NZ Update #11.2: Gender Equity in Practice

Cian Elyse Waiti with her two SWANZ awards

In the first part of this post, NZ Update #11.1, I addressed this myth: gender inequity within the ‘pipelines’ to feature film funding and television drama will disappear if AotearoaNZ's taxpayer-funded agencies persuade women screenwriters and directors to Do It, to upskill and to apply for funding more often. I showed that the reality is that the system favours men who write and direct and this adversely affects women, whatever we do or don't do. I also showed that the production of many women-created short-form series demonstrates that there's a large cohort of women who already Do It to a high standard in spite of having limited resources; and identified some characteristics of their practice as they develop new ways to tell screen stories. 

I suggested that the taxpayer-funding agencies Do It themselves, instead. The New Zealand Film Commission (NZFC, responsible for funding films), New Zealand On Air (NZOA, responsible for funding television and digital programmes) and TVNZ (the state broadcaster) should formally recognise the systemic advantages for men and how they affect women; acknowledge women's capabilities and achievements outside the pipelines and establish comprehensive gender policies that flood those pipelines with gender equity principles and practices.

This part outlines the best practice policies and principles that the Swedish Film Institute (SFI) has established, as presented by its CEO Anna Serner at the recent Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF; video embedded below) and then considers the NZFC's progress with its gender equity policy and its limitations. As an example of current role of gender equity in practice, I discuss some factors that affected decision-making in the New Zealand Writers Guild (NZWG)'s latest Seed and Advanced Seed funding rounds and TVNZ's New Blood initiative, within the SFI template and conclude that adoption of that template could make a big difference.

This weekend, at the annual Big Screen Symposium, the NZFC will announce ‘significant additions to the NZFC's gender policy’. Fingers crossed they will be wonderful, because lots of us have been thinking hard about how to improve women's working conditions so they/we can offer every taxpayer a more balanced collection of onscreen stories. Regardless, I'm hoping that this post will be a useful contribution to the inevitable debate about those additions.

And I'm encouraged by last night's SWANZ awards for local scriptwriters, run by the NZWG. Almost a clean sweep for women and a fine illustration of the quality that women provide when they/we make it through the pipelines (see list at end of this post). Warm congratulations to them all! 

Again, this is prettier to read over on Medium.

Uncertainties

I don't know for sure how the NZFC can better support the Women Who Do It who already engage with its systems. And I don't know for sure how the NZFC can best work with the skilled and talented Women Who Do It in short-form series or independent features, who enjoy self-determination, who explore female representation from diverse women’s perspectives, whose professional development and peer review comes largely from one another and the audiences they've developed as independent artists; and whose work practices accommodate the commitments that are part of their lives as women. And I don't know how the NZFC can work with women to develop new paradigms. But I do think that the NZFC can incorporate consistent and robust gender equity principles throughout its pipeline to feature filmmaking, so that women can feel more confident in its decision-making processes and it then becomes more likely that half the NZFC's investment will be in women writers and directors.

These principles should ensure that women will no longer have the common experience articulated by Waru writer-director Katie Wolfe the other day, when she told Radio NZ that ‘...when you're submitting work which is very female-focused, sometimes the reaction to it is “that doesn't feel quite right” or “I don't recognise that”.’

The principles will also acknowledge and address the truth in the rest of her statement– ‘Of course you don't understand it, you've never heard it before. We're making the world care differently and see differently, because we haven't had the chance to hear these stories before.’

The depth of systemic problems was well-illustrated in two recent initiatives, the New Zealand Writers Guild (NZWG)'s Seed/Advanced Seed programme developed with the NZFC, and Television New Zealand (TVNZ')s New Blood programme –  relevant here because of its focus on the short-form series, where women writers and directors shine.

Both these programmes were open entry, and because writers and directors didn't need producers to apply, one decision-making layer was removed. I discuss these very different programmes in more detail later, but the remarkable thing about them both is that they achieved very similar outcomes. Although almost equal numbers of women applied to the Seed/Advanced Seed programme, 69% of the total funding went to men. TVNZ didn't record the genders of applicants and had some missing credits on the list of finalists. But, when I filled the uncredited gaps with inferences from other information supplied, probably 70% of the writers and directors of the ten New Blood finalists were men (a public vote decided the winner, a two-women project).

This 70%/30% split happened even though both organisations tried to be inclusive, in slightly different ways. The NZWG worked with Women in Film & Television New Zealand (WIFTNZ) to attract women applicants. Assessors blind read the scripts, so didn't know anything about who the writers were. TVNZ offered an encouraging statement, as an organisation ‘committed to ensuring there’s a strong mix of different voices represented onscreen across our commissioned programming as we aim to reflect the increasing diversity of New Zealand society on screen. The New Blood web-series competition is in keeping with that aspiration — it’s all about bringing in new content creators and fresh thinking to TVNZ that will be relevant to new audiences’.

Both programmes made careful choices of assessors. The NZWG works hard to ensure there is gender balance: all three rounds of Seed in 2016 had two women assessors and one man and, in this round, according to the NZWG–

‘The judging process ... involved impassioned, insightful and rigorous debate from our highly experienced assessors.’

TVNZ chose its decision-making panel for its ‘diversity of experience and its personal and professional background’. Six women and six men.

But still, that 70/30% split. What's happened? I believe that these outcomes are due to unconscious bias and they demonstrate that it's time for all taxpayer-funded agencies to establish gender and diversity strategies, to mandate more rigorous decision-making processes that counter unconscious bias more successfully.

Unconscious Bias

But, you may be saying, how can there be gender bias if women are well-represented among the decision-makers? Unfortunately, it's easy. Because it's often unconscious. In her session at TIFF, Anna Serner, the global doyenne of gender equity in taxpayer-funded film agencies, shrugs off a question about assessor gender. Women, she says, including herself, have as much unconscious bias as men. She also provides a useful example of how a decision-maker's gender may not make a difference when she contrasts the ‘female director’– as a filmmaker archetype – and women producers. The female director signals the likely presence of women screenwriters, cinematographers and others.  But women producers commonly choose men to work with– 65% of Swedish producers are women. This accords with the 62-68% for producers of television drama in AotearoaNZ in the last two years. I didn’t record producer gender in my 2003–2017 feature film data, but whenever I’ve looked at producers attached to NZFC-funded projects, women have been up there more or less equally with men.

Mya Kagan's Submitting Like a Man (SLAM) project provides up-to-the-minute evidence that even the best-informed and best-intentioned assessors have unconscious bias. Mya, an American scriptwriter, has experimented for several years with resubmitting her unsuccessful scripts under a male pseudonym that she refers to as ‘Max’. She's found that, as women have long known, simply having a woman's name can have a negative effect.  She's written–

As a “man”, I have seen that my work and I come with an automatic level of authority and prowess, the type of credit that, as a woman, I have to fight to be given. 

Mya recently received a response that is particularly relevant here, when she resubmitted exactly the same script to a prominent organisation, a public supporter of gender parity and diversity in the arts with a track record that reflects that; it had even tweeted its support of SLAM on several occasions. 

The script she resubmitted as ‘Max’ received special nuggets of encouragement that she didn't receive when she submitted it as herself–

‘Max got an entirely new added paragraph whose sole purpose was to let him know how great he was. The paragraph gushed about all the enthusiasm Max’s play had inspired and let him know earnestly about the passionate dialogue the play created among the readers. He had truly enlightened them and hit on something special with his meaningful work, and it was important to them—really important—to let him know it.’ Unsurprisingly, Mya concluded

So to me this suggests that even those who clearly and measurably support diversity can still be subject to bias.

Is it likely that the NZFC, NZOA or TVNZ assessors avoid bias? I don't think so. And even though blind reading removes the Mya/Max risk at the NZWG, is it possible that unconscious biases seep beyond the gender label, into the way we all approach scripts that are a little ‘different’? I think so.

It could be mandatory for assessors to be educated on unconscious bias, as happens in other contexts. For instance, last year’s TVNZ Annual Report notes that the organisation educates its business leaders on ‘unconscious bias and the importance of inclusion and diversity in selection and promotion’. But there's another way. In that Toronto session, Anna Serner laid out a best practice model that would easily transfer to AotearoaNZ's taxpayer-funded screen agencies as a template for use whenever decisions are made, and regardless of who makes those decisions, whether producers who receive devolved funding, internal and external assessors for the NZFC or NZOA or TVNZ, or one of the film industry guilds.

The video is remarkable viewing because Anna outlines the principles of current best practice in allocating taxpayer funds to feature films and is very frank about the challenges and rewards of establishing gender equity. I've abstracted some screenshots, with timecodes visible, so you can gather more detail for yourself.

A Model 

The SFI – in a country with double AotearoaNZ's population – offers $NZ1-2.2m to a group of features each year. It wants Swedish audiences to go to see Swedish films –  at the moment 70% of the features that these audiences view is American  – and to reach this this goal, has developed a strategy where ‘quality’, ‘gender’ and ‘diversity’ are the paramount and equally important principles to use allocating funds. Without this strategy, according to Anna, taxpayer-funded films will not appeal to large enough Swedish audiences and it means, if I've correctly understood an earlier Anna Serner video, that when projects are of equal quality, gender and diversity issues affect the final decisions.  As far as I know, the strategy has always been justified as something to give the taxpayer value-for-money. It's not there to provide women filmmakers with equal employment opportunities, though that is a by-product and both issues are, I believe, important.

To make the strategy work, without imposing quotas, the SFI has formulated gender and diversity action plans each with their own budgets. The plans embrace many initiatives, including education and talent support, alongside unrelenting collection of data that measures progress.


Anna says, ‘The industry needs us out there to say “You can do better, this is not good enough”…They will work harder, it will take an even longer time [than films have taken in the past] and it’s frustrating for everyone because they need the money to survive…[but] we need to get our taxpayers’ money to audiences’.

There’s been resistance, of course – ‘You have to be so patient’ – Anna says, but the strategy has worked. The success rate for funding applicants is still 10% and projects directed by men receive 50% of the funding but competition has sharpened because more people are included and projects have become more ambitious.

And the numbers demonstrate that when the pipeline to features is permeated by a robust strategy that links quality, gender and diversity, the pipeline is stronger, the work is stronger and success follows. More Swedish films – directed by women and directed by men – are now accepted to A-list film festivals,  although the gender balance fluctuates from year to year, as is normal. This year a Swedish film, The Square by Ruben Östlund, won the Palme d'Or at Cannes.


But acceptance to festivals isn't the only measure of success. In the video, Anna runs through SFI's use of a Success Chart as well, to measure both admissions to cinemas and quality (as measured by critics' reviews and festival success).


She also explains ‘quality’. The SFI  has developed three fixed criteria that lead to ‘quality’ – relevance, originality and craft; the SFI commissioners must use these when deciding if a project's quality will ensure that taxpayer money will reach the Swedish audience.




‘Relevance’ has an element of urgency. The project must have something to do with what is happening right now, even if it's an historical film. Amanda Kernell's Sami Blood is an outstanding example of how an historical film can have this kind of urgency. (I think ‘relevance’ is strongly present in the work of Women Who Do It and I enjoyed reflecting on its comparative presence/absence in recent AotearoaNZ features).  Human beings tell the same stories over and over so ‘originality’ is usually a perspective that depends on who is telling the story; Anna notes that there are many films now being made by women where you can sense immediately that you've never seen this perspective before. An examination of ‘craft’ asks if an assessor believes in the attached director, the cinematographer etc. 

In this video, Anna doesn't address some of the issues that matter for many Women Who Do It in AotearoaNZ, as explored in #11.1, and here we would also need to add a fourth criterion to quality, gender and diversity: ‘Māori’. But it seems likely that adopting the SFI strategy and assessment principles would provide a simple template for standard best practice throughout the pipelines at the NZFC and the other screen agencies. Put in place, it would provide an equitable platform from which other paradigms could be developed. But it would be a big change because in contrast with Sweden,  the NZFC's gender policy, established in 2015, is at best tentative, though perhaps the weekend's announcements will make a big difference.

The NZFC Gender Policy and Its Progress

The NZFC gender policy doesn't commit the agency to gender equity in the allocation of its funding. It doesn't outline principles or establish an action plan with a budget. Its overarching statement is comparatively weak– ‘The voices and perspectives of women are integral to telling the stories of our country, its culture and communities. We are committed to increasing awareness of gender equality in the New Zealand screen industry’.

The policy has five main elements and in a letter to the guilds (all funded by the NZFC) in April this year, Dave Gibson, the NZFC CEO, provided a progress report, summarised in the brackets here –

A annual award for women in the industry (three award rounds completed, with awards made to a total of six women);

An invitation to guilds and industry organisations to propose initiatives that would help upskill women in the industry (which they have done, were invited to do again in that April letter, which they've probably responded to by now);

A commitment that the talent development section of the NZFC would spend more time identifying and engaging with female filmmakers (over the year to April 2016, the NZFC had 378 interactions with women filmmakers, 53% of the overall interactions with filmmakers);

Regular publication of gender statistics drawn from the NZFC’s funding information, which was expanded to requiring all guilds and industry organisations that the NZFC funds to report on the gender mix of their talent development programmes (achieved);

A target of 50% of investment in professional development — including the Fresh Shorts programme — being allocated to women filmmakers (achieved each year since; and in the most recent year 50% of Fresh Shorts directors and 57% of writers were women.)

There is nothing in the policy about gender equity throughout feature project development and production. But in the year ending June 2016 44% of the applications to the Early Development Fund (EDF, five rounds each year) and the Advanced Development Fund (ADF) had women writers attached and where directors were already attached, the numbers rose from an historical 14% average to 26%. So ‘increasing awareness of gender equality in the industry’ has perhaps had an effect at this funding level. But then, the distressing news referred to in #11.1: all eight of the narrative (fictional) features offered conditional production funding in the year ending June 2017 had men as directors; and of the thirteen writers attached to the eight projects, ten were men and three were women. Just one project was written by a woman without a man as a co-writer.

(After a meeting at the NZFC a few months ago I suggested a couple of things. One idea was that alternate EDF rounds next year could be for women writers only, starting with the first one. And that the third round could be for women writers with women protagonists only. This could be easily justified on equity grounds, given the recent production investment decisions; and as an appropriate commemoration of 125 years of women’s suffrage. Dave Gibson wrote back – and agreed I could publish his response– ‘At this stage I'm not inclined to go with the idea of alternate rounds for EDF. It's an intriguing idea but I think initially I'd be keen to just encourage more applications into the existing rounds’. A little later I read that the Irish Film Board, which has a multi-initiative gender equity policy and an excellent recent history of projects that do well internationally, will pilot one development round annually that will be available to women applicants only. )  

Over at NZOA, without a gender equity policy, though its legisation — unlike the NZFC’s — requires it to serve various audiences, including women, just 10% of its directors of drama and 37% of its writers of drama were women (this higher proportion is perhaps because of television’s ‘showrunner’ tradition where writers also produce).

The Invitation

In the April letter, Dave suggested new possible policy planks for the NZFC. The agency could–

Encourage recipients of devolved funding [producers] to fund half their projects with women writers and directors and track and publish their success rates;

Set an annual goal of 50% female funding for EDF (counted across attached writers, directors and producers) to be achieved by 2020, although ‘there may be some tricky aspects as to how much we can affect this…as we will be largely using external assessors for EDF and this may have an element of unintended consequences [because they may be biased?]’; and

Measure female director participation in feature film investment offers on both an annual and three year rolling average. ‘By the end of 2021/2022 we will aim to have 50% participation’.

Again, these are very limited initiatives. It'll be great if producers who receive devolved funding have to track and publish the gender of the writers and directors attached to their projects. Yes! to 50% of writers and directors attached to EDF funding being women (see below re producers)! But what about the next step to feature film production, the ADF stage?

Great to measure women director participation in feature film investment, but what about women writers? And how will measurement, vital though it is, make a difference if there's no goal for ADF funding?

And why wait till 2021/2022 to ‘aim’ for 50% participation? Why not start now, with a cohesive policy that runs throughout the pipeline?

Problems With the Policy-and-Progress-So-Far 

The first problem has already been discussed: because the NZFC has not articulated any gender equity principles like Sweden's, or those developed in other countries like Ireland and Canada, there are no consistent guidelines within the pipeline’s general programmes (like the Seed/Advanced Seed programme), in contrast to the women-only initiatives from the 2015 policy, like the scholarships and some professional development programmes.

And there's confusion about which role(s) should be prioritised for support.

Which role(s) most matter?

Who is the generic woman ‘filmmaker’ with whom the talent development department has been interacting? Is she the writer, the director, the producer, the cinematographer or all four? In the possible policy planks Dave Gibson suggests, he refers to ‘writers and directors’ in the first and to attached writers, directors and producers’ and ‘director’ in the third.

It’s my view that the NZFC’s gender policies should emulate Telefilm Canada’s latest policy, which identifies gender parity in director and screenwriter roles as requiring immediate critical attention, mainly because my 2003–2017 statistics show that — if mixed gender teams are excluded — male writers (79%) and directors (84%) were very similarly over-represented in taxpayer-funded feature films and telemovies, although if the mixed gender teams are included, women were more likely to be part of a writer team (12% of all teams) than a director team (5% of all teams).

Produced screenplays with female protagonists and written by women are particularly scarce. From 2003–2017 only 17% of taxpayer-funded features and telemovies had female protagonists and only 6.5% of all features and telemovies had female protagonists and were written and directed by women. There were ten features and telemovies about historical New Zealand women and women wrote and directed only two of these. (A full analysis would provide statistics about intersectional categories.)

One reason often given for prioritising support for directors is that they matter more than writers because they select what appears in the frame. But the screenplay provides the storyline and the characters who will appear in the frame. This matters. As the Writers Guild of America (West) has noted, in  a statement that accords with the SFI's strategic focus: ‘Industry diversity [or ‘inclusion’] is not only about equal access to employment opportunities; it is also about opening space for the telling of stories that might not otherwise be told’.  For me, the stories that represent the full spectrum of human experience also respect story sovereignty: they take into account the analyses of Merata Mita and Ava DuVernay referred to in #11.1. For instance, from Ava DuVernay–

‘I believe there’s a special value in work that is a reflection of oneself as opposed to interpretation. When I see a film or a TV show about black people not written by someone who’s black, it’s an interpretation of that life.’

The special value in work that is a reflection of oneself applies to every woman's work whether or not she's also part of another group that's historically been interpreted-by-others — unrepresented, misrepresented and marginalised. We need produced screenplays that diverse women write, urgently. Screenplays that reflect the richness and diversity and the development of female protagonism that’s already apparent in the  short-form series that women write and direct. And to produce these stories it’s necessary to provide, as the SFI has done, equal opportunities for those who are ready to tell them.

For the reasons already discussed, supporting women producers won’t necessarily translate into projects that women write and direct, or to the projects with female protagonists that they write and want to direct. So I think women producers are irrelevant in this context and I think that ‘filmmakers’ should be abandoned as too general a term to be useful within any gender equity initiative.

Returning now to Seed/Advanced Seed and New Blood, let's compare their assessment criteria with those established at the SFI, where funding commitment is dependent on on quality, gender and diversity and quality includes relevance, originality and craft.

Gender Equity Principles in Practice in AotearoaNZ

The Seed and Advanced Seed (for more experienced writers) funding rounds take place at the NZWG twice a year. The the NZFC and the NZWG jointly developed the programme and it ‘represent[s] an opportunity for writers to be innovative, to be brilliant, and to be excited about the chance to create something they own’. Applicants supply a logline, paragraph synopsis, potential audience, treatment and screenplay sample.

The criteria assessors use are: idea (Is it compelling/engaging? Does it have an audience?); craft (Is the writer able to execute the screenplay on a high enough level to deliver on the promise of the idea?); and voice (Is the writer’s voice original and clear?) Each round, the assessors make a short list of twenty and then allocate four grants (of $10,000 each) to Seed applicants and two (of $12,500 each) to Advanced Seed applicants.

At New Blood, judging criteria were that the web-series would appeal to a New Zealand audience; the idea was original; the pilot was engaging and lent itself to a web-series format; and that based on what the panel members saw and read they wanted to see more. The ten finalists’ pilots were then voted for by the public and the winner received $100,000 to make their series.

I though about the calls that the NZWG and TVNZ made and how well they might meet the SFI criteria and made a little chart–



Here's how I reached my conclusions.

Emphasis on Audiences
TVNZ was explicit about bringing in new content creators and fresh thinking to TVNZ that will be relevant to new audiences and extended that criterion to the list given to assessors, as a web-series would appeal to a New Zealand audience. Not ‘the' New Zealand audience but ‘a’ [preferably new] audience. It reinforced this focus by opening up the decision-making to the public. This is in the spirit of the SFI framework; the assessors would have had to discuss new audiences.

In contrast, ‘audience’ was much more ambiguous in the NZWG criteria. Applicants were asked to identify a ‘potential audience’ and the assessors were required to ask ‘Does it have an audience’? The assessors didn't have to think about gender and diversity among the audience, though they may have, because as I understand it the selected projects were diverse.  But an applicant to Seed/Advanced Seed, a Woman Who Does It, say, wouldn't have had confidence from the audience references that the NZWG cared about diverse audiences and female audiences.

Gender Record of Applicants
Yay for NZFC requiring the NZWG to record applicants' genders. I would have found it a tiny bit more useful if it had also made public how many women's scripts made it even to the short-list. I asked but received no response.

And TVNZ didn't keep track of who applied and didn't record all the writers: last year’s TVNZ Annual Report records that the organisation surveys job applicants re demographic information, to help it ‘understand our candidate profile and hiring behaviours’, so why not extend this principle to those who apply for funding?

Quality – Relevance
I love this measure of quality and the association with it of ‘urgency’. It seems to me that this is one way that we like Sweden (and Ireland) can begin to connect our cinema to what's going on in the world as a whole as well as right here. As a criterion it could be very helpful when it's necessary to  distinguish between projects that are otherwise of equal quality? TVNZ didn't get anywhere near this idea and the closest NZWG got was ‘compelling’ which arguably means other things.

Quality – Originality
The SFI, recognising that every story has already been told, sees the concept of originality as being about a fresh perspective. 

Each agency introduced originality in a different context. TVNZ sought an original idea, via new content creators who will bring ‘fresh thinking to TVNZ that will be relevant to new audiences’. 

NZWG placed originality within its ‘voice’ criterion rather than its ‘idea’ criterion, focusing on the originality of the writer’s voice, within an opportunity for an individual writer ‘to be innovative, to be brilliant, and to be excited about the chance to create something they own’. 

I think either qualifies as a search for a fresh perspective, but, because screen stories are visual, ‘fresh perspective’ is perhaps a preferable shorthand; it resonates with ‘relevance’ and is explicitly about serving the audience and providing a new way of looking at the world.

Quality – Craft
The NZWG's assessment question on this issue was whether the writer was able to execute the screenplay on a high enough level to deliver on the promise of the idea (with an engaging idea as one of its three criteria). TVNZ's criteria didn't refer to craft but it is implicit in asking if ‘the pilot was engaging and lent itself to a web-series format; and that based on what the panel members saw and read they wanted to see more’ so it made it in this category. I question both agencies use of ‘engaging’ as a descriptor because I think that's exactly where unconscious bias comes into play; I know it does when I find something ‘engaging’: my subjectivity is right there and my biases are both conscious and unconscious.

Gender
The SFI framework explicitly requires ‘quality’, ‘gender’ and ‘diversity’ to suffuse decision-making. But neither group of assessors was required to consider gender, either the gender of the writer or writer-director or the role of gender in the screenplay or web series. Was this the key lack and perhaps the main reason for that 70/30% split and for the presence of female protagonists created by men among the New Blood finalists (two) and in Seed/Advanced Seed (at least one)?

Ah, you might be thinking, the NZWG can’t consider gender because it’s blind read from beginning through the short list of twenty and right to the end. But are there ways round this? I think so. There were 96 scripts entered into Seed/Advanced Seed. Lots of them would have been rejected by mutual agreement among all the the highly experienced assessors. But once they began to disagree about quality, they could ask for information about the gender (and diversity) of each writer. Not the writers’ names of course, but just enough information to ensure that as assessors engaged in ‘impassioned, insightful and rigorous debate’ they had to assess each script along the axes of relevance-gender-diversity, originality-gender-diversity and craft-gender-diversity (including some women writers’ experiments with unfamiliar structures and archetypes). They would also have to consider whether and why they wanted to invest taxpayer funds in a screenplay with a female protagonist written by a man, who would have to have an extraordinary script to reach the short-list, (as would anyone interpreting an aspect of diversity as an outsider).

For a moment, I wondered if TVNZ thought that diversity included gender diversity. But no. Its statement that ‘we aim to reflect the increasing diversity of New Zealand society on screen’ negates that possibility, because the proportion of women in the population isn't increasing. And if the New Blood assessors had to consider gender, they too might have considered whether they want to select such a high proportion of projects written and directed by men from among the 150 submissions; and whether it's a good idea to support projects about women by men.

Diversity
Yes, I've been told that the Seed/Advanced Seed winning screenplays are diverse. But would they have been more diverse if diversity was mentioned in the documentation, if the documentation had stated that diversity and gender were as important as quality and if quality was defined in the SFI terms? I think so and think that'd be a preferable way to attract diverse women screenwriters with exciting projects.

TVNZ's explicit statement re diversity got this one totally right, though to me, considering the New Blood finalists alongside the Women Who Do It web-series, the finalists aren't particularly diverse, either from a writer-director perspective, or in their perspectives of AotearoaNZ; and one finalist, with a male Filipino New Zealander as protagonist, was written and directed by two men who appear to be Pākehā, though it's sometimes hard to tell, from names and faces and online information. What happened, I wonder? And, again, would the finalists have been different if the SFI quality/gender/diversity framework was followed? I think so.

So. Unless a miracle happens at the Big Screen Symposium and the NZFC offers something even better, which would be wonderful, I'm hoping that the SFI strategy and template will travel this way, to all the screen agencies, and especially to the NZFC. At speed. What might happen, if the screen agencies all began to record their applicant data rigorously, adopted a common strategy that draws on the SFI's and applied the SFI template to every single round of decision-making; and would the NZFC's programmes begin to attract more Women Who Do It, with their innovative ways of working? I reckon. And I reckon that those pipelines would begin to gush with truly exciting work, for local audiences and for the world.













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