Event discusses gender inequality in TV and film industry

A recent professional-development day addressed the lack of women writing and directing for the Irish film industry, reports Danielle Maldonado.

 An event to raise awareness of the low participation of female writers and directors in film and TV took place at the Irish Writers’ Centre in Dublin in late last year.

Called “Mindshift: Redressing Gender Equality in Writing for Film”, it was one of a series of workshops and talks aimed at encouraging female writers, directors and producers to get more involved in the Irish film industry.

“Women representation numbers are low in writing for TV, very low when writing for theatre and even lower when writing for feature films,” said David Kavanagh, Chief Executive of the Writers’ Guild Ireland – the organisation which supported the Mindshift event, in partnership with Words Ireland.

“Fewer than 20 per cent of the feature films made in Ireland are written by women, directed by women, produced by women,” according to Mr Kavanagh.

The event addressed aspects of the film-writing career, such as contracts and the creative process, to help to reinforce the Irish Film Board’s (IFB) policy initiative on gender implemented in December 2015.

The idea is to provide women who are aspiring to or already have a career as writers and directors with information and training, to increase the number of female applicants for film funding so equality in the Irish film industry can be reached.

“There needs to be a holistic and integrated approach to achieve real change. The aim is to stimulate applications for development and production funding with female creative talent attached. The target is to achieve 50/50 gender parity in funding over the next three years,” said the Irish Film Board when the new policy was launched.

The Writers’ Guild has been organising information meetings and pitching sessions over the last six months so female writers and directors could pitch their projects to Irish production companies, said David Kavanagh. He also said that although the relationship between the IFB and the guild is a positive one, “so far it’s going very slowly” and it is “quite frustrating to try to make progress, but of course these things take time to succeed”.

“Fewer than 20 per cent of the feature films made in Ireland are written by women, directed by women, produced by women”

In December, the IFB were to re-evaluate the policy’s progress, and if it presents problems in certain areas, they will refine the policy and maybe establish quotas as a last resort to achieve results.

Quotas for female writers and directors in feature-film funding is a subject that has been causing discussion in the meetings organised by the guild, because women are concerned that this would seem a “get away”.

“They don’t want to be put in a situation where they are being funded because they are women rather than because they are writers and directors,” said Mr Kavanagh.

He pointed out that getting funded in the film industry in Ireland is a difficult task, but when the problems associated with being a woman are added, it becomes even harder.

“It is very difficult to picture Irish people who are full-time, professional, career-long writers or directors. For me, the key problem is the impossibility of sustaining a career as a writer or a director,” said Mr Kavanagh.

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