This piece is in response to a piece published on FilmInk that listed the 20 Most Powerful People in Australian Film
As an Australian I've long believed that my home country's industry was a bit more progressive than America's. For instance, our homegrown annual awards formerly known as the Australian Film Institute Awards recognised their first female director winner way back in 1979 with Gillian Armstrong for the classic My Brilliant Career. A further seven have won in the years since from 28 nominations that includes names like Jane Campion, Cate Shortland, Nadia Tass, Jocelyn Moorhouse and the late Sarah Watt. While I didn't tally the exact figures, there is a similar representation in screenwriting categories, too.
And yet it's still very much an issue. Funding and development isn't just a female problem, of course, but it's hard not to think the industry doesn't encourage male filmmakers more strongly. This list isn't about sticking it to the (very literal) man or about hard to gauge notions of power. It's simply about acknowledging the achievements of these 25 women who have a proven history of getting projects off the ground, made and seen by audiences. It's about giving younger women who want to work in the industry a set of successful role models. It's about showing it is possible to be a woman in the industry and have creative freedom.
Imogen Banks (producer, writer)
Imogen Banks only has four series to her credit, but they are Dangerous, Tangle, Offspring, and Puberty Blues. Those are four of the most acclaimed and successful of the last decade. She is very clearly a name to watch having also written episodes of the latter three, as well as the acclaimed Paper Giants: The Birth of Cleo.
Cate Blanchett (actor)
I'd be lying if I said I didn't wish Cate Blanchett would make a film back home again - her last was Little Fish in 2005 for which she won an AFI Award (an "Australian Oscar" if you will) – and, hey, maybe there's an adaptation or two to be made from her years behind the Sydney Theatre Company like The Maids, which starred Blanchett, Isabelle Huppert and The Great Gatsby's Elizabeth Debicki. Still, she routinely flies the banner for Australia, returning frequently to present at local award shows and to help open events. Her Oscar (for Martin Scorsese's The Aviator) is able to be seen at the free permanent "Screen Worlds" exhibit at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image in Melbourne.
Rosemary Blight (producer)
The Sapphires wasn't quite the arthouse sensation that Harvey Weinstein would have hoped for, but its local success is undeniable. Rosemary Blight heads Goalpost Pictures, the primary producers behind The Sapphires as well as Clubland, and she was also involved in Teesh & Trude, Panic and Rock Island and the Lockie Leonard television adaptation. Coming up she has Matthew Saville's Felony, perhaps my most anticipated Aussie film on the schedule following his modern classic Noise.
Mimi Butler (producer)
With popular and acclaimed series and TV movies Blue Water High, Rush, Howzat!: Kerry Packer's War and Paper Giants: Magazine Wars I'd say Mimi Butler is on a role in bringing successful projects to the screen and winning big audiences.
Jane Campion (director, writer, producer)
An international career that hops between Australia (she brought Bright Star to local shores as a co-production with many locals on board), New Zealand (recent miniseries Top of the Lake was originally an Australian production until ABC backed out due to creative differences), the USA, and the UK. Apart from her high-profile works she was also a part of acclaimed drama Soft Fruit, worked on the Aurora screenwriting committee that helped bring Cate Shortland's Somersault to the screen, and helped push Julia Leigh's Sleeping Beauty to Cannes and beyond.
Michelle Carey (festival director)
As the artistic director of the Melbourne International Film Festival, Michelle Carey is responsible for the biggest and the oldest film festival in Australia. Pretty impressive, no? Also impressive is that MIFF, now over 60 years old and currently on right as I type, has a film development fund for local features, also features a female CEO and board chairperson and a staff roster with many other female positions including operations, programming, marketing, publicity, and industry.
Jan Chapman (producer)
Jan Chapman has long been associated with Jane Campion on The Piano and Bright Star, and Cate Shortland with Somersault and The Silence. She has also helped produce Lantana (arguably the most acclaimed Australian film of the 2000s), Suburban Mayhem and Griff the Invisible (getting Ryan Kwanten back from True Blood to star). Coming up she has The Babadook, which is (ding ding ding) directed by a woman, Jennifer Kent.
Penny Chapman (producer)
Penny Chapman is not only associated with groundbreaking '90s crime series Blue Murder and Police Rescue, but has also worked on The Slap (which sold big internationally, I believe), The Straits and My Place.
Kirsty Fisher (writer)
Kirsty Fisher has written for Dance Academy, H20: Just Add Water, House Husbands, Winners and Losers and Laid, for which she is also a producer. An impressive roster of titles that have achieved big success.
Emma Freeman (director)
One of the most acclaimed and respected directors, Emma Freeman has steered clear of feature films, but made a name for herself on series The Secret Life of Us, Puberty Blues, Tangle, Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries, Rush, Love My Way and Hawke, for which she won an AFI Award.
Claire Henderson (producer)
As executive producer on The Saddle Club, Claire Henderson helped produce a show that sold big time (TV and DVD) to basically any continent that has horses. So that'd be… all of them? At Australia's ABC network she's also been responsible for Blue Water High, Round the Twist and The Ferals at one time or another. She knows what young audiences want to watch it would seem.
Anita Jacoby (producer)
Anita Jacoby surely incited jealousy from the big networks having worked on several of ABC's high-rating Wednesday night line-up including the Gruen franchise and Hungry Beast. Has predominantly worked for Andrew Denton's former company, I believe, on projects like Can of Worms, God On My Side and one of the world's first crowd-funded films, The Tunnel.
Claudia Karvan (actor, producer, writer)
Predominantly known as an actress - she's my personal favourite local TV actor and when I met her I was ecstatic - on such seminal programs as The Secret Life of Us and Love My Way. Claudia Karvan also spearheaded the latter as a writer and producer as well as Spirited on which she also wrote and produced. A highly respected actor, she's currently appearing in Puberty Blues and The Time of Our Lives.