We like to think we’re a pretty progressive country. The ‘lucky country’ is what we’ve been known as. But as we become more self-aware, trying harder to catch up to the rest of the world in the name of progress (we can’t all have perfect angel PMs like Justin Trudeau, but a gal can dream) we’re starting to realise that, well, we’re not very bloody good.
Gender equality is something that is constantly being fought for, and the disparity between genders seeps into every crevice of existence.
Recently we saw a very clever protest at the Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts (AACTA) Awards, where a group of women from the Women in Film and Television NSW (WIFT) collective stormed the red carpet dressed as giant dicks/sausages, calling out the gender imbalance in the Australian film industry and the poor amount of women that were nominated in this year’s awards.
Now known as the ‘Sausage Party protest’, WIFT drew the huge gap in the film industry back into the spotlight, and demanded answers from AACTA.
No dicks out for the industry, please. (Photo: WIFT)
So what’s the deal? What’s happening with the glaringly obvious gender gap in the Australian film and TV industry? Let’s break it down a little.
What’s goin’ on?
Screen Australia have done a couple of deep dives in the last few years, clocking in how much involvement women have in broadcasting, film, and television.
In 2011, Screen Australia’s study showed that the number of women in film and video production and post-production was below 5000, and made up 35% of all employed people in that field. In 1971, it was less than 2000, and 36% of people. We’ve actually dropped in representation.
That’s what the climate is like in Australia for anyone that isn’t a dude wanting to pursue a career in film and TV.
According to their studies, women only make up 16% of feature film directors, and 21% of writers. It’s next to nothing, and collectives like WIFT and the Australian Directors’ Guild have had just about enough of it.
Sophie Mathisen is the new badass woman at the helm of WIFT, which has recently been rebooted for the first time in 15 years. Sophie says that she’s shocked at the current situation in Australian film and TV.
“Only recently I had some senior men in the industry openly question whether or not the representation of non-male characters and creatives was a problem,” Sophie tells PEDESTRIAN.TV.
“The stats don’t lie. Forty years of well under a quarter of content being made by women has nothing to do with talent and everything to do with discrimination.”
Last year, Screen Australia released a ‘Gender Matters’ study, which details that even after the previous research released in 2013 and 2015, we’re still failing on an accurate representation of women – both onscreen and behind the scenes.
The study notes that although there has been a recent rise in diversity in Australian TV dramas – think Offspring, Redfern Now, and Janet King – there’s still a gap in the representation of women onscreen in general.
Feature films are the worst performers, and it seems to come down to the amount of women that are working in the production side of things. A recent study supported by Screen Australia found that male directors use female characters 24% of the time, whereas women directors use female characters 74% of the time.
Because our film and TV industry is so strongly dominated by men in all areas of development, production, and post-production, women are barely being represented. Up and coming women filmmakers have had enough.
How is change going to happen?
Sophie and the young team at WIFT have been using their creative minds to cleverly fight against the huge imbalance, and in turn making moves to crack the way we approach how we present ourselves in film.
“We need to culturally dismantle the notion of ‘the great Australian story’ and divest in a multitude of fresh voices and diverse stories if we are to remain vital and integral within an arts practice,” Sophie says.
Sophie also recognises that some of the best times and movements in film history have come out of filmmakers and production teams revolting against what was the accepted norm at the time.
Hanging Rock Fremantle (Photo: WIFT)
These moments are points in history when creative people stopped being reactive to the industry’s decisions, and started being proactive with their projects and things they were creating.
“An entire generation of creators working without support, or restraint, from an archaic system resulted in the best movements in cinematic history – French New Wave and New Hollywood – so in a lot of ways, it’s important for that frustration to build to the point where creators flip the bird to the industry and do it their way.”
Civil disobedience is the action that WIFT are taking to call out the gender imbalance in the Australian film and TV industry – and they’ve already staged two protests in the last couple of months.
Sophie believes that using crowdfunding to find ways around the monopoly on the industry, using different distribution platforms, and giving a voice to the women that are being overlooked and ignored by the industry will start to pave the way for the Australian voice to be a bit more bloody legit.