think this may affect others. As such, the idea is to create a label that people can work within and also open a space for this kind of dialogue.

    I'd love to hear from people who are also interested in this.

    Anyway, lastly to cheer you up, check out my trailer for a film that's still in post
    I'm really interested to know how it will play at festivals as it is such a women's story. Love to get feedback by the way.

    Well, good to get that off my chest!

    To cheer you all up, here's a trailer of the film I'm finishing the post on

  4. Thank you all for these beautiful, heartening, responses—and for the phone calls and emails that have come in.

    @anonymous(1) and Shirin:
    There are a whole lot of things that keep me going, and they don’t include whining.

    First, inspiration from wonderful Sally Potter: “For women the most important decision is often a deep and interior one: to give up being a victim now and forever. Don't wait for 'support' may not come in the form you long for. Instead try to remember that as a woman you hold up half the sky and that the world of imagination comes free of charge, is infinite and is yours”—

    Second, the knowledge that women have rights. New Zealand ratified the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) in 1985. So, as a state, New Zealand—and its agencies, like the NZFC—must encourage the participation of women in public life on equal terms with men (article 7). Telling stories on the big screen is one way to participate in public life. So the NZFC, as a state entity, must encourage women's access to its state-funded programmes.

    Third, the knowledge that women storytellers are central to the achievements of Peter Jackson as a director, and of South Pacific Pictures (I was astonished to read the other day that Whale Rider’s overseas revenue was $50,000,000): finding ways for women to contribute as writers and directors makes commercial sense.

    Fourth, my garden. Someone wrote the other day that they were irritated by writers writing about their gardens, using their gardens as a metaphor. My garden is not a metaphor. Fifth, friends and family, of course, including online mates I've never met in the flesh. Sixth, those quiet, happy, moments when I sit down at my table and open Final Draft.

    My experience too has been that often women filmmakers fear the consequences of speaking out. I loved reading your suggestions and hope you’ve had lots of responses. Will your Femmes d’Arts trust have a website? Is this the Global Women organization you mean:
    And, just a couple of days ago, Women & Hollywood had a post on the gender and movie tickets: And, in the States, “in the coveted demographic of 18-24, women make up 3.4 million filmgoers while men make up 3.1 million”.

    @anonymous(2): ‘Wordsmith warrior’?!!! That made me smile. Thank you.

    Now to the garden, to plant winter’s silver beet and lay some mulch.

  5. One email I've received brings together motherhood issues, similar to those women lawyers face, and which Brigid McArthur's firm is attempting to address as it changes its culture (see link above to her article), and the issue of women and technology that I heard about the other day (I'm deeply surprised that it is still an issue). Here's what the emailer wrote, with her permission and with many thanks to her:

    "One of the things that struck me was what a struggle it was being a solo mother and trying to make films. Although I think the solo is almost irrelevant because from what I can see women whether single or not still do most of the child rearing and caring.

    I tried, in making my film, to favour women and create opportunities for women but in fact,most of the crew (who all worked for free) were guys. And even now, what I realise is that the guys are much better at leaning on people who can get the job done for them, because they are all guys and they're all technosavvy. So they can sort out the music, and the colour grade and the sound design. But with the women, I'm finding there isn't the same skill base."

  6. More from email:
    "Re your blog - I've done the 48 hours for the last 5 years and that's been the impetus to go and do more. But it is all testosterone driven and I also lost interest in the low budget Swifty thing when I saw the story line."

  7. Good blog. Good that the cupboard is opened on this issue too. In the NZ context it would be interesting to see an update of the stats including the last couple of years. Off the top of my head i'm thinking: Pietra Bret-Kelly, Leanne Pooley, Annie Goldson (editing at the moment), Armaghn Ballantine (who had a baby halfway through her film), Simone Horrocks, Roseanne Liang (shooting right now and had just had a baby), Gaylene Preston, and Nikki Caro… and I may have missed some too. Some very strong shorts being made right now by women too.

  8. @anonymous (3):

    Thank you--The feature stats were the same in 2009 as for 2003-2008. None of my statistics include the strong contribution of women as documentary makers, because—like TV—docos are a completely different segment of the industry, even if they are feature length. As for shorts, women have historically done well with them, but from the information for the most recent Short Film Fund shortlists, they're not this year getting the opportunity to participate, except with Kura Shorts.

    I've had some really interesting conversations about when's the best time for a woman director to have her first baby and the consensus seems to be either very early, to get those pre-school years over, or after the first feature: Armagan Ballantyne and Roseanne Liang seem to have timed it well, to get the first feature and the baby around the same time?!

  9. Hmm - I reckon when docos become theatrical features - they are features - in terms of development, financing, distribution, release and servicing. Best ask the women at the coal-face. Very different proposition to TV - much like feature drama and TV drama. And Armagan and Roseanne - big ups for living life and making it work! Life is a many splendoured thing!

  10. Hi Marian - thanks for all your comments, you are a virago. I only managed to attend the very end of the Escalator presentation - due to a bit of post on my self-funded short film - and when one of the UK filmmakers suggested we should all be "kick ass mother-fuckers" I kinda cringed. When I introduced myself at the drinks afterwards - over a paid for wine as there was only beer - a seemingly deliberately male refreshment, or am I just being sexist? I said I was a "kick ass mother", nervous laughter ensued. Escalator is not aimed at women, especially middle aged ones like me. But hey, go hard, girls!

  11. @ anonymous (4):

    I agree with you. The boundaries between drama/documentary aren't always clear in terms of processes and outcomes. Especially with new forms of delivery, which mean that most things end up on some kind of small screen. And with a film like Apron Strings the boundary between a telemovie and a theatrical feature is permeable too.

    As well as the docos you mention I'm thinking of essay films like Rain of the Children and Home by Christmas, dramas that have documentary elements (I like Home by Christmas best of all Gaylene Preston's films, love its storytelling, the big screen intimacy and power of Tony Barry's extraordinary performance; & the trains).

    But I also think that development processes for documentary and fiction are different for me as a writer, in terms of research and ethics, and as an emotional/intellectual/creative exercise. Would like to know what others think.

    @anonymous (5)

    Laughing with pleasure at 'kick ass mother' is a great way to start my day: thank you.

    Virago??!! I looked it up and thought Well, there's a word to reclaim. Do I laugh enough to use it as a badge?

    The drinks thing is interesting, isn't it? Even at nightclubs I like a cuppa and a snack, but yes, beer says 'man' to me, though my women mates drink it sometimes.

    I keep coming back to a recent Women & Hollywood post, It reports MPAA research that shows that in 2009 in the movie going sector aged 12-24, there were 5.7 million men and 6.6 million women. Aged over 25, there were 7.9 million men and 9.1 million women. That says to me that there should be plenty of opportunity on Escalator for women aged 12 to 100. Go hard all of us!

  12. Some excerpts from another email (slightly edited):

    “If I can make one suggestion, it’s that the NZFC needs a mix of very tangible measures (but be careful not to set ‘quotas’ for women as they are easily attackable and can do more damage than good (‘of course she got it, there’s a quota’ versus ‘of course she got it, she’s brilliant’)), plus intangible: the industry probably really needs some training on unconscious bias – we are all guilty of it, men and women alike.

    Of the tangible, rather than have a fixed 40% of funding reserved, meaning that it is easy to judge award as no longer necessarily merit-based, it may be better to express that as an expectation of percentage (‘it is expected that as tangible initiatives are implemented and we re-examine how funding is awarded, NZFC will move closer to awarding [not necessarily 40]% of funding to women filmmakers’).

    One thing that struck me is the comment made to you by some guy – that what may really be frustrating you is the fact that other women don’t step up to the plate. I have actually at times myself thought this to be a not insignificant part of the problem, but the reality is that if it is, it’s for good reason – women do not step up for good reason, say, fear of rejection or ridicule, lack of confidence, a mistaken belief that all self-promotion is bad.”

    This email really made me think. I agree that one reason women do not step up is because of their experience of unconscious bias (like the beer provided at the Escalator/Te Whakapiki launch, see previous comments). Women writers have often written about mechanisms that express unconscious bias against women artists and writers: Joanna Russ in How to Suppress Women’s Writing; Virginia Woolf in various articles; and Tillie Olsen in Silences. And I recognized use of these mechanisms within the film industry during my research.

    But I’ll continue to advocate that Escalator/Te Whakapiki should follow the Swedish model and ringfence 40% of the funding for women writers/directors and 40% for men writers/directors (with the other 20% free for mixed gender projects etc) because:

    1. I think the model implies that ‘We want to hear and see stories that women tell as often stories that men tell’; to hear (see comments above again) from as many kickass mothers as kickass motherfuckers. And that’s a terrific idea.
    2. As screenwriter William Goldman said, in film ‘nobody knows anything’: risk’s inherent in filmmaking. Escalator/Te Whakapiki’s comparatively small investments mean that providing a structure to spread the risk more widely than usual both makes sense and is affordable.
    3. Merit’s not an issue here. The statistics show that New Zealand women short filmmakers (for instance) are more successful than men at getting their films into ‘A’ list festivals. Women can make films just as well as men. Can be as successful—critically and commercially— as often as men, and can fail as often, especially if they’re experimenting with unconventional script structures and ideas.
    4. State-funded institutions have to be fair.
    Ringfencing 40% for each gender acknowledges that there are factors other than merit that affect women’s AND men’s participation in state-funded feature filmmaking and that a quota for each gender helps lessen the impact of these other factors.
    5. Experiences of unconscious bias—and fear of it—lie behind some women’s reluctance to step up, and ‘…a quota-like affirmative action environment in which women must be equally represented encourages many more women to compete’ (see post).
    6. Given that women go to the movies more
    often than men (see comment above re the U.S. figures) it makes commercial sense to do everything possible to provide them with what they enjoy. Yes, men can write stories for women, but women are more likely to tell our stories in all their diversity, and with other women in mind as an audience.

  13. I'm not sure if a male's opinion is allowed here, but with the greatest of respect, I have not read such a load of sexist drivel for a long time.

    I agree with you on many things - that the 48hr and Escalator seem primarily like schemes set up for 21 year old boys to run around like arrogant idiots and make meaningless rubbish.

    Neither are for me either, but I'm not a woman. I'm just a slightly older married guy, who has his testosterone well under control, and shock horror, likes wine too.

    There's many things I do in life that are filled with 'boys', of all ages, doing boy stuff. I hate all of it - I've never fitted with that world and never will. But that doesn't mean I expect funds set aside just for me - what, maybe we should have a fund for "shy, retiring white 30 something men with no interest in beer, guns, or mother-fuckers"?

    Anyway, needless to say I've found this discussion quite offensive. We all find find it tough to get ahead - we all find people not like us offensive - and we all want extra help where we can get it. It doesn't mean we should all get it.

    But really, just get over it, and get on with it.

    thanks for the opportunity.

  14. Hi Anonymous chap.

    I get it, I do. It's hard to understand the problems of another group when you have some of your own. It's also hard to see problems when you live in a world where you benefit so directly (even if you do not actively participate) from a gender-slanted environment (even if you feel you don't).

    At this point in these kinds of dialogues, I wish I had the funds and resources to rent you a suit and a make-up artist, so that you could experience life in another social category. But alas that is not possible.

    All I have is my unending support for Marion's bravery in being vocal about issues that are salient for WOMEN (whoever that category may encompass) because without her and women like her, you as a man would still be lamenting my as a woman's cooking of pot-roast, and your poorly ironed shirts. Instead, you get to lament her supposedly 'offensive' (and I do apologise if you find women standing up to be heard and recognised to be offensive) blog.

    If that's not a mark of progress, then nothing is.

    All the best

  15. @ anonymous #6

    Thanks for contributing a view that I know others—men and women—share.

    Filmmaking’s hard yakka, whether you’re a woman or a man. But I know now that there are some specific cultural mechanisms that are particularly hard on writers and directors who are women. Over the last four years I’ve heard lots of stories about them. And I’ve cried when I’ve heard those stories. More than I thought I would, during an academic exercise.

    Perhaps we could have a cuppa sometime so we can talk about our views face to face? (I’m easy to find & I’m cooking my way to the perfect Anzac biscuit & you might like to try one---) Here’s a wee story for you, hoping you’ll smile.

    Yesterday I was waiting at the crossing near the supermarket. And so were three elderly people debating how best to get to their hotel (behind the supermarket), in French. I was tidily dressed (always an issue for me when approaching a French person) so I asked in my reasonable French, which people usually understand: “Are you lost”? The woman nearest to me said, in very slow and careful English “We are from France”. The conversation continued, me in French (because I like the practice) and her in English, perhaps because she likes the practice. I don’t think either of us felt understood; our talk ended when one of the Frenchwoman’s previously silent companions said, also very slowly and carefully and in English: “Thank you very much”. They returned to their debate. And I took off for home.

    @anonymous #7
    Thank you. Thank you.

    Another edited email, also with thanks:

    "Successful woman directors haven't stepped up to the mark - they've stepped OVER it - into international success. Maybe this is how good you need to be to succeed as a woman director. You have to be more talented - and if you are you leave NZ."

  16. An emailed ad (happy to post others) —

    "Filmmaker looking for Escalator/Te Whakapiki team: Aucklander looking for team of women or men, interested in telling good stories and in comedy. My interests are in writing and directing but I'm happy to write, collaborate as a writer on someone else's project, help produce. Have three ideas - family adventure story; slice of life relationship comedy; romantic comedy. Contact me at findshirin(at)"

    Good luck to everyone working towards the Escalator deadline this week.

    Coming soon, here, Screen Australia low-budget programme gender statistics--

  17. I've read all this with the kind of daze that comes of not being able to groan in tandem or talk back or affirm or intervene and thus have a brain abuzz with too many thoughts except this: I can but admire we women who knowing there is something more that holds women back from creativity - film or arts in general -than personal/gender defects, still go all out for telling our stories. Yay, wellywood woman and sister bloggers. I'd recommend getting "How to Suppress Women's Writing" on the compulsory reading list of every school/university in the world. There'd be less getting away with the accusations of 'whinging' etc. It takes quite a long time to reply to misogyny coolly with other than shut the f up etc, so I love the kick-ass mother response... Meantime: wonderful positive energy to you all.

  18. Kia ora Marian

    Great post! Really interesting to read all those statistics! Sad, but true! Thank you for your analysis.

    Systemic barriers are unfortunately real.Being a female and disabled I am pretty sure I would never have become a filmmaker if I had stayed in NZ...fortunately life, and opportunities intervened ( :

    Do you know about this event coming up October 2010?
    Women in View: SEX.MONEY.MEDIA

    I think I'll go right now and post a link to your article on their facebook page!

    I just sent off an article analyzing preschool cartoons on CBC, its pretty grim, male characters still outnumber female characters 2:1; as do male producers/directors making the shows outnumber female producers/directors 2:1

    I concluded:
    The reality of females working in children’s programming, seems to conform to their portrayal in CBC’s Doodlebops show - where humans play and dress as cartoon-like characters, and 80 percent of the characters are male. Deedee is fronting the Doodlebops – there are some women writers, directors, producers on these programs, but not many. Bus Driver Bob is driving the Doodlebops show bus – the Executive Directors and Producers are male. Audio Murphy is recording – the well paid technical jobs continue to go to men.


    Meg Torwl

  19. Typical female analysis of this issue, you know so much you're almost stupid. Your need for a degree of academic credibility in the facts, which you know and are willing to admit, cripple your ability to initiate change. I've been blackballed for over 20 years, have been the 1st woman at a couple of things. No woman has ever discussed the issues I write about. Most of them go to great lengths to silence me, because your security comes from discreetly aiding men in keeping other women "down". It's what women do in their everyday life, to act but particularly their failure to act for others that ensures their own failures.

  20. @ anonymous-second-to-latest
    Always love a wee rave and energetic well-wishing. And to hear from someone else who treasures Joanna Russ' work. Thanks a million.

    @Meg Thank you, so much. And thank you for the links, and for putting my link on the Women in View FB. I’m especially thrilled to have the Women in View link as through it I found Scottish Screen, its gender policy, & its report on its gender policy, the first I’ve ever seen attached to a state funder: It also has a disability equality scheme (same page). Makes me proud my children have a Scottish heritage!

    And I have a couple of questions. As I understand it, the Canadian gender statistics are as problematic for women filmmakers there as the New Zealand stats are for women filmmakers here in New Zealand. So why is it better for you there? Is it better for disabled people generally and that offsets the gender ‘thing’? I’d love to know if you have a minute.

    And many thanks for the details re your research, I always like to know more. Last year, a friend told me about Jonathan Gotschall, an evolutionary psychologist who did a comprehensive and cross-cultural investigation into feminist claims that female characters are under-represented and depicted negatively in folk- and fairy-tales. He found under-representation (3:1) of prominent female characters, that the percentage of active male protagonists significantly exceeds that of female protagonists and that there are almost always more references to female than male ‘beauty’. So it’s all fairly entrenched, no surprise to you or me--

    @ anonymous-the-latest
    Thank you. I’d like to know more. Especially about your experiences when you take action. What helps when you’re blackballed? What doesn’t? How do other women silence you? (I wonder if the two Queen Bees in Development-the-movie behave in similar ways).

    What happens when you’re the first woman? Again, if you have a minute, I’d love to hear & I bet others would too.

    As I research and write for this blog, and work away on Development and my other work, I’m always helped when I remember Sally Potter’s suggestion that women give up forever being victims, & when I remember Jane Campion’s statement that women must put on their armour and get going because we need them. And on FB the other day, the Dalai Lama said “Every…work is bound to face problems and obstacles. It is important to check your goal and motivation thoroughly. One should be very truthful, honest, and reasonable. One's actions should be good for others, and for oneself as well. Once a positive goal is chosen, you should decide to pursue it all the way to the end. Even if it is not realized, at least there will be no regret.” That sounded pretty spot-on to me, too. (& I’m with Edith Piaf on regret).

  21. Kia ora Marian,

    Thanks for your reply (:

    I know when I was working on a disability and media project with the NFB in 2004, I discovered the BBC had Disability Manifesto! Yes thats what it was called I downloaded it!

    Yes I would say some things are 5-10 years further along in some ways in terms of disability in Canada, but that doesn't put us that far ahead. Your average media organization does not understand disability as a systemic barrier (rather than a personal tragedy) just as your average non-disabled person doesn't.

    My answer does go on a bit and seemed to answer at least some of the questions you are posing over on your discussion on your 'Development is on Facebook' page, Discussions tab, so I have migrated my answer over there ( :

    peace Meg

  22. Hi Meg
    I've been thinking all day about your generous responses, here and on FB. I'm so touched that you've written at such length on FB, and given us a beautiful story to think about and re-read. Thank you very much. I might write again later (and am leaving Kyna to respond on FB), but one interesting thing that struck me was the help you had from women who'd been involved with Studio D. I think that women from the long ago Sydney Women's Film Group (hope I have the name right) have also maintained their commitment to women and although there were difficulties for those groups (e.g. because they were state funded I understand that for a while it was more difficult to get funding from 'mainstream' state funds) they generated a wonderful cultural capital for women. Like the use of quotas, separate funds are hotly debated, but I believe they are a great option and wish there'd been a women's one in New Zealand. I love that term 'systemic barriers' and would love to see more debate about the ways around them for filmmakers whose work is affected by them.

  23. Hi Marian

    Thanks for your thoughtful and informative replies...heres more on:

    ...It always seemed to sum up women working in performance! "And so while rehearsing my show, I drew the logo, at the hospital with a bag of chemo down my trousers......" Reflections on language, humour and accent; as a woman working in performance, in a queer video program, and disability on the radio...

    Post: Magdalena Aotearoa

    why does 'comments' leave the end off weblinks like that? very frustrating! speaking of which can you repost the Scottish Media disability link it got chopped off too.


  24. Hi Marion -

    I look forward to your inevitable follow-up on this now that the Escalator list is out... By my analysis, of the people and teams progressing to the next stage:
    80% of the people are men
    60% of the teams involve only men


  25. Hello Lou

    When I saw the list I couldn't face doing the count. Thank you for doing it.

    What else can I say?

  26. @Meg

    I just tried the link to Scottish Screen, and it works: all the equality document links are on the same page.


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