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Australia Makes Progress on Gender Equality in Film and TV

Screen Australia, Australia’s federal film and TV funding body, has made sufficient progress in furthering gender equality that it has set more ambitious targets.

The organization has exceeded its long-term Gender Matters key performance indicator, with 56% of projects receiving production funding having at least half of the key creative roles occupied by women, based on a three-year average. The KPI was set in December 2015, and originally aimed for 50%. The KPI considered the key creative roles of writer, director, producer, and in the case of narrative content (drama), the protagonist.

The new target is to have 50% of the key creatives across all projects that receive Screen Australia development and production funding to be women, measured across a three-year-average. For the new KPI, the key creatives are directors, writers and producers and the tracking period is 2019/20 to 2021/22. From August 2020, the agency will also publish the headcount breakdown of key creative roles for feature drama, television drama, online drama and documentary, as a means of identifying areas which require targeted assistance.

“The new KPI will be measured across all projects and on a headcount basis, which should be more transparent,” Joana Werner, a leading independent producer and Screen Australia board member, told Variety.

Werner said that while there is room for progress, the Gender Matters initiative with its A$5 million funding, along with changes to Screen Australia’s story development guidelines, have had tangible impact. “The conversation has changed. Go into any writers’ room now and they will be asking (gender) questions,” she said. In July 2016, A$3.7m was distributed to fund the development of 45 female-driven stories and 13 female-driven businesses.

A large number of female-directed Australian films are due for commercial and festival release. They include Jennifer Kent’s “The Nightingale” (already on release in North America), Rachel Griffiths’ “Ride Like A Girl,” Shannon Murphy’s Venice festival-bound “Babyteeth,” Mirrah Foulkes’ “Judy and Punch” and Sophie Hyde’s “Animals.” The upcoming Toronto film festival will see premieres of Unjoo Moon’s Helen Reddy biopic “I Am Woman” and Rachel Perkins’ TV series “Black B*tch.”

“And if you look at TV, which is completely driven by the number of eyeballs watching, we’ve had a heap of Australian (shows) that are female-led successes,” said Werner. “They include: ‘Offspring,’ ‘Wentworth,’ which is in its eighth season, ‘Sea Change,’ which has just been rebooted, ‘The Letdown,’ and an upcoming series for Foxtel ‘The End,’ in which females are front and center in the creative roles and in the lead roles.”

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