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Women-loving women IV: Sydney Levine, Margaret von Schiller, Ines Paris, The Female Factor & The Compostela Declaration (an intermission)

There are so many strategies available to support women’s participation in feature filmmaking. I love them all.

Some people record, analyse and write about the numbers, provide the evidence: Martha Lauzen, the Writers Guild of America West and some government funding agencies. Others analyse how women and girls are represented in film, and show where there are opportunities to develop new ideas: the Geena Davis Institute, academics. There are state funders who develop gender policies: the Swedish Film Institute, Scottish Film. Bloggers who talk about the issues with women writers and directors: Women & Hollywood, HerFilm are my faves. Journalists like Manohla Dargis sometimes provide sharp analysis. 

Some women experiment with funding structures and new ways of distribution—the classy Afia Nathaniel and makers of webseries hold my attention at the moment. There are organizations with programmes that support women directors: AFI, Women in the Director’s Chair, filmdirecting4women. And people who run women’s film festivals, and awards for women who make films, like the upcoming WIFT awards here in New Zealand.

Some women illuminate the diverse—and often poorly understood—structures some women use when they write scripts: Susan di Rende from the Broad Humor Festival (I wish she’d write a book) and Linda Seger. Others protest, as Ruth Torgussen, Melissa Silverstein and many others did this year, when there were no films written and directed by women in competition at Cannes. 

Most of these strategies are represented through links in the sidebar, and their effects are enhanced every time a distinguished member of the international film-making community speaks out about the issues—Jane Campion and Meryl Streep are the outstanding examples. 

As well—I’ve been obsessed with them lately—there are audiences who choose to support films women write and direct. And women filmmakers’ families and friends, who keep them going. Most of all, there are the writers and directors who keep on trucking, in spite of the additional challenges they meet because they happen to be born female, and who insist that films reflect our diversity as well as our talent.
And there’s always a new strategy. Sydney Levine’s blog at Indiewire—Sydney’s Buzz: Pulling Back the Curtain on the International Movie Bizfocuses on international film industry developments and analysis of the international film market. I was unaware of it till last week, when the lovely Kyna Morgan (HerFilm) added a link to the Development Facebook page, to a post on Sydney's Buzz about Orly Ravid, a founder of the Film Collective. Great. And when I read Sydney’s introduction to the guest-written post I thought OH, HERE'S A NEW IDEA. HOW WONDERFUL.

Here it is:
To bring attention to the lack of parity between women and men in our industry, I have been putting a next to women directors, business owners, company heads, to bring awareness of what I am calling The Female Factor in the business.  To step up upon my soapbox for a moment: I want to assist in bringing a conscious awareness to the fact that if 50% of the population in our target audience is not represented by any where near 50% in the creative input and commercial exploitation of cinema, then the scales are very much out of balance and the resulting product is also askew.  To create is to influence and to influence is to profit.  To obtain the most value for the effort, the greatest return on the investments being made in the film business, the points of view of women need to be integrated totally into the fabric of the business (and the society).  As a representative of 50% of our population, I’m taking advantage of this blog to serve occasionally as my soapbox and I will sometimes be blogging about the women who are moving our industry forward as team and community members, movers and shakers.
I knew about Ruth Torjussen’s filmdirecting4women, “created to make a real and positive contribution to the worldwide movement which demands that 50% of all films are directed by women” inspired by a Jane Campion statement about women holding up half the sky, but this was the first time I’d seen an expression of support for the ‘50%’ movement in a general film business blog. (YES PLEASE, do send me examples of those I’ve missed.)

So I made a comment and then, surprisingly, Sydney emailed me. And sent me another link that reached a little further round the world, to a meeting of European women working for change in what they call ‘Audiovisual Europe’, the first time I’ve read about women using terminology that embraces the contemporary screen media convergence.

Sydney’s link was to one of her earlier posts, which included an email from Margaret Von Schiller, who signs herself, endearingly, as Writer, Presenter & Landlady,*
 Consultant in European Media Relations
. (She was formerly part of the Berlinale Panorama). The email is about the II Encuentro Internacional de CIMA / II International Meeting of CIMA —Las mujeres del Audiovisual Europeo/ Women in Audiovisual Europe. Here’s an excerpt from Margaret’s email, introducing a letter from CIMA’s president—feature filmmaker Ines Paris—who introduces The Compostela Declaration, another new strategy, developed a week or so before this year’s Cannes Film Festival:
This May, over 100 women in film and TV and new technologies met in Santiago de Compostela, Spain for three days of intense discussion and dialogue with several panels and 41 speaking guests from 15 European countries.  Provided with a wealth of knowledge from different backgrounds in film and audiovisuals in Europe, everybody was asked to join in and to propose ideas on how to achieve gender equality in the industry. Good food and beautiful weather accompanied this enjoyable event.

Ines Paris
And here’s Ines Paris’ letter:
Estimados amigos/as:
 Dear colleagues:

These past days of May 5-7, 2010 we were celebrating the Second International Meeting of CIMA in Santiago de Compostela. We would like to take this opportunity to send you the Carta Compostela which contains the conclusions of the meeting and defines our primary objectives. As you will see in the Carta we want to establish an International Network of Women in Audiovisual Europe. We believe that this is an important project to achieve progress in establishing gender equality in the audiovisual world. Furthermore it is a project of cultural and industrial dimension.
We would love to hear your opinion of this Carta Compostela and would appreciate your collaboration in the diffusion of its ideas and in helping to achieve its objectives.
 Please send any comment or suggestion you might have to our web platform: plataforma AT
Recibe un cordial saludo / Warmest regards
 Ines Paris
 Presidenta de CIMA
We, the professional women of the audiovisual sector of the European Union, assembled in Santiago de Compostela, after three days of intensive debate, reflection and exchange, come to the following conclusions:
The very low percentage of women in key-jobs of the European audiovisual sector is unfair because it leaves an important part of the European population voiceless. It wastes talent, energy and experience both behind and in front of the camera, and it seriously affects the audiovisual media content which generates our image of the world. This situation undermines the diversity and cultural pluralism of the democratic system we all want to achieve.
To solve this serious imbalance we will start by establishing a commission that will take responsibility for the creation of a European Network of Women in the Audiovisual World. This network will constitute a digital platform that will be used to:
a.        Contain a database of all the professional women in the sector 
Exchange information, experiences and projects 

c.       Create an employment board 

d.       Forge and consolidate an industry market.
At the same time, this network will conciliate when and wherever the production, distribution and exhibition of products of female authorship is being considered.
Moreover, we consider the following measures essential and urgent:

1. The creation of a Committee of Experts by the European Union Commission which will report on European audiovisuals from the perspective of gender, analysed both quantatively and qualitatively. Included will be statistical evidence of gender differences in all categories of the audiovisual sector.
2. To include measures of positive action with regard to concessions offered by the European Union programmes MEDIA and EURIMAGES, complying with the demands of Article 3.2 of the Constitutional Treaty of 
the European Union# and Article 23 of the Document of Basic Human Rights##.
3. To propose to the directors of all the public television networks of member states of the European Union to agree in a formal and public document to achieving the equal participation of men and women in
 positions of leadership within a maximum period of five years and to support media content which contributes towards making gender equality an essential social principle.
4. To establish, within the framework of the European Union, a vocational training programme for employment, which has as its goal the professional qualification of women, placing special attention on new 
technologies, which we consider an emerging sector of great potential in audiovisuals.
5. To make visible, to recover and to spread the work of women within the audiovisual sector, to which end we request the agreement of governments to adequately fund the university departments dedicated to
 study in this field. We call on all the people involved with the content of this document to meet again in two years’ time to evaluate the achievements and still unresolved challenges whilst using in the meantime, the Network for Women in Audiovisuals as an instrument of follow-up and continuous evaluation.
This document will be sent to the responsible authorities for the implementation of the measures agreed within it. It will be broadcast in the media and will be put forward to all the cultural and artistic associations of
 the audiovisual sector for signing so that it will become the founding document of the political and social action of all women and men who want a more honest, pluralistic and democratic cinema and television.
Santiago de Compostela, 7th May, 2010.

Well, here's my opinion. I think the Compostela Declaration is great. Love its reference to the human rights aspects of working in screen media, its explicit goals. Here in Wellywood on a winter’s morning I’m happy to celebrate the women at CIMA's meeting. Even though they are far far away, they and Sydney feel like allies, welcome strands in the global network of women working towards gender parity in feature filmmaking.

Sydney's original post.
CIMA It will take some time to analyse all the material from the meeting, some of which can be found online  (follow CINE / ENTREVISTAS), thanks to Maria Goretti. Cima Mujeres Cineastas is also on Facebook.

*Special rates for writers and all early bookings in Margaret’s guesthouse:; Margaret's own website
Article 2 of the Treaty establishing the European Community sets the promotion of equality between men and women as a task of the Community, and Article 3.2 provides that in its activities ‘the Community shall aim to eliminate inequalities, and to promote equality between men and women’.
## This reference may be to Article 23 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: (1) Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favorable conditions of work, and to protection against unemployment. (2) Everyone, without any discrimination, has the right to equal pay for equal work. (3) Everyone who works has the right to just and favorable remuneration ensuring for himself and his family an existence worthy of human dignity, and supplemented, if necessary, by other means of social protection. (4) Everyone has the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests.


  1. This is a great post. I want to know who all these woman-supporting fellow travelers are and am looking for ways we can hook up. I gave a hat tip on the Broad Humor blog - I want all the "broads" to read it.

  2. Thanks Susan. Yep. I want everyone to read the Broad Humor blog too. And as I wrote in the post, I'm waiting for your book. Truly. And I want to hear about how you think we can all hook up, asap!


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