NFB furthers gender parity pledge

The producer aims to achieve equal representation in key creative positions for animated, doc and interactive works by 2020.

Just one year ago, the National Film Board of Canada pledged that 50% of its productions would be directed by women by 2019, and that 50% of its production budget would go to projects led by women. Today, the producer has announced another initiative aimed at improving gender representation in behind-the-scenes positions.

The NFB announced that it aims to achieve parity in key creative positions for animated, documentary and interactive works in production as of 2020. The initiative will target editing, cinematography, screenwriting and music composition, as well as positions in animation and immersive/interactive storytelling, such as art director, art designer and creative technologist.

According to an analysis of NFB films produced between April 1, 2016 and March 31, 2017, only 27% of screenwriting positions were held by women. Meanwhile, women held only 24% of editing, 12% of cinematography and 13% of music roles. These figures are representative of an industry-wide problem. In a study of 91 feature films produced in 2013-2014, national not-for-profit Women in View found that women represented just 17% of directors, 22% of screenwriters and 12% of cinematographers.

“I knew there was an imbalance between men and women for some positions in the industry, but I was a little shocked to see how the imbalance is almost everywhere. And I thought, ‘We need to do something about that,’” NFB Chair Claude Joli-Coeur told Playback Daily. “We need to reflect reality. We need to have a balance between men and women in the overall creation of our works.”

The first step is collecting more data, he said. To that end, the NFB will work with Women in Film and Television Vancouver, Women in View, Réalisatrices Équitables, as well as professional associations, guilds and training institutes, to better understand the issues affecting women in the industry and discuss training and mentoring initiatives. It will also create an internal talent bank where women professionals can submit their portfolios.

“[We need to] make sure that we know where the people who we might not have on our radar are, [and where] the emerging talents are and connect with them,” he said. “It’s very ambitious, but we have the chance to make a difference. As producers, we can start searching for the talent, and we can focus on building balance.”

As for the parity pledge the NFB committed to last year, the producer continues to hover near parity. In fiscal 2015-2016, 43.4% of NFB production funding went to female-directed projects, with 43.5% going towards male-directed projects, and 11.3% of the funding going to films directed by a mixed team.

Today, the NFB announced that in 2016-2017, 44% of NFB works were directed by women, 51% by men, and 5% by mixed teams. Meanwhile, 43% of the NFB budget was allocated to productions directed by women, 40% went to projects directed by men, and 15% to mixed teams.

While the NFB has yet to achieve a marked improvement in its numbers, Joli-Coeur said he is proud that its pledge last year helped spark a movement in Canada to get others thinking about the issue. “I think our commitment last year has really got other organizations thinking about that goal,” he said, while noting recent initiatives by the CBC and Telefilm.

Joli-Coeur also noted that many female-directed films produced by the NFB traveled the festival circuit last year, including Ann Marie Fleming’s Window Horses (pictured), which screened in the official competition at the  Annecy International Animation Film Festival, and Alethea Arnaquq-Baril’s Angry Inuk, which was recently named TIFF’s Canada’s Top Ten Film Festival People’s Choice Award winner.

Image: Ann Marie Fleming, Sandra Oh, Esme Finley, Big World Sound in Vancouver