Girl Power back in the Australian Film Industry

The last few years have seen women filmmakers getting more attention all over the world. How has it affected Australia?

For the last 25 years in Australia, men have directed 85% of all Australian feature films. This leaves only 15% of ladies directing any feature-length Aussie film, that’s less than a quarter people! What a statistic to be involved in! It is a meager teardrop of numbers that doesn’t even warrant a mention half the time. No one really wants to be 15% of anything. Except perhaps if it involves a special where you pay 15% LESS of something, then its ok.

I find this statistic pretty shocking in today’s Australian screen culture. So, it seems, do many Australians, especially because so many of the general film-loving Australian public were unaware of it for so long.

What’s wrong with this boys club then?

Gender imbalance, equal pay, equal respect from peers and from audiences, is a theme not lost on Australia alone. The rather publicized balls-up in America in late 2014, where Sony Pictures documents were hacked and leaked to the general public, is just the tip of the iceberg in regards to equal pay for women in the entertainment industry.

So, it seems, in Hollywood, the focus is also shifting. To give a royal middle finger to the aforementioned pay gap, many new women-focused production companies are popping up all over the shop. Actresses Rose Byrne (Two Hands, Bridesmaids) and Alicia Vikander (The Danish Girl, Ex Machina) are just a couple of young poppet’s who have started their own companies. Byrne’s company, The Dollhouse Collective aims to produce film, theatre, and television with a strong female voice, and Vikander has launchedVikarious Productions. Along with her London agent, she will make films from female filmmakers that have a female-centric genre.

Basically there will soon be a whole bunch of films out there created by women, for women, and naturally employing a bucket load of Estrogen to get them made. So, obviously, Hollywood women filmmakers have been suffering as much as the Aussies have. Well, perhaps a little more seeing as all that palaver from Sony about the misguided peanuts (ahem…..millions) has notified the greater world how much less Jennifer Lawrence earned than Christian Bale in the film American Hustle.

Back home, something is shifting in the Australian film industry too, and it is very, very exciting.

Image © Gage Skidmore

In December 2015 Cate Blanchett (Carol, Blue Jasmine, Elizabeth) was awarded the Longford Lyell award. This tall shinny statue celebrates an outstanding contribution to Australian Screen. Blanchett, a very prominent voice in the industry, has said, female achievement gets swept under the carpet, and usually, when Cate speaks, everyone listens. Which is exactly why she has become an unofficial face of gender equality and industry representation. Especially when she goes around saying things like Hollywood is “clinging to the idea that female films with women at the centre are niche experiences.” That’s our Cate! You tell ‘em!

Blanchett accepted her award just days after Australia’s major funding body Screen Australia announced it would be supporting a $5 million program that boosts the number of women in Australian film and television. Say what now? Correct, by the end of 2018 Screen Australia will have allocated at least half of its funding to female led productions. This is because they want to address the underrepresentation of women in the industry, particularly in film. After this statement all women in the industry pricked their ears and cocked their heads. Lap dogs no more; the women are finally being recognized as more than less of a ¼ of the filmmaking industry.

But don’t freak out, this is not a complete suffragette rally – our boys do agree. Geoffrey Rush has called for more work for women directors, and women behind the camera, saying that they have some of the best voices in the creative process.

Why is all of this important?

Well, it raises a lot of questions. Questions about the variable sausage fest that some industries do often get stuck in regarding gender equality in the workplace. It also begs the question – do women tell better stories? Not necessarily, but it would seem from history that they definitely tell better stories FOR WOMEN, and why should this be a problem in today’s society? Because it’s only been just under 40 years since the first Australian film to be directed by a woman was released. My Brilliant Career, by Gillian Armstrong in 1979 was an amazing success both in Australia and internationally. But from then to today, we’ve only grown to that measly 15% of features being directed by women, and I have the feeling that number will be rising quickly.

There is a change on the breeze people, a welcome one.

Charmaine Gorman is an Australian actress and writer living in Berlin with her family. As a content writer and editor, she works for many clients around the world, and along with her husband, is the founder and content manager of the online travel guide My Guide Berlin

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