Into Light by Sheona McDonald was among the women-directed docs from the NFB in release this year

Women Continue to Lead the Field in NFB Productions

Women helm of 62% of NFB docs in latest gender parity report

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Ahead of International Women’s Day (March 8), the National Film Board of Canada (NFB) has released its annual update on gender parity in production. The Board continues to meet and, in many cases, exceed gender parity for production. After making the commitment to a gender-balanced production portfolio six years ago, the NFB remains a leader in the field while delivering many of Canada’s top docs in the process.

For the fiscal year ending in March 2022, the NFB reports that 60% of its productions were directed by a woman, a team of women, or have gender-balanced directing credits. Similarly, projects with women at the helm account for 66% of the Board’s production expenditures for the fiscal year. That figure is up from 41% as reported last year, although the previous update included figures for mixed projects. Upcoming women-directed productions and co-productions from the NFB include Ever Deadly by Chelsea McMullan and Tanya Tagaq, To Kill a Tiger by Nisha Pahuja, and The Other Story by Michelle Shepherd. Last year’s cycle saw Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers’ NFB doc Kímmapiiyiptssini: The Meaning of Empathy dominate the festival circuit and net three Canadian Screen Award nominations, while shorts by Terrill Calder, Sheona McDonald, Courtney Montour, and Alanis Obomsawin have been constant presences at festivals both nationally and internationally.

“The NFB has shown that it is committed to achieving gender parity in its productions,” said Julie Roy, Director General, Innovation and Creation, in a statement from the NFB. “We look forward to deepening this work, and ensuring that parity is intersectional and supports the representation of Black, Indigenous, racialized and LGBTQ2+ women, both as directors and among the creative teams that support them.” The NFB’s ongoing commitment to gender parity and equitable representation will be complemented by further methods for self-identification by equity-seeking groups, as outlined in the Board’s recent strategic plan.

Breakdown by Credits, Genre

Women also account for many production credits in NFB titles beyond the director or producer roles. The Board reports that women represent 58% of screenwriting credits and 57% of composer credits. Film editing, meanwhile, is evenly on par at 50-50. Women remain lower in terms of cinematography credits—an industry-wide problem—but are showing notable improvement by jumping up to 42%. That figure doubles the number of women in cinematography credits during previous years. Last year’s report saw only 14% of cinematographer credits go to women.

New to this year’s parity report is a breakdown by genre. On the documentary front, women smoked the gents with 62% of director credits for ongoing projects. Spending is relatively close with women-led projects accounting for 59% of ongoing expenditures for documentaries. For animation, however, women-led projects tally 76% of ongoing production expenditures compared to 60% of the projects.  For interactive works, these figures are 77% percent for expenditures and 56% of productions. The NFB reports that these numbers represent 307 projects, 180 of which are documentaries.

Pat Mullen is the publisher of POV Magazine. He holds a Master’s in Film Studies from Carleton University where his research focused on adaptation and Canadian cinema. Pat has also contributed to outlets including The Canadian Encyclopedia, Paste, That Shelf, Sharp, Xtra, and Complex. He is the vice president of the Toronto Film Critics Association and an international voter for the Golden Globe Awards.

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