Friday, February 7, 2014

Francine Raveney & the European Women's Audiovisual Network

In the last few years, legislative, public film funds and activist initiatives have begun to transform conditions for European women who write and direct feature films.

Sweden’s the frontrunner. The Swedish Film Institute’s gender initiatives are backed by the Swedish 2013 Film Agreement, which requires the institute to allocate its total funds equally to women and men in each of the three professional categories – director, screenwriter and producer, by the end of 2015. It took a while for the institute’s initiatives to develop and to take effect, but the latest nominations for the institute's annual Guldbagge film awards are rich with the names of women writers and directors. There are many other film initiatives by Swedish groups and individuals, who seem mutually supportive: the Doris Film network, founded in 1999, Wanda Bendjelloul who watches only films that women direct, the cross-sector groups that generated the A-Rating system and the strong Swedish Women in Film & Television network.  The Stockholm International Film Festival’s provides a (globally unique?) Feature Film Award, to fund a Swedish woman director's second feature. And this collective environment nourishes women from outside Sweden too. Women-directed work won Best Film at the Stockholm International Film Festival six times in the last decade: Lucile Hadžihalilović's Innocence; Laurie Collyer's Sherrybaby; Courtney Hunt's Frozen River; Debra Granik's Winter's Bone; Cate Shortland's Lore; Clio Barnard's The Selfish Giant.

Johan Fröberg (Swedish Film Institute), Emily Mann (Skillset, UK), 
Tomas Tengmark & Git Scheynius (director Stockholm International Film Festival)
Brainstorming meeting Cannes 2013
Other European states and public funding bodies and activists are also moving forward. France now has its unique Charte d’Egalité, an innovative, activist-led, collaboration between the state, the industry and activists. Eurimages, the pan-European film funding body, provides excellent data about the genders of applicants for its funding and about the successful applicants and will shortly announce new measures to promote equality.

There are also many and varied studies, conversations and alliances, often generated via women's film festivals  like Elles Tournent in Brussels, Films de Femmes in Creteil, The Flying Broom in Ankara, and the International Dortmund| Cologne Film Festival,  which founded the International Women's Film Festival Network in association with the Athena Film Festival in New York. In some countries, these initiatives are supported by the local Women in Film & Television chapter.

There are new networks in Romania and a range of existing networks are growing stronger all the time, like Austria's FC Gloria  and Women in Film and TV UK and MICA, the professional network for Ibero-American women in the film and audiovisual industry (in Spain and Portugal as well as Latin America).

One of the most exciting developments is the European Women’s Audiovisual Network (EWA). EWA came out of the work of the Spanish Association of Women Filmmakers and Audiovisual Media Professionals (CIMA), founded by women directors almost a decade ago. CIMA called a pan-European meeting in 2010, where participants created the Compostela Declaration. This led to the establishment of EWA later that year. At the end of 2012 EWA obtained an independent legal association status.

Early last year, EWA established its base in Strasbourg, France, to be close to key partner European institutions including the European Audiovisual Observatory, the European Parliament, Eurimages and the Council of Europe, the Franco-German broadcaster ARTE, the région d’Alsace and the Communauté Urbaine de Strasbourg, the local city authority, which is normally very supportive of pan-European initiatives – although EWA is also wondering about having an office in Brussels. Francine Hetherington Raveney was appointed as Director at the same time as the new statutes were drafted in January 2013.

EWA is now an independent pan-European non-profit organisation spanning 47 European countries, with a complex, super-informative website. It has its own executive body, headed by Isabel de Ocampo, with Zeynep Ozbatur (Head of the Turkish Producer’s Association) and the Spanish director Paula Ortiz as Vice-Presidents and Isabel Castro, Deputy Executive Director of Eurimages, as its new treasurer, an advisory board of pan-European industry experts, a growing number of country ambassadors and a dedicated executive team. It is backed by the Swedish Film Institute, the Norwegian Film Institute and the Dutch Film Fund and has been supported by the Croatian Audiovisual Centre and the Hungarian Cultural Centre of Berlin. It is also working closely with many other state film funds, in Germany, Austria and Switzerland among others.

How did it manage all this in a comparatively short time? Francine Raveney agreed to answer some questions, just before an exciting EWA programme at the Berlinale.

Francine Raveney