Documentaries Lead Field in Telefilm’s Progress Report on Gender Parity

Courtesy of Telefilm Canada

By Pat Mullen

Telefilm Canada released its progress report on gender parity today and documentaries are leading the field! The funder reported that a whopping 83% of documentaries featured women as producers for the 2018/2019 fiscal year—the highest key creative bracket led by women. Docs also had women in director or writer credits for 52% of productions, the highest percentage for any of the key creative roles reported. This compares to an overall average of 61% of projects funded within that specific time period. Producer credits saw the biggest gain for women in a report that offers optimistic projections for Telefilm to meet its goals for parity in 2020.

A total of $45.5 million was invested in films with at least one woman in a key creative role (director, producer, or writer) during the fiscal year. This figure represents 59% of projects funded. “We are making progress towards reaching a balanced, sustainable representation of women working in key roles behind the camera,” said Christa Dickenson, Executive Director at Telefilm Canada, in an official statement. “In doing so, we are investing more money into female talent, and making sure that their stories are being told. We know we still have work to do to in order to meet our 2020 goal.”

In comparison to the significant gains on the documentary front, Telefilm reports female-driven projects netting favourable numbers in Talent to Watch (68%), $2.5m+ features (53%), and in $2.5m- features. (46%). “Features” generally refers to dramatic productions, which is consistent with industry lingo. Recent feature documentaries driven by women and supported by Telefilm Canada include Tasha Hubbard’s Hot Docs opener nîpawistamâsowin: We Will Stand Up, Martha Kehoe and Joan Tosoni’s Gordon Lightfoot: If You Could Read My Mind, Jennifer Baichwal’s Anthropocene (directed with Nick de Pencier and Ed Burtynsky), Shasha Nakhai’s Take Light, and Stacey Tenebaum’s Pipe Dreams. Upcoming Telefilm supported docs include Michelle Latimer’s Inconvenient Indian, Nisha Pahuja’s Send Us Your Brother, and Brigitte Poupart’s Á travers tes yeux.

The report emphasizes that more work is needed industry-wide to ensure these optimistic numbers help achieve the parity levels supported by the industry, particularly in the higher budget features. “Telefilm has increased its investment in higher budget films with women at the helm, and would like to give even more female directors an opportunity to direct a bigger budget feature. A collaborative approach is necessary so that talent may receive the support it needs,” Dickenson said in a statement. “We’re already giving them a calling card by investing in their first and second features at a lower budget level. We also need our distribution partners, producers, and broadcasters to join us by supporting more women in the director’s chair for higher budget projects. It is clear that global audiences have an appetite for greater representation in storytelling, and we want to give them as much opportunity as possible, however we cannot do it alone.”