Call for production funding quotas to get 50% of Australian films to be directed by women

The Australian Directors Guild (ADG) has called for quotas to be set on Screen Australia’s production funding in an attempt to boost the number of projects being directed by women.

The Australian Directors Guild is calling for more female directors.

The Australian Directors Guild is calling for more female directors.

The production industry association is urging that a quota of 50 per cent of funding be allocated to female director after research shows that over the last five years only 15 per cent projects were directed by women.

“The screen industry has been funded by the Federal Government for more than four decades for reasons of cultural representation, economic stimulus, and professional development and innovation,” said Ray Argall, president of the ADG.

“Across all these criteria the current funding is not being shared in a representative way. The ADG is concerned with diversity of all types, but is particularly concerned with the dramatic lack of equity in the funding of women and, in particular, female directors.”

Australian Directors guildThe ADG has also called on state screen agencies and the public broadcaster the ABC to support the initiative.

The research also showed women are under-represented in key creative roles across Screen Australia-funded dramatic productions with only 32 per cent producers were female, 23 per cent of writers and 28 per cent of the protagonists in features.

“The statistics are the starkest for dramatic feature films, but are inequitable across all forms of production supported by Screen Australia. The obstacles confronting women are complex and spread across all sections of the industry,” said Argall.

Director Gillian Armstrong agrees:  “For years I have been asked about the lack of numbers of women directors in film. My feeling has always been that it has to be based on merit. But the data from Screen Australia shows that the increase has only been about 6 per cent in 30 years. It is pretty obvious that the current system is not about merit – there is not a level playing field.

“Equally talented young women film makers are graduating from film schools in the same numbers as men, and winning short film awards, but they are not getting the breaks as film directors. It doesn’t even make commercial sense, given that women are more than 50% of the audience. The same pattern is seen around the world. It is time to take action about this obvious gender inequality.”



Screen Australia chief operating officer Fiona Cameron today responded to call by ADG noting that it was looking at the issue but arguing that funding had largely followed the number of applications by women.

“Screen Australia is actively investigating options for addressing issues of gender equality in Australia’s screen industry, with options to go to the next Board meeting in late November,” said Cameron.

“Analysis to date has shown that Screen Australia’s support for projects with women in key creative roles has been allocated in very close correlation to the number of projects coming in with women in these positions.”

Argall argued that the screen agencies are not to blame for the inequity, but had a responsibility to change the situation.

He said that a 50 per cent quota would incentivise distributors and producers to consider more female directors.

“The focus on directors is because as creative drivers they can make a huge difference in redressing gender inequality in our industry – as the successful Swedish model has shown.  In Sweden, setting a 50 per cent quota for women directors resulted in jobs for women writers, actors, producers and other creatives, as well as for directors, rising dramatically across the board in the space of two years,” he said.

Screen Australia’s Cameron said they were looking at the Swedish model.

“Screen Australia has also been researching with great interest existing international models, including the BFI’s diversity initiative and the Swedish ‘quota’ system for female directors – although differences in systems need to be noted,” she said.

“For example Sweden film funding operates under a ‘two doors’ approach whereby bigger budget projects with distributors attached are separated out from the discretionary ‘production fund’ (which is where the target, not actually a firm quota, applies).”

“We are in ongoing discussion with industry about these issues and hope to be able to announce a plan in the next few months.”

Nic Christensen 


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