The second question in relation to the sliding participation could be accounted for in numerous ways. For instance, a 2006 UK study of screenwriting by Alice Sinclair and her colleagues found evidence of hiring discrimination, including that men in positions of power were more likely to hire men. It found that more often women did not make the most of work cultures, failing to capitalise on networks, to feel comfortable to sell or promote their work, and often women were dissuaded more easily by early criticism, finding `this process more difficult than men as they tend to have less confidence in their work and are less tenacious`. In general, there was a lack of access, a paucity of support, and few efforts to improve gender imbalance. So the reasons for declining participation are numerous and complex, but what can be said is that women in Western film industries experience numerous common barriers to progress and success in the film and related audiovisual industries. Students I teach sometimes reflect on how their opinion gets left behind, and they struggle to make themselves visible within a production team; in this I can see they experience themselves as women, and begin quite early on to see that being women might make it difficult to be a director or cinematographer (something their male colleagues are not usually cognizant of), and they have to be strong to get a place and a voice. Gender needs to get back on the agenda as an issue - URGENTLY.
We have a lot to lose. Firstly, while women do not constitute a single, homogenous group, and have a diverse range of experiences, perspectives, aesthetic approaches and interests, they do share the perspective of being female in the world, and construct stories from this subjectivity - do we want to eliminate stories and approaches of half the population? Secondly, women contribute high quality human capital as innovators culturally and creatively, which is a business reason to adopt a more inclusive approach - on top of ethical, social and cultural reasons that make it vital for global Western industrialised film industries to ensure women achieve equal participation. Another reason we need to advocate for more women is that there is evidence that the more women there are in key creative roles, the more other women are employed - so advocating for more women would improve the participation of women.
On the bright side, St Kilda Film Festival which opens next week has a range of women directors in its line up. On opening night seven of the eight films are produced by women, and three of the eight films screened are directed by women - `Am I Okay` by Matilda Brown; `The Globe Collector` from Summer De Roche, and Amy Gebhardt`s `Into the Sun`. These are talented directors, well connected and supported in the industry. George Miller for example mentored Gebhard. Our industry mustn`t go the way of Cannes, we must keep gender on the agenda, and make the most of women`s innovation in the mix.
If you think, as I do, that Cannes officials shouldn’t get away with this, there is a petition now live online. If you sign there, your name will generate an email to the officials at Cannes.
Lisa French is Associate Professor in Cinema Studies and Media at RMIT. Her books include ‘Womenvision: Women and the Moving Image in Australia’; she produced the short documentary ‘Birth of a Film Festival’; and was the director of the St Kilda Film Festival for 3 years.
Republished by permission from Screen Hub.