Despite the rallying calls and high-profile female-led production companies, women make up less than third of active film-makers in Australia.
The record books will see 2015 remembered as the year Pitch Perfect 2 – a film written, directed by and starring women and aimed at an audience of young women – beat the expected box office conqueror, Mad Max: Fury Road.
The message was clear: women want to see themselves reflected on the big screen. And yet it seems a fact of life that, no matter how many stirring award acceptance speeches by Cate Blanchett or Patricia Arquette or Meryl Streep whip the world into a frenzy of “You go, girl!” sentiment, the lot of women in film today remains a grim one.
Screen Australia recently investigated the standing of women in Australian film – with alarming results. In AFTRS’ publication Lumina, they reported that of those working in key creative roles in Australia in the period between 1970 and 2014, 16% of directors, 21% of writers and 30% of producers were women.
Like Byrne and Witherspoon, producer Leanne Tonkes’ company Sense & Centsability (whose most recent film, My Mistress, was released in late 2014) has a particular focus on female–driven stories. “I wish I could say I was surprised but I’ve suspected this for some time,” she says of Screen Australia’s report. “This is the driving force behind the philosophy of my company. I think we are yet to fully explore female protagonists and characters that aren’t just female versions of male archetypes, [and] I am excited by the way women tell stories.”