MONTREAL – Telefilm Canada says there remains “a significant” gender gap in the big-budget films it backs.
But statistics released Monday suggest the federal agency is well on its way to achieving its goal of gender parity in key film roles by 2020.
Telefilm announced the plan last year, promising to prioritize projects of equal merit that feature female writers, directors and producers.
Since then, it says 44 per cent of its films featured a female director, 46 per cent had a female writer, and 48 per cent had a female producer.
Those numbers drop among films that cost more than $2.5 million. In that category, only 29 per cent were directed by a woman, while 32 per cent had a female writer and 44 per cent had a female producer.
In contrast, 63 per cent of documentaries were directed by a woman, 75 per cent were written by women and 44 per cent were produced by a woman.
Despite initiatives to promote and foster female talent, Telefilm’s director of national promotion says she couldn’t explain why women still face a glass ceiling when it comes to big film projects.
“That’s the million-dollar question. It’s one that women who have been directing large-budget television for a long time have been asking and it’s what we’re putting back to the industry,” says Francesca Accinelli, adding it’s not due to a shortage of female directors.
“What we found is we weren’t receiving the projects, hence we went out there saying, ‘Please, submit these projects, we’re looking for them.’ Canada clearly wants to see them and the women are ready to work on them.”
Big-budget projects on the way from women include the apocalyptic thriller “Riot Girls,” from director Jovanka Vuckovic and written by Katherine Collins; and the francophone “Antigone,” written and directed by Sophie Deraspe about a woman who helps her brother escape from prison.
Upcoming films in the lower-budget range include the comedy “Spinster,” directed by Andrea Dorfman and written by Jennifer Deyell. It stars Chelsea Peretti of the U.S. sitcom “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” as a woman who fears becoming a spinster after she’s dumped on her 39th birthday.
The overall amount of money Telefilm disperses also continues to favour male-led projects, according to the data, culled from Telefilm’s fiscal year April 1, 2017 to March 31, 2018.
Only a quarter of Telefilm funds went to projects with a female director, while 29 per cent of funds backed projects with a female writer and 36 per cent went to films with a female producer.
Accinelli says that figure was dragged down by the dearth of women in big-budget projects. Although only 34 out of 124 projects fall into this category, they claim nearly $52 million of the $73 million Telefilm hands out.
Big-budget films with a female director snared just 18 per cent of funding, while those with a female writer got 21 per cent and those with a female producer got 31 per cent.
Films that cost less than $2.5 million are the biggest category of Telefilm projects, with 57 titles. Those films included 42 per cent with a female director, 40 per cent with a female writer and 47 per cent with a female producer.