Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Thank You, Jane Campion


One day last week I got up early, to watch the stream of presentations at the Washington session of the 2d Global Symposium of the Geena Davis Institute of Gender in Media (LA session coming soon). It was great to see and hear people I'd only read about and to see the involvement of UN Women.

I was especially inspired by activist, filmmaker and philanthropist Abigail Disney (Pray the Devil Back to HellWomen, War & Peace, founder of Peace is Loud and the outspoken great-niece of Walt.) 'Gatekeepers are wrong 50% of the time', she said, in a fresh version of screenwriter William Goldman's assertion that in the screen industry 'nobody knows anything'. 

The other statement that's stayed with me came from Dr Stacy Smith, of the Media, Diversity & Social Change Initiative, who led the Geena Davis Institute research launched at the symposium, Gender Bias Without Borders 'As money moves in, women are pushed out', she said. Still thinking about what I'd heard, and about to write about it, I saw this tweet.


Just about the best tweet ever. O wow. And how did it happen?

Friday, September 19, 2014

The BFI Greenlights Diversity

Kate Sheppard as green light
Yesterday was the 121st anniversary of women's suffrage in New Zealand. Yes, we were the first country in the world to give women the vote. And this year the Wellington City Council has commemorated this with some special pedestrian green lights near Parliament, portraying suffragist Kate Sheppard.

Also yesterday, I caught up with the British Film Institute (BFI)'s 'three ticks' policy, 'designed to address diversity in relation to ethnicity, disability, gender, sexual orientation and socio-economic status'. Green-lit in July, the policy went live on 1 September. The BFI is the largest public film fund in the United Kingdom, invests over £27m into film development, production, international sales and distribution, and supports around 30 new film productions each year.

From now on, to be eligible for BFI Film Fund support for production, producers who apply must demonstrate their commitment to encouraging diverse representation, across their workforces and in the portrayal of under-represented stories and groups on screen. To qualify under the 'three ticks' policy they need at least one tick in a minimum of two areas–
On-screen diversity– diverse subject matter, at least one lead character positively reflecting diversity, at least 30% of supporting and background characters positively reflecting diversity; 
Off-screen diversity– diverse key creatives (director, screenwriter, composer, cinematographer [note: this list does not include 'producer']), at least two Heads of Department from diverse backgrounds, production crew and production company staff (both with a range of targets across different diverse groups); 
Creating opportunities and promoting social mobility– paid internships and employment opportunities for new entrants from diverse backgrounds, training placements for people from diverse backgrounds, demonstrable opportunities for former trainees or interns to progress within their careers.
There will be challenges I imagine – even the Kate Sheppard green light is dependent on the other associated traffic lights –  but it will help that 'the BFI is also committed to engaging the UK film sector to build consensus around the best ways to approach diversity industry-wide, to develop an action-plan for change right across the UK’s film industry value chain'.

These new policies may mean that the UK will be the first country in the world where (diverse) women direct half of its features, instead of New Zealand, as I've always hoped, or Sweden, where gender equity policies have been in place for some time. The 'three ticks' concept must also influence other state funders committed to diversity in allocating production funds and to gender equity policies that reflect current best practice.

Will the BFI model spread to other parts of Europe, to Canada, Australia and even New Zealand?Very recently, the Directors & Editors Guild of New Zealand (DEGNZ) held a meeting that resolved to work towards increasing the participation of women directors and editors in feature film making and suggested a state-funded women's film fund, but will it now feel encouraged to advocate for the 'three ticks' concept, or a variant of it?  How might a 'three ticks' idea work alongside He Ara, a  New Zealand Film Commission devolved development fund to assist 'established New Zealand writers, producers and directors of Māori and/or Pasifika heritage to express authentic Māori and Pasifika film perspectives'?

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Directors & Editors Guild of New Zealand & WIFT Take Action


Every so often magic happens. Like this public meeting organised by Directors & Editors Guild of New Zealand (DEGNZ) and WIFTNZ. I was sad I couldn't go and look forward to seeing the video that was recorded, as shown in the audience pic below.

Many thanks to DEGNZ Executive Director Fiona Copland and to Lucy Stonex, for this brief report of the historic event, including the pics, followed by my response. For those of you not familiar with New Zealand, Annie Goldson is a documentary director and producer and academic, Cushla Dillon is an editor, Gaylene Preston is a director, writer and producer in film and television and Jackie Van Beek is an actor and a writer and director for stage and screen.


l. to r. Gaylene Preston, Kim Hill, Annie Goldson, Jackie Van Beek

by Lucy Stonex
Responding to the release of some concerning international statistics, members of DEGNZ and WIFT gathered in Auckland last week to talk about gender imbalance amongst directors and editors in the NZ screen industry. Broadcaster Kim Hill moderated a discussion with panellists Gaylene Preston, Annie Goldson, Cushla Dillon and Jackie van Beek, looking at why the imbalance exists and what can be done about it. 
The statistics are not readily available for television but are clear for film: in New Zealand only 17% of dramatic features with New Zealand Film Commission (NZFC) investment are directed by women. Women are accessing less than half their appropriate share of public funding for film. The packed house at the event expressed overwhelming support for affirmative action to address this imbalance, by way of a targeted fund. 
DEGNZ will collaborate with NZFC and New Zealand On Air, to more fully analyse the data available and look at ways to move the discussion forward. Let us know your view.

The Audience
My Response

An earlier online report stated that the panellists ‘had varying views on how the situation had arisen and what could be done about it’. This isn’t surprising of course. It’s inevitable that a New Zealand discussion will echo global debates, where views also differ widely.

I'm curious about the representation of screenwriters, directors and producers in the audience and hope that there’ll now be a supplementary inquiry amongst women practitioners throughout the country. Even a brief questionnaire would be great.

Because the issues are so complex, I also look forward to a vigorous debate about what strategies will best encourage gender equity in New Zealand filmmaking. I love women's funds, but who would benefit from the one being proposed, and how? What's happened in the past with state-funded women's film funds? What can we learn from that? What's the range of contemporary approaches and how well are these approaches working?

Thursday, September 11, 2014

The Fledgling Fund & Social Impact Assessment


The Fledgling Fund is a private foundation 'driven by the passionate belief that film can inspire a better world'. The list of films it's supported is truly impressive, lots by and about women. Here's just a few– Brave Miss World, Budrus, Girl Rising, Leaving the Life, Miss Representation, Mothers of BedfordSaving Face, The Invisible War, The Light in Her Eyes. Other significant projects include The Mask You Live In and Seed: The Untold Story. And there are many many more.

I love it that each project on the Fledgling Fund site has its own social impact page, powered by Sparkwise. On those pages I can read a synopsis and about the filmmakers, see the trailer, get a snapshot of the project's communities and social media reach, find out who its main supporters are. Learn about how I can become a supporter and/or viewer. There are graphs! There are maps even!

I can't show you a full screenshot of any of the pages, many of them rich and complex. But here's a partial example, from Seed: The Untold Story, chosen because I'm raising bee-loved plants from untreated seeds at the moment and, years ago, I was deeply affected by New Zealander Barry Barclay's The Neglected Miracle (1985), which covers similar themes.



The Fledgling Fund funds only docos, as far as I can see. But there are of course narrative films that aim for social engagement,  Sophie Hyde's wonderful and multi-award-winning narrative feature 52 Tuesdays for instance. Its website has a front page not unlike a Sparkwise page and its 'My 52 Tuesdays' is–
...a worldwide participatory project where people build and share a unique portrait of a year in their lives. Every week, every Tuesday, a question is posed to everyone involved – you answer by writing down your response and taking your photo with it. See answers to the same questions from your closest friends and creative people all over the world. Share your photos or keep them private. It is a project about you, set in time, distinctly personal and lovingly communal – but only if you choose it to be so, because ultimately it is a project about choice. And only on Tuesdays. How much will you share?
Branded entertainment does it too. Miranda July's contribution to Miu Miu's Women's TalesSomebody, has an associated app which seems like a lot of fun. It allows users to send a message to a friend and have it delivered, in person, by a stranger who is geographically near the recipient. I was thinking that it might be problematic to use Somebody in Welly, with its small population but 'The artist advises that Somebody works best with a critical mass of users in a given area; any social gathering can become a Somebody hotspot'. In the Huffington Post, Naz Riahi reported on her experience–
I was one of the first handfuls of people to download and use the app, zealously running all over Brooklyn and Manhattan to act out and deliver messages to strangers. The experience was exhilarating...It was a whole new way of communication and connection.
(Miranda July's website is content rich, too.)

To me, this thoughtful letter from the women at the Fledgling Fund, about whether and how to assess the impact of creative media, is both timely and useful, for all of us.  I like their Crafting An Impact Assessment Plan: Some Questions To Get You Started, too, which follows the letter.

This is also a Happy Birthday post for Ruth Gerzon and for her life's work, making a social impact.

September 2, 2014

To Our Community,


Over the past several months, Fledgling has participated in many discussions with fellow funders, filmmakers, practitioners and others who are all wrestling with the question of whether and how to assess the social impact of creative media, and especially documentary film. Emerging tools and platforms, like The Participant Index (TPI), Harmony Institute’s Story PilotSparkwise and ConTEXT, are attempting to capture social impact in different ways, many using techniques that rely in part on access to big data. We expect others will follow. Like many of you, we have reviewed these platforms and tools as they have evolved and have listened to the robust debate they have sparked, revealing the concerns and push back from many filmmakers and others about this increased focus on 'measurement'.  This came through loud and clear in Aggregate’s survey of True/False filmmakers released in July in which 62% of respondents answered “no” to the question “Do you think there should be metrics to measure the social change created by a film?”  In light of this, we have been thinking a lot about what all of this means for Fledgling, for our grantees, and for the field.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

'The Patriarch' & Producer Matriarch Robin Scholes – Equity Crowdfunding Reaches New Zealand




Just over a month ago, Pledgeme and Snowball Effect became New Zealand’s first equity crowd funders, licensed to act as intermediaries between entrepreneurial companies wanting to sell shares and investors wanting to buy them. This week, The Patriarch, through Snowball, became the first feature film to seek equity crowdfunding in New Zealand. It may not be the first feature in the world to be equity crowd funded but it’s close.

New Zealanders have engaged with equity crowdfunding before, when Spanner Films, led by New Zealander Lizzie Gillett, produced Franny Armstrong’s The Age of Stupid in the United Kingdom and later provided a step-by-step guide to their model. Also in the United Kingdom, Simon West (Tomb Raider, Con Air) is using equity crowdfunding to raise money for his Salty.

The Patriarch, from the novel Bulibasha, is the fourth feature from a Witi Ihimaera story. It follows Whale Rider (2002, wr/dir Niki Caro), Kawa (2010, from Nights in the Garden of Spain, wr Kate McDermott dir Katie Wolfe) and White Lies|Tuakiri Huna (2013, from Medicine Woman, wr/dir Dana Rotberg).

The Patriarch’s producer, Robin Scholes, has teamed up with director Lee Tamahori, whose Once Were Warriors (1994) she also produced. The writer is John Collee.

This felt like a fine opportunity to interview Robin about The Patriarch and her role as a woman producer. Although I’ve often interviewed writers, directors and actors who also produce, I think Robin’s the first producer I’ve interviewed since Karin Chien, way back, and the first New Zealand producer. Robin provides a great place to start. Like Karin, she’s a legend.

The Once Were Warriors premiere
l. to r. Neil Roberts, Cliff Curtis, Robin, Temuera Morrison, Garry McAlpine, Lee Tamahori 

What’s The Patriarch about?

Women Wrote Half SWANZ 2014 Nominated Scripts!


The New Zealand Writers Guild has announced the Finalists for the Script Writer Awards NZ 2014. Fantastic to see so many women's names. Warm congratulations to you all!

BEST FEATURE FILM SCRIPT
Max Currie – Everything We Loved
James Napier Robertson – Dark Horse
Gerard Johnstone – Housebound
Sophie Henderson – Fantail

BEST TELEVISION ONE-OFF DRAMA
Fiona Samuel – Consent: The Louise Nicholas Stor
Donna Malane & Paula Boock – Field Punishment No.1 
Donna Malane & Paula Boock – Pirates of the Airwaves

UNPRODUCED FEATURE FILM SCRIPT COMPETITION
Gillian Ashurst – Gnats 
Dianne Taylor – The Last Hippie Trail 
Tania Wheeler – Umbrella Man
Richard Goodwin – Immortal Diamond
Jackie Owens – Three Gardens