Kirsten Schaffer, executive director of Women In Film, Los Angeles, heads to Rome’s MIA Market this week to join key representatives of the Italian media as they push for systemic changes in the local entertainment industry.
On Oct. 21, Schaffer will be joined at MIA by Paul Feig and prominent Italian bizzers on a panel, hosted by Women In Film, TV & Media Italia, that will present the tools of ReFrame, the organization promoting a formal action plan to achieve gender parity in film and TV.
Schaffer said the group’s goal in Rome is to see how the strategies adopted by industry leaders in the U.S. can be applied locally. “We’re not bringing ReFrame to Italy,” she said. “We’re sharing our tools and our knowledge with that industry for them to adapt as they see fit.”
Established in 2017, ReFrame is a joint partnership between Women In Film and the Sundance Institute. More than 50 industry leaders, including studio heads, agency partners, senior network executives, and talent and guild representatives, have signed on as ReFrame ambassadors since its launch.
The organization has pushed for practical measures to foster gender parity in media, including the creation of a 14-point road map that offers suggestions at every stage of production on how to achieve greater inclusivity, and a joint venture with IMDBPro, ReFrame Stamp, to certify gender-balanced films and TV shows. “Our goal is to build a model that supports incremental change, so that it’s lasting change,” said Schaffer.
The #MeToo movement has struggled to take hold in Italy, where many women fear the repercussions of speaking out against sexual harassment. Last year, actress Asia Argento was widely criticized and ridiculed in Italy when she became one of the most prominent and outspoken accusers of disgraced mogul Harvey Weinstein.
Speaking with her Italian counterparts, Schaffer said she’s seen signs “that there at least some people within the industry who are receptive to change.” This week the Rome Film Festival will sign a gender parity and inclusion pledge, joining the likes of Cannes, Venice, Locarno and Toronto in a push for greater festival inclusivity.
Schaffer is also optimistic that the sort of changes urged by organizations like ReFrame can take hold across Europe. She pointed to Sweden, which achieved its goal of distributing state funds equally between films by male and female directors, as an example of how progressive public policy can help foster change in film and TV. “The government can mandate some of this,” she said.
While acknowledging that “deep systemic changes” will take time, she added, “We’re in it for the long haul.”