Why Celebrate PEI’s Women Filmmakers? (IWD 2016)

“It’s like a mega dose of vitamin C.”

There was a really interesting conversation on social media this morning about why it is worthwhile to celebrate women filmmakers, instead of all filmmakers regardless of gender. So, why celebrate Island women filmmakers on International Women’s Day? Is there a difference in women’s and men’s creativity? Is there anything to be gained from segregating the sexes?

Such good information came to light in the conversation, we asked permission to share it here. Thanks to Michelle MacCallum, Renee Laprise, and Sandy Kowalik, for permitting a peek into the discussion. These are direct quotations from a casual social media conversation to which others contributed. 🙂

Michelle MacCallum: Women who work in arts and culture are the poorest segment of working people in Canada – we can extrapolate something from that maybe. Also, women are grossly under-represented in terms of earnings in every industry (except porn – haha!) and also super under-represented in executive/power positions. I noted an article recently that said no major shows went to women at MOMA or another major gallery in NYC. So are we to believe that women aren’t as talented? Good question for discussion!

Sandy Kowalik: According to a 2014 Art Gallery of York University survey “Waging Culture: The Sex Gap (!)”, for every $1/hr a male artist earns, a female artist earned 40¢. Although statistics vary over the years, it seems that women make up at least 60% of working artists and have average incomes that are about 20% lower than male visual artists. Also see: A Statistical Profile of Artists and Cultural Workers in Canada, 2011, page 5 executive summary (Hills Strategies)

Renee Laprise: In Canada only 17% of people on camera are women. And much less behind. And many of the roles are women in jeopardy. I just spent a weekend learning about this. The higher the budget the worse the numbers get. We aren’t saying it’s conscious but it’s there. It needs to change. Doing these events highlights women. Gives us the voice we still aren’t getting in the mainstream.

The Geena Davis Institute has done some excellent work not only accumulating stats but also has created programming and gone to great efforts to bring gender parity to Film and TV. They have a slogan – If she can see it she can be it.

The issue is systemic. That 17% of women in media is reflected in government and other male dominated areas. And it seems to be correlated because in places like the UK you see both numbers are much higher. However with UK and USA partner on Film/tv projects you see the number of women represented drop. The idea is to make the lack of gender parity visible to everyone by going to studios one by one and asking nicely for them to include more women on screen – even in extra roles. You would see a really weird 17% of crowd scenes were women.

It’s mostly unconscious. But also since most of the gatekeepers are guys they just can’t relate to stories told by women the same as by men. And so a film by a woman doesn’t feel like a viable product. Even though 50% of the population are women. Women were taught to accept men’s stories and so we will go see male dominated stories but men are not taught to enjoy women’s stories and they are relegated to the Chick Flick section. Most of which are made by men because they think that’s what women want. Most writers for TV are men. And even when women are in the room ideas that are too ‘girly’ will get shot down. This is happening now.

Women themselves because of unconscious gender bias will skew toward pleasing/choosing men over women. If you look at what seems to be breakout roles for women – Hunger Games, Brave, pretty much all American movies and TV – there is a strong female lead and then maybe a best friend – and the rest are guys. So the idea is pulling women together who’ve made their way into key roles in the industry to support other women and encourage them to keep at it, perhaps opening a door here and there for them you’ll start to see more women being given a shot to take chances on stories maybe not so male skewed. You’ll see that unconscious gender bias start to fade.

I see it with my daughter. It’s starting for sure. But men and women are different = they think differently and approach things differently and have different preferences. Right now males dominate the money and decision making. Right now many women who are in key positions have to play the game and tell stories that will be palatable to a male audience or they will unconsciously be doing that because they are hired and fired based on whether their stuff is like that. So that’s why showing a large amount of women’s work in this kind of situation is good. It’s like a mega dose of vitamin C. Getting them amped up to push through barriers and enticing other women to at least try to join the fun. I hope this helps.

Check out the Geena Davis Institute – so much good stuff!

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