Toronto Film Festival Kicks Off $3 Million Campaign to Support Female Filmmakers

The Toronto International Film Festival is kicking off a $3 million campaign to support female filmmakers.

The film festival, which unfolds every September, is a key stop for Oscar hopefuls.

The five-year funding push will support a three-month residency program for female creators, develop a speaker series about gender equity and gender identities in film, and design classroom resources to help educators interested in the subject of women and gender in cinema. The move comes as women trail men in terms of representation behind the camera — only 7% of all directors working on the 250 highest-grossing domestic releases in 2016. That was a decline of two percentage points from the level achieved in 2015.

There have been some gains, however. Patty Jenkins directed “Wonder Woman,” a big-screen smash that is the highest grossing film ever overseen by a female filmmaker. The festival has also made strides to increase the representation of women. Nearly 30% of films at last year’s gathering were directed by women.

“We acknowledge that gender inequity is systemic in the screen industries, so change has to happen at every level. That includes getting more women into key creative roles,” said Cameron Bailey, the festival’s artistic director. “We plan to seek out, develop, and showcase top female talent in the industry through our festival and year-round initiatives. Our mission is to transform the way people see the world through film. One of the most powerful ways to do that is to foreground the perspectives of women.”

The festival will be reaching out to individual and corporate donors. The campaign, dubbed “Share Her Journey,” has enlisted a number of advocates, including Nigerian actor-turned-filmmaker Omoni Oboli (“Okafor’s Law”), Carol Nguyen (“Jump Cuts”), documentary filmmaker, writer and producer Jennifer Baichwal (“Manufactured Landscapes”), and Oscar-nominated filmmaker Deepa Mehta (“Anatomy of Violence”)

The first $80,000 donated to this campaign in 2017 will be matched by Betty-Ann Heggie, a former vice president of PotashCorp, and Anne-Marie Canning, a Toronto philanthropist.

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