Last week I attended the conference 25 years of MEDIA : Investing in Creativity, Building the Future at the Centre for Fine Arts Brussels - "Bozar". I was particularly interested in the session "Women on the move – towards a more diverse film industry", which explored, among others, how diversity can make the sector stronger and better.
There are deep inequalities in virtually all occupations in the film occupations in the film industry. For instance, a study conducted by the European Audiovisual Observatory, reveals that only 16.3% of European films, made between 2003 and 2012, were directed by women. Shockingly, this percentage has not changed significantly over the last five years. According to the Geena Davis Institute, male actors outnumber their female colleagues 3 to 1 in family films. Even more surprising – this is the same ratio as in 1946! Studies reveal discrimination, clichés and stereotypes with regards to the presentation and behaviours of women and girls on the big screen. It is time to acknowledge and address these problems.
We need to trust in diversity. The more your project includes individuals from different backgrounds, the more you will be creatively stimulated by different ideas and perspectives. As one of the conference panellists said last week, the richness of European cinema lies precisely in its diversity. And I remember the great movie Thelma and Louise, which was female-authored, made a real breakthrough in re-designing women characters on the screen and won the Academy Award.
Fortunately, film funding agencies and international bodies, such as Council of Europe's Eurimages, have started to be active in this field, by way of adopting gender equality strategies. I have learnt that also national film institutes in Sweden, Norway and Germany introduced formal quotas which allow for more funding for women filmmakers and associations such as Women in Films & TV and European Women Audiovisual Network support the role of women in the film industry.
The European Commission is also promoting gender diversity in the film industry through the Creative Europe MEDIA programme. This means, for instance, that the selection of experts for the evaluation of the projects applying for funding must meet gender balance. However, a lot remains to be done.
In my last blog on gender equality I asked women scientists to sign up in our database for evaluators of calls for proposals under Horizon 2020. Thanks to many who have signed up, 45% of evaluators so far in 2016 were women, a great increase from 28% in 2014!
This time, we are looking for ideas on what we could do here at the Commission to reduce gender inequality in the film industry and film creation. Times are changing; societal roles become more equal, businesses look for more diversity in boardrooms and workforce alike. Shouldn't this be an opportunity to make film content that meets peoples' expectations and demand? Shouldn't we then promote the role of women in front of and behind the camera? How could the MEDIA programme support diversity and in particular gender diversity?
Looking forward to hearing from you!