After last year’s ceremony was cancelled due to the pandemic, the U.K.’s Women in Film and TV Awards returns in person on Friday just in time for its 30th anniversary.
Hosted by former “The Great British Bake-Off” co-presenter Mel Giedroyc, some of the screen industry’s leading women including Marlee Matlin (“CODA”), Wunmi Mosaku (“Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them”), Aimee Lou Wood (“Sex Education”), “Newsnight” anchor Emily Maitlis and “The One Show” presenter Zoe Ball are expected to attend the event for an afternoon of “networking and drinking,” says producer Liz Tucker, who chairs the Women in Film and TV U.K.’s board.
In 2019, attendees included “The Crown’s” Helena Bonham Carter (pictured above with director Jessica Hobbs), “Strictly Come Dancing” presenter Claudia Winkleman, Ruth Wilson (“The Affair”) and comedian Steve Coogan, among others. Men are invited too, incidentally and this year’s guest-list includes comedian Michael McIntyre and documentary-maker Louis Theroux.
As well as a champagne reception and three-course meal, attendees (who must complete Covid-19 protocols in order to attend) can look forward to a performance from the cast of “Six,” a musical about Henry VIII’s wives uniting as a girl band to tell their own stories, and, of course, a chance to celebrate women who otherwise might not get a look-in in a traditionally male-dominated industry.
No wonder tables for the event, which will be held at the London Hilton, Park Lane, sell out almost immediately. “People have said getting a ticket for the awards is a bit like Glastonbury,” says Tucker, only half-joking.
The organization, Women in Film and Television (WFTV) U.K., was launched in 1990 by a group of women including Joan Collins, Janet Street Porter and Dawn French with the aim of improving female representation in the industry. Thirty-one years later, says Tucker, WFTV is still as relevant as ever.
“I think possibly three or four years ago everyone was thinking, do you still need to have Women in Film and Television, surely now enough progress has been made?” she says. “And then of course, the whole #MeToo movement kicked off, which I think was a really important reminder of how far we still have to go. And clearly, behind the camera, directing, running indies, there’s still very few women.”
“We talk much more about diversity and inclusion now and I think there’s sometimes a risk that people think that the ‘Women’ box is ticked,” Tucker adds, pointing out how few women work in post-production. “I find that I have to constantly remind people, you know, it’s not ‘job done’ for women.”
Producer Katie Bailiff, who joined WFTV as CEO last November, explains, for example, that during awards season the organization contacts all the major streamers and distributors to enquire about films helmed by women in order to promote them to WFTV’s members and through its channels.
“But you know, you have to look quite hard,” says Bailiff. “You have to really track the ones that are directed by women and grab them and kind of push them and celebrate them as much as you can. They [don’t come] thick and fast like the ones directed by men.”
Add to that the impact of the pandemic, which has had a devastating effect on women’s careers across all industries, as women have inevitably found themselves saddled with the burden of homeschooling and caring for elderly family-members, and the WFTV has a more important role than ever in ensuring women are still represented on and behind the camera. “There are more women leaving the industry than are joining at the moment,” Bailiff points out.
The ceremony itself, Tucker says, is a “really life-enhancing experience” giving attendees an opportunity to be inspired and motivated by the progress around them.
“There’s not many occasions when you’re in a room full of almost a thousand women in your industry, who are all there to celebrate the fact,” says Bailiff. “It intensifies the feeling of being a woman in film and television when you’re surrounded by them. I think that’s quite a magic thing.”