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created by Leanne Tonkes

There is a wonderful opportunity for Australia to become a leader in supporting and encouraging female practitioners in all screen industries.  Already a number of successful female directors, writers and producers are working in television and have strong track records but in our quest for gender parity more needs to be done to ensure the statistics improve across all sectors, especially that of feature film.  This can only be achieved with a number of initiatives – development, mentorships, and business support.


It would seem there is some resistance from the marketplace to supporting female driven projects.  I would like to propose a way funding bodies could provide additional support to these projects to address this perceived shortfall in market support without the requirement for a quota.



The proposal explores allocating a percentage of existing production investment funding (say between 10 - 25%)  to provide additional support to productions with female Directors, Writers and Heads of Department as an added incentive to all productions to consider women in all key creative roles.


This is in response to anecdotal evidence that films with female directors are harder to finance.  The concept enables additional support of women filmmakers without the need for quotas as the additional funds are only accessible if a film passes the normal evaluation process. 



Once a film has been evaluated under current process,  it would be reviewed for its Significant Female Content. If the film has a female director and/or writer it would be eligible for possible top up funding, say 5 or 10% of the funding the project would ordinarly be seeking.  For example, if the project was seeking $1mil from Screen Australia, it could actually access between $1,050,000 and $1,100,000   



The production would then be assessed for the number of female Heads of Department (similar to the co-production points test) and would receive an additional percentage or dollar figure amount for each woman in the following roles.


Section A 

Writer - 2 points

Director - 2 points

DoP - 1 point           

Editor - 1 point

Cast – Four principal roles - 1 point each


Section B (select 5 of the below)

Composer - 1 point

Costume Designer - 1 point

Production Designer - 1 point

Script Editor - 1 point

Sound Designer - 1 point 

Underlying Work - 1 point

VFX Supervisor - 1 point

Other key role - 1 point


Even if these areas only attracted an additional $10k for each point, a project with women in all roles would be eligible for a maximum of $150k.



In total the project could attract an additional $250k by maximising the Significant Female Content.  This might enable a project with less market investment to get across the line.  Of course these figures are just suggestions and could be increased or reduced as required.


The incentive encourages greater representation of women in all sectors of the industry, persuading all producers, irrespective of sex, to consider more female cast and crew when building a project. It could also have a secondary effect of creating more female roles on screen.






Here's another idea that could be implemented in addition to the Significant Female Content Test or independent of it.


A film’s script could also be evaluated for representation of women on screen.  This process could be via one of the following three ways or a combination of these.


  • The Bechdel Test – does the film pass the Bechdel test i.e. does it have two or more female characters with names, who talk to each other about something other than a man (for longer than a minute).  The Bechdel test is currently used as an evaluation tool by the Swedish Film Institute and has recently expanded to Finland, Norway and Italy.

  • Total female cast ratio – are 50% or more of the actors appearing in the end credits crawl women?

  • The Mako Mori test – does the film have at least one female character who gets her own narrative arc, that is not about supporting a man’s story.


If the script and casting pass all, or a combination of these tests, it could be eligible for an additional percentage payment or a cash figure.


This would encourage all writers and producers to ensure the film has credible female characters with real value to the story overall.



I would love to hear your thoughts on these ideas.  


Please add your thoughts and comments here.


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