Skip to main content

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?

I plan to contribute to that debate in a series that covers–

Gender Equity Initiatives at State Funders; and Women's Film Funds
A round up of current international gender equity progress at state film funds 
Building on previous posts about Sweden, its A-Rating For Activists, supported by the Swedish WIFT and the Swedish Film Institute; about Anna Serner, director of the Swedish Film Institute; about France's Charte d'Egalité; about women behind the camera in Germany (the latest federal stats are here); and about the hugely influential European Women’s Audiovisual Network, founded by Spanish women directors and now led by Francine Raveney, formerly of Eurimages, the pan-European film fund. 
Women’s Film Funds 
Past– Studio D at Canada’s National Film Board 1974-1996; and Women’s Film Fund at the Australian Film Commission 1976-1988/9 (both state funds)
Present– Sundance Women Filmmakers Initiative, the Women in Film Finishing Fund, Gamechanger Films and Chicken & Egg etc (none of them state funds: more here).
New Zealand Cultural Organisations That Achieve Gender Equity
How do they do it?

What can we learn from them?
The Pipelines to NZFC-Funded Production

Back in 2008, as part of my PhD work, I wrote a report about the various NZFC funding programmes. When the then CEO of the NZFC – Ruth Harley – read the report, she acknowledged that the NZFC had a 'gender problem'. But (again) it was complicated and has become more so. Until recently, the NZFC's Short Film programmes were supposedly the primary route to making a dramatic feature. Now an unfunded low-budget feature provides another route, where it's very unusual for a woman to direct.

I'll write more about the pipelines, but in the meantime,  to reflect on, a few more statistics from programmes fully or partly funded by the NZFC administering public funds within parameters that include human rights legislation.

The question that most interests me is why women choose to participate in some programmes more than others. Where do we feel most welcome? Why? Which gatekeepers are best at ensuring their programmes attract diverse participants?

And then there's the women producer issue: women producers who aren't also actors, writers and/or directors and editors are strongly represented at every level – what's their role in increasing women directors' and editors' participation, if any?

I'd love to know your questions.

Except where indicated, the stats are my own–
Dramatic features directed by Maori women, in the last 25 years 0% 

Dramatic features directed by women from around the world and with female protagonists, screened at the New Zealand International Film Festival 2014 (#nziff, details here5% 
48-Hour projects directed by women in 2014 6% (anecdote from 48 Hours judge)

Dramatic features with women directors at #nziff 2014 9% 
Production-funded dramatic features with women as protagonists, in the last decade 14% 
Production-funded women-directed dramatic features 17% (from DEGNZ meeting – list of writers and directors of all NZ features 2003-2012 here)

Women-directed documentaries at #nziff 20% (a further 11% with women and men as directors)
Proportion of NZFC dollar investment in women-written dramatic features in development over four years to mid-2013 20.8% (from NZFC annual reports; +7.3% mixed-gender-written) 
Successful NZFC development programme applications from women-written feature projects over last 5 years 22% (includes some docos, hybrids and dramadocs; +7% mixed gender, via NZFC)
Dramatic features with women protagonists at #nziff 25% 
NZFC development programme applications from women-written feature projects over last 5 years 29% (includes some docos, hybrids and dramadocs; + 6% mixed gender, via NZFC) 
Proportion of women applicants to the latest round of New Zealand Writers Guild (NZWG)-administered Seed Fund 70% (via NZWG) Proportion of successful applicants: 75% – congratulations to Juliet Bergh, Miriam Smith and Aidee Walker!
Note also– 
Women also wrote two-thirds of the feature-length scripts nominated for SWANZ 2014, administered by the NZWG;   
Women are more than half of those selected for the NZWG upcoming Showcase event
In my own research earlier this year, 80% of the scripts written by women who participated had female protagonists.
If you have anything you'd like to ask me, or to tell me, as I research and write, please don't hesitate to let me know, here in the comments, or by email,  by phone, or on social media. (I'd especially love views on how women's funds work in other professions, something I know little about and won't have time to research.)


Popular posts from this blog

NZ Update #13: The Brilliance of Molly O'Shea

John O'Shea of Pacific Films is a legend in the film history of Aotearoa New Zealand. He died in 2001, aged 81. His daughter Kathy O'Shea, who died in 2010, was a legendary editor. And his grand-daughter, filmmaker Molly, gave this year's John O'Shea Memorial Address at the annual conference of New Zealand's Screen Production & Development Association (SPADA).

The address would be 'delivered by Dame Jane Campion and special guest', according to the SPADA programme. And what a special guest Molly was.

Her address is an instant feminist classic. Just brilliant. Wherever you live, if you want to persuade someone to give women filmmakers a go, entertain and inform them with this clip.
I hope that some of those producers who gave Molly a standing ovation then seized the opportunity to ask to read her pilot script, described by Jane Campion as 'incredible'. Go Molly! I can't wait to see your work.

Saving Mr. Disney: A Lesbian Perspective By Carolyn Gage

To stay focused when I'm writing intensively, I go to the movies in the afternoons. It's a kind of meditation that includes the walk down the hill to the cinema and back up again afterwards. And a few weeks ago, I saw three women-directed movies in three days: Rama Burshtein's Fill The Void, Anaïs Barbeau-Lavalette's Inch'Allah and Nicole Holofcener's Enough Said. Maybe things have changed, I thought to myself, ever optimistic. But I also noticed that men wrote and directed Catching Fire, from a novel by a woman, about a young woman and produced by a woman. And then I read Vocativ's analysis of 2013's 50 top-grossing US releases. This shows that almost half were Bechdel Test-passing films and that they did better at the US box office than those that weren't. BUT except for Frozen, which Jennifer Lee co-directed (and wrote) men directed all 50. And then at the weekend, all three of the new releases reviewed in our local paper (with enthusiasm) told s…

NZ Update #3: WIFT New Zealand

This is Part 3 of an NZ Update 4-part series. Part 1 was Gender Breakthrough in New Zealand Film Commission Funding. Part 2 was a letter to Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Women, Paula Bennett, about the New Zealand Screen Production Grant. Part 4 is a not-quite-A-Z of New Zealand women directors and some writers.

So how has Women in Film & Television New Zealand (WIFTNZ) responded to the lack of gender parity between women and men who write and direct, in particular the lack of gender parity in allocation of taxpayer funding? For example, does it endorse Telefilm Canada's statement, referred to back in Part 1 and to some extent implicit in the New Zealand Film Commission (NZFC)'s latest Annual Report?–
Based on industry recommendations that these two roles require immediate critical attention, gender parity amongst directors and screenwriters was identified as a priority (emphasis added).The simple answer: No-one Knows For Sure. And because of this, I believe it'…