Female representation and inclusion is a hot topic in Cannes, if sadly lacking in the competition lineup, and industry leaders came together Sunday to plot the next steps for the #MeToo movement.
The morning after an 82-strong group of women took to the steps of the Palais des Festivals to demand change, USC Annenberg professor Stacy L. Smith told a packed session inside the building that projects with inclusion riders should get bumped to the front of the queue for tax relief. The head of the Swedish Film Institute, Anna Serner, pledged that all of her organisation’s funding would go to female-led projects in 2020 if the goal of having a balance is not achieved by that point.
Serner told Variety that the industry has been given fair warning and she is not afraid to divert all 2020 funding to project that hit diversity and inclusion targets if the industry does not correct itself.
Smith, the academic who developed the inclusion rider, laid out some stark facts illuminating the lack of women and people of color in the film business, before suggesting a range of solutions at the Take Two: Next Moves for #MeToo event.
In a charged atmosphere, she said, there needs to be measurement to gauge the level of progress and that the changes around notions of leadership need to be made, starting in film schools.
Touching upon a recurrent theme, she argued that efforts to affect change need to have financial dimension. “We’re going after tax incentives at the state and federal level to link [them] to production credits so that if a production has the inclusion rider attached to it, it should move to the front of the line or automatically qualify for funding,” she said.
Smith added that the movie business needs to uncouple the race and gender of producers and directors from the content they are making, otherwise the small number of movies with female leads or co-leads further reduces opportunity. “In Hollywood you have to have a female lead to have a female director,” she said. “It should be that females are considered for ‘Iron Man’ and ‘Wonder Woman.’”
This should extend to race she continued: “When we have people of color behind the camera they should be able to tell stories about people of color and about Caucasians. What a concept right!”
Serner echoed Smith’s calls for systems to measure the levels of inclusion. “Start counting,” she said. “If you don’t know the numbers you don’t know what kind of problem you have.”
Swedish and French culture ministers, director and screenwriter Aida Begic, and Swedish actors Bahar Paris and Eva Rose all spoke at a morning of sessions hosted by Melissa Silverstein, the founder of Women and Hollywood. With the Cannes Film Festival firmly in the #MeToo spotlight, Cameron Bailey, co-head of the Toronto Intl. film Festival offered up a TIFF perspective on inclusion. “We are in the middle of figuring it out, it is an ongoing process,” he said, adding 12 of TIFF’s 21-strong programming team are women. Later on in the session, he said: “It’s very simple; if you are in a position where you can hire women, hire women, it’s not any more complicated than that.”