Canada’s National Film Board Commits 50% Of Its Budget To Films Made By Women

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With the continual focus on the problems surrounding the alleged discrimination toward female directors in Hollywood, as more and more information becomes available it is also important to focus on the solutions being implemented. An infographic outlining how women made up less than 5% of directors of films made by major studios in a 5 year period is embarrassing to say the least, especially given Hollywood is seen as a liberal creative industry.

San Diego State University’s most recent annual Celluloid Ceiling report shows that women make up less than 20% of directors, writers, producers, cinematographers and editors – the biggest jobs in the film industry. And we haven’t even begun to discuss the representation of women on screen! For that, you can always find plenty of research from the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, which has become the leading organization working with film studios and executives to identify the disparity problems between men and women on screen and implement easy solutions.

While Hollywood works out its own problems, other countries have seen the effects of gender inequality and are making drastic changes. In Sweden, the national film institute implemented a new target to ensure 50% of all funding and distribution goes to female-lead films by the end of 2015. It’s not surprising that Sweden would create such a mandate, given they are one of the most gender progressive countries in the world.

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In Australia, the state of NSW film industry also announced a 50/50 gender equality initiative that would determine funding and distribution based on the amount of women both in front of and behind the scenes of a production.

And just in time for International Women’s Day this year, the National Film Board of Canada announced it will now direct half of it’s production spending to female-driven films. The announcement was made by government film commissioner Claude Joli-Coeur at the International Women in Film Festival.

“Today, I’m making a firm, ongoing commitment to full gender parity, which I hope will help to lead the way for the industry as a whole,” he said.

The initiative will begin rolling out over the next 3 years, and will have updates available on the Film Board’s website for full transparency to the public (given it is Government funds).

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Variety reports that in the Canadian film industry, women represented only 17% of directors, 22% of writers and 12% of cinematographers in a sample of 91 feature films produced between 2013 and 2014. Those figures were taken from research conducted by the nonprofit organization Women in View.

The NFB is walking the talk and leading by example when it comes to gender equality within even their own ranks. Women make up 66% of the NFB’s upper management and 77% of the NFB Board of Trustee positions.

We look at this new move as the “Justin Trudeau” effect. Ever since taking office at the end of last year in a vote that brings liberal values back into Canadian politics, he has been quite vocal about gender equality with an emphasis on not being afraid to call himself a feminist.

When asked why he decided to ensure half his new cabinet were women, his response was simple: “Because it’s 2015!”

At a recent United Nations summit, he stressed the point of talking about feminism in order to break down stigma and fear surrounding the word.

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“I’m going to keep saying, loud and clearly, that I am a feminist. Until it is met with a shrug. It shouldn’t be something that creates a reaction. It’s simply saying that I believe in the equality of men and women and that we still have an awful lot of work to do to get there. That’s like saying the sky is blue and the grass is green,” he said.

The recent 2016 Canadian budget announcement saw the effects of what Prime Minister Trudeau is bringing to his policies. The Canada Council, which provides funding to artists and cultural projects across the country, will see its annual budget of $182 million nearly doubled within five years. The National Film Board in particular will receive a $13.5 million boost over five years, making their commitment to gender equality all the more important.

With a renewed focus on using arts and the creative industries as a vehicle for sharing important messages about cultural diversity in Canada (the new arts budget includes more funding for museums, Indigenous First Nations cultural centers and the Government-run CBC network) we’re glad gender equality is a part of this.

Hollywood is not Canada, we recognize that, but the simple pledge to commit to gender equality measures can be the start of ensuring equality in all aspects of filmmaking. We can’t afford to see another #OscarsSoWhite controversy.

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