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Locarno: Women Rep 34% of Swiss Directors and Screenwriters

Industry meet at Locarno debates women’s presence in cinema, B.O success

Chantal Akerman Locarno 2015
Courtesy Locarno Festival

LOCARNO – Women comprise a third of screenwriters and directors in Switzerland, a report has found.

Swiss female screenwriters and helmers represented 34% of the total, while males were at 66% in the 2013-2014 period. In production, figures show less disparity: Male producers made up 58% while female were 42%. Figures came from a study supported by Switzerland’s Foundation for Professional Training in Cinema and Audiovisual Media (FOCAL), and Cinésuisse and ARF/FDS associations.

Findings/stats were presented and analyzed in the panel “Women in Industry: Spotlight on Success Stories” hosted by the 68th Locarno Fest. Panelists were Anna Serner, Focal’s head of department, Nicole Schroederhelmer and screenwriter Bettina Oberli (“The Murder Farm”) and producer Catherine Dussart (Gurvinder Singh’s “The Fourth Direction”). Francine Raveney, producer (Antonio Savinelli’s “En la ciudad sin brújula”) and network director EWA (European Women’s Audiovisual Network), moderated the panel.

Underscoring larger differences, 31% of projects receiving state aid were from women. Over 2013-2014 period, projects from Swiss women received $15.3 millioni n state funding, those from men tapped $57.2 million. Fiction projects directed by men received 81% of total statecoin in this category, 74% for documentaries.

In spite of all these differences, regarding educational programs, women and men remain on almost a par. Men took 56% of qualifications. However, the career success average is higher for men. Swiss male helmers and screenwriters represent 70% out of the total vs. 30% women, according to Suissimage and SSA sources.

Women account for 31% of state film aid applications, won 22% of final state aid support.

“I do think that there are still territories which are more exclusive for men: Horror movies and genre for sure, and especially big budget movies. The more money, the less women. Making movies does cost a lot of money: Men are more trusted when it comes to big budgets,” Swiss director Bettina Oberly, helmer of “The Murder Farm,” a genre pic, said at the FOCAL event.

The proportion of Swiss female directors (34%), producers (42%) and screenwriters (34%) is nevertheless higher than the European average, but lower than levels in Norway, Sweden and France.

What is the general landscape in Europe? According to a European Audiovisual Observatory report, only 16.3% of the European films produced between 2003 and 2012 were shot by women directors. Over the same period, 8.9% of the admissions for European films were accounted for by films from femme directors. On average, a film by a male director recorded slightly more than double the number of admissions.

Francine Raveney, Network Director of EWA (European Women’s Audiovisual Network) announced that EWA is currently completing a pan-European study “Where are the Women Directors in European Films? Best Practice and Policy Recommendations” in collaboration with seven national film fund research departments, three universities and a number of pan-European bodies, including FERA (Federation of European Film Directors). Report’s stats will be unveiled in two stages: at the Venice Film Festival on Sept. 5, via a press conference, and at 2016’s Berlinale, on Feb. 14.

Films by women at Locarno include Catherine Corsini’s “La Belle Saison” and Elisabeth Scharang’s “Jack,” of Piazza Grande screeners, and, in International Competition, Athina Rachel Tsangari’s “Chevalier,” Pascale Breton’s “Suite Armoricaine,” and “No Home Movie,” from Chantal Akerman (pictured).

“What we can say is that across the board and throughout Europe, it is once women enter the industry that the problems begin, continue and where women start to disappear from the canvas as protagonists. At film school and very early career stages there is greater equality but once they hit the industry reality, it becomes much harder for them to keep their footing and work as recognized creators,” Raveney said to Variety.

Sweden is by far the European model for gender equality: In 2014 50% of fiction features with funding from a commissioner were made by a female helmer, 69% were produced by a woman, and a 61% were penned by a woman.

In 2014, Sweden’s gender success hit the Berlin Fest where women directed three out of four Swedish features at this year’s Berlinale: Sanna Lenken’s “My Skinny Sister,” Beata Gardeler’s “Flocking,” and Mia Engberg’s “Belleville Baby.”

Swedish Film Institute CEO Anna Serner encourages other European countries: It’s necessary “to decide to really make a change: To go from words to action. We have shown it’s possible for a public fund to make a difference.”

But nobody can lower their guard, while the percentage of Swedish films with a female director was considerably lower for automatic funding, and also for films that premiered in 2014.

“It shows that not everyone in Sweden is aware of the issue and that the market and film business haven’t started working without our interference. It’s easier when a public fund is involved because we have a great impact and our money’s setting a standard. We need to keep on working to get everyone dedicated. And it shows how long it will take before all decisions are made with a gender neutrality,” explained Serner to Variety.