Roberto Olla, executive director of Eurimages, has revealed that the Strasbourg-based public funder has hired diversity consultants to help facilitate fairer funding for under-represented filmmakers.

Speaking at the International Film Festival Rotterdam this week on a panel titled “Reality Check: Funding Our Inclusive Futures,” Olla said that the co-production funding body, which comprises 41 member states, has commissioned a report, which should lead to a new policy being implemented by next January.

He said: “In 2021 we felt the time was right to look at diversity, we are right at the beginning of this process but have confirmed our commitment to supporting under-represented groups.”

“Getting over 40 countries to come on board with this is already a great result. The findings of the report will be presented to the board in June, with a full policy to be approved by November and implemented by next January,” he added.

Eurimages – which has funded recent festival hits including “Berlin Alexanderplatz,” “Quo Vardis” and “The Man Who Sold His Skin” – had previously committed to achieving gender inclusion following a 2012 initiative which kicked off, Olla said, by looking at the experience of Swedish filmmakers.

Olla admitted to the IFFR panel – moderated by the Polkadot Factory’s Victoria Thomas – that change management in his organization has come from acknowledging that diversity was an issue in the first place.

“We embraced the fight for gender equality by talking about it. Many started from a place where they didn’t believe there was an issue.

“I must have been in total denial. It’s only when we started counting you could see that the numbers were self-evident.”

Olla acknowledged that there may need to be a shift in mindset among its members to give under-represented groups more funding opportunities. He added that Eurimages current emphasis on quality, genre, story and director could be “open to bias.”

He added: “We all take for granted that whiteness is normal – and we keep on thinking this because that is the way we were brought up and we are only seeing films that represent this, and it had become a vicious circle.

“It’s only by breaking that norm you realize that there’s a lot of work to be done.”

According to fellow panelist, entertainment banker Elisa Alvares, through her dealings with distributors, she has observed that this bias is far more apparent in the international marketplace than among the U.S. studios and platforms.

“As much as we want stories that are inclusive there is a difficulty when you go to the marketplace and even buyers in Europe are very resistant to film and television that doesn’t fit a certain model,” she said.

“This is where I see the role of festivals as playing a very important role, because they can open doors to these filmmakers – and when those distributors realize that there is an audience for these films, that is a very important channel towards opening the market place.”