National Film Board of Canada Commits 50% of Production Budget to Films by Women

Stories We Tell
Courtesy of Mongrel Media

The National Film Board of Canada (NFB) will now allot half of its production spending to female-directed films, government film commissioner Claude Joli-Coeur announced Tuesday, International Women’s Day, at the Vancouver International Women in Film Festival.

“Today, I’m making a firm, ongoing commitment to full gender parity, which I hope will help to lead the way for the industry as a whole,” said Joli-Coeur, who’s also a NFB chairperson.

The agency plans to adopt a transparent approach to implementing these measures — which will be rolled out over the next three years — by providing updates on the NFB’s website, allowing the public to track its progress.

According to a recent report by nonprofit org Women in View on the Canadian film industry, women represented only 17% of directors, 22% of writers and 12% of cinematographers in a sample of 91 feature films produced between 2013 and 2014.

With this commitment to gender equality, NFB is striving to improve these numbers. The agency approaches staffing decisions in a similar way,  with females comprising 66% of the NFB’s upper management and occupying 77% of the NFB Board of Trustee positions.

The NFB’s slate of upcoming female-directed films include Zayne Akyol’s “Terre de Roses, mon nom est Gulistan,” Marie Clements’ “The Road Forward,” Ann Marie Fleming’s “Window Horses” and Tiffany Hsiung’s “The Apology.”

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  1. Zane Overstreet says:

    I love the irony when people make decisions like this.

    It’s not equality, it’s sexicst.

    The choice of where and when to do somthing should not be based on gender.

    What happens when you reach the 50% on men’s films and the rest is just sitting in the bank with no films to spend it on?

    Are you going to spend $ on films just because they are made by women even if they are not as good as another film that happens to be made by a man?

    If you follow this same concept
    “with females comprising 66% of the NFB’s upper management and occupying 77% of the NFB Board of Trustee positions”, women would lose their jobs to make it 50% equality

    Basing decisions purely on gender is sexist, not equality.

    When did a person’s gender become a factor in how well someone can create art?

  2. Denis F. Oliver says:

    This is ridiculous. Women only produce product that appeals to women and girls. Their product doesn’t appeal to men and boys, so, their product will never have wide-appeal. Without wide-appeal, product produced by women will never make its cost let alone make a profit.

    • guest says:

      wow. you’re an awful misogynist.

      • Tema Staig says:

        Oddly, women make all kinds of films that appeal to all kinds of people. Hate to break it to you that “Fast Times at Ridgemont High”, “American Psycho”, “Wayne’s World”, and “Point Break” were all made by women. They all made handsome profits.

        The first narrative film EVER was made by a woman.

        The first animated feature EVER was made by a woman.

        The first French New Wave film EVER was made by a woman.

        The first boom mike was designed by a woman director who while making Paramounts first talkie.

        Sorry (not sorry) to burst your bubble.

  3. Very nice. But we’d be better served if The NFB committed 100% of its resources to making GREAT films, no matter what the gender of the filmmakers.

    Quotas do not equal quality.

    • Every industry on this planet favors men already. When women are equal to men in modern society — and they’re not, yet, thanks to systemic sexism and normalized misogyny — then you can go around spewing drivel about how quotas don’t equal equality.

      Until then, the NFB’s commitment is the right move, and one I hope more and more industries follow.

      • Orson Wells says:

        Please give me ONE example of systemic sexism in Canada or the United States. Just one.

  4. 50% of the funding for 17% of the workforce….

    • CBroc says:

      Or, 50% of the funding from 50% of the source of that funding?

    • acesome says:

      I agree women aren’t equal to men (in society, yet). I agree more needs to be done. But this isn’t the right move.

      Since 17% of directors are female, 17% of funding applications could be from women. So do those 17% get 50% of the money, or are 33% less films going to be made?

      What if the entire crew, except the director, is female? With a male director, they will find it harder to get funding, because 50% of the money is to be split between 83% of the funding applications.

      Will this get more women into funding? How? How will this translate into training opportunities, etc? How will it make more women want to make films?

      Why can’t they remove all identifying features about who wrote a script, and who will direct it? They could allocate a number to every application and all the funding could be given out blind on the merits of the film alone. If needed, they could have a little information, like “first time director.”

  5. This is great!!!! There will finally be no more excuses. The playing field is even – so any female director can no longer use gender as an excuse. It’s interesting that we are starting with a fun industry to work on “equalism”. I never hear any grips from women about being behind in the sanitation industry.

    • mxr says:

      You understand that just because the budget is equal, gender bias and misogyny isn’t over, right? Women could have 100% of the budget and still be treated horribly just because they’re women.

  6. Jessica says:

    I dont think you should judge people based on gender, race, or any other superficial attribute. This is not how you attain equality.

  7. Steng says:

    I’m a low/no budget Canadian filmmaker. NFB is like a majestic ship, slowly sinking into the sea. Sadly it’s no longer about making the very best content like it was 40 years ago. The offices get smaller, the politics get tighter, and from my perspective decisions are made based on numbers not on artistry. This is a further extension of that philosophy.

  8. Brandon says:

    Please, educated people of Canada.

    Assigning funds based in gender is the opposite of progress. It’s entirely sexist. OMG.

    Hello? “Is there anybody out there?”

    Each gender has its strengths and weaknesses.

    Stop leading society into the opposite extreme as is current.

    If you want to give female film makers a chance to rise up do it through natural selection and eliminate the names and connections of everybody involved in the film and only look at substance of script and infostructure information .

    It’s not difficult to bring in equality… Raising any gender of the other in terms of opportunity is not the way.

    • Donna says:

      Educated people of Canada will recognise that opportunities are not as readily available for women, and that the people who select which films to fund are likely biased toward projects that are more easier to visualise, ie: projects like the 83% male narrative stories already out there. Explicit language requiring gender parity is exactly what’s needed.

  9. Stuart says:

    What a bizarre decision. If you have to issue a quota then you have lost true equality. Perhaps there are fewer women in the film industry because they have made different (and possibly wiser) life decisions. The level of commitment required to succeed in just being noticed is not generally consistent with a happy life and would certainly get in the way of the very important job of being a mother. Equality is about choice and not quota’s.

    • mxr says:

      Assuming women don’t already have equal talent right off the bat is the sexist part, which is what you’re doing. It’s not giving money to lesser talent. Trudeau made half of his cabinet women because there are an equal number of women and men EQUALLY qualified to do the job, not just that he’s giving lesser women a shot. It’s the same in cinema: If you have 100 spots and 100 extremely talented people, giving most of those spots to either gender would be unequal. Assuming there are more men in the field because they do a better job is unequal. Giving equally talented people of different genders half of the spots is equal.

    • stevehc1 says:

      – Unfortunately such is the way the members of the NFB – and most other similarly extremely “liberal” organizations throughout Canada – actually think, i.e. that quotas solve perceived societal ills (regardless of whether or not society even *has* such ills to begin with). >

    • Donna says:

      Just . . .no. This “argument” against gender parity is so backward. There are fewer women in the industry because there are fewer opportunities open to women, not because women aren’t interested in contributing to the film culture of Canada. It is up to women to decide if they will become mothers, and how they will balance motherhood with all other aspects of their life. Male directors are not told to quit and focus on being fathers. You are right that equality is about choice, and thank goodness someone else was in charge of this choice to embrace equality because you don’t have a grasp of it yet.

      • stevehc1 says:

        “Male directors are not told to quit and focus on being fathers.”

        – NOR are *female* directors told to quit and focus on being *mothers*! The world has changed quite considerably over the past 30 years, regardless of Stuart’s bizarre comment. The NFB’s decision on this matter is just as bizarre.


  10. Davros says:

    So none of this is about talent at all? Well done, Canada.

    • franceyr says:

      Why would talent drop out? Unless you think that by giving opportunities to women, the NFB would lose talent….

    • Emma says:

      This is not exactly a black and white scenario. Unfortunately, gender equality along with race is still an issue we face today, and that is definitely so in this industry. This is just a way to attempt to give women a chance to get their foot in the door. They do show the statistics and we can’t ignore them. It’s not like they’re saying 75% women and 25% men. Also, to say that no talent is involved is just ignorant. Come on. I’m pretty certain that out of the women that apply, we can find some talent? And the men that apply will also be talented. At this point in human history, we’ll just have to make some decisions like this based on that inequality. Hopefully in the future, it’ll just end up being equal instead of us having to force it. Saying this, I truly understand the frustration that you’re all voicing, but lets try and keep an open mind and see the real issue behind this. If you’re project is that great chances are you will get the money. Let’s not forget #Whiteoscars. Let’s try and show our support people!

  11. Fred Mertz says:

    I see the tiny penis Trolls are out tonight.

  12. Yolo says:

    Not like they put out anything worthwhile anyway.

  13. lucylily says:

    now since it’s all about self-identifying, well it pays to be officially a trans-confused. If you want financing, put on some lipstick and a skirt, but leave your beard!

  14. Dick Meyers says:

    So no talent required

    Just a lack of a penis

    Your government at work

    • Sam Brando says:

      In the spirit of that non-argument, no talent was required for the 83% who used to get the money. Just the lack of a vulva.

      Public money – gender parity.

    • jon says:

      For 50% of the grants. What concerns me as a male is that 77% of the Board is female and it’s not a crisis to get that number down to 50%.

      What’s good for the goose, is good for the gander.

      • Matthew Yeo says:

        “Why should that worry you, when this majority-female board has shown itself to be scrupulously gender-equal in its use of public funds?”

        Has it? Their wages are public funds as well, and they’ve clearly hired much more women than men, despite the fact men outnumber women in the industry by a fair margin, and have no passed parity by quite a margin.

        One could argue that with the majority of applicants being male, this is an attempt to unfairly benefit minority female filmmakers with more grants than they would normally be entitled to by numbers, just like they’ve done with the hiring in the organization.

        Of course, there’s also the question of your clear implication that a majority male board couldn’t possibly be fair, but a majority female board can, which is about as sexist a statement as you could make.

      • Sam Brando says:

        Why should that worry you, when this majority-female board has shown itself to be scrupulously gender-equal in its use of public funds? If it were arguing that the lion’s share of the funding should go to women you might have a point.

        It’s interesting how a majority-female board votes for gender parity, while majority-male boards work to favor and promote men.

      • Sam Brando says:

        Even if the board were 100% female and awarded 100% of its grants to women for the next 25 years, it would not rebalance the disproportionate favoritism it has shown to men since 1938, so do try and keep your concern in perspective.

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