Documentaries Continue to Lead Telefilm Canada’s Gender Parity Report Card

By Pat Mullen

Documentaries continue to lead the field in Canadian projects directed by women supported through Telefilm Canada. The funding body released its update on gender parity initiatives today and while the report on the three-year cycle shows positive results overall, documentaries have a clear lead for female-driven projects. This trend reflects the results from last fiscal year, although funds for films in the $2.5 and above categories show significant development. Telefilm’s figures indicate that funding has reached the parity zone of 40% minimum. Overall, 42% of Telefilm funding in 2019-2020 went to projects directed by women.

Women in the key creative roles of director (65%), screenwriter (65%), and producer (61%) for documentaries outpaced funding recipients in other genres by nearly twenty percent. Docs funded by Telefilm saw more women in the roles of director (65%), screenwriter (65%), and producer (61%), compared to dramas (44%, 49%, 51%, respectively), comedies (37%, 32%, 52%, respectively) and other genres, like horror or sci-fi (25%, 21%, 37%, respectively) across previously three fiscal years. Notable female-driven documentaries funded by Telefilm in the past year include Tasha Hubbard’s nîpawistamâsowin: We Will Stand Up, which won the Canadian Screen Award for Best Documentary Feature; Michelle Latimer’s upcoming Inconvenient Indian, which adapts Thomas King’s acclaimed book; and Brigitte Poupart’s forthcoming _ À travers tes yeux_, which marks her return to documentary following her 2012 award winner Over My Dead Body.

90% of Telefilm funding for documentaries in the 2019-2020 fiscal year went to projects directed by women. The impressive number marks a significant leap up from last year’s fiscal report of 52%. Funding for projects with women in producer roles admittedly dropped significantly between fiscal years, falling from 83% to 40% between 2018-2019 and 2019-2020. However, this trend appeared across all categories.

“Over the past few years, we have witnessed the ability of our partners and clients, as well as ourselves to create a meaningful impact on the Canadian film industry,” said Christa Dickenson, Executive Director of Telefilm Canada in a statement. “The industry’s critical collaboration, combined with our concerted efforts, has resulted in a marked increase in the funding of projects led by women, notably bigger-budget films. These figures are encouraging and demonstrate that we are headed in the right direction, albeit the current pandemic highlights the fragility of such results. Moreover, women from underrepresented communities still face barriers to access financing. Consequently, our work is far from over and we must concentrate our efforts to build inclusiveness in order to ensure truly lasting change.”

The full results for Telefilm’s report on gender parity are available here. These results follow Telefilm’s recently released Equity and Representation Action Plan, which aims to create additional measures to foster an inclusive filmmaking environment in Canada.