Vimeo is trying to do its part to shatter Hollywood’s glass ceiling.
The video-sharing service is backing a program to help foster female directors by offering financing and educational workshops as well as onsite promotions for the films they make. Dubbed “Share the Screen,” the initiative will invest in a minimum of five projects from female voices in 2016. The company previously backed two original titles last year.
“We’re putting our money where our mouth is,” said Sam Toles, Vimeo’s head of programming. “It’s apparent to us that there is a huge disparity in the number of women content creators. All the data shows that this business skews heavily male. We want to try to be proactive and do something to change that.”
The gap in employment is wide. Female directors were responsible for a mere 9% of the top-250 grossing films in 2015 — the same representation women enjoyed in 1998.
The launch comes in conjunction with the Sundance Film Festival. The festival has done a better job of promoting female voices than the mainstream studios have, with females comprising 25% of American directors screening work at the Park City gathering over the past 13 years. The non-profit institution that puts on the festival is also putting its weight behind supporting more female filmmakers by teaming up with Women in Film Los Angeles to find ways to support directors, get them access to financing and foster new networking opportunities.
The projects that Vimeo picks will get a marketing push and global distribution on Vimeo On Demand. The program will kick off on Feb. 18 with an original short film entitled “Darby Forever” that was written by and stars “Saturday Night Live’s” Aidy Bryant. Its centers on a women who works in a fabric store and the customers she interacts with over the course of her day.
The company will also create a new on-demand collection featuring films from Lucy Walker, Melanie Laurent, Crystal Moselle, and others under the banner “Female-Directed, Vimeo-Approved.”
“As we ramp up our investment in content, having this as a guide post reminds us to remain focused on equality,” said Toles.