Notes from 2017 Cannes Film Festival Meeting

Women and Hollywood and the EWA organized a meeting at the 2017 Cannes Film Festival hosted by Anna Serner and the Swedish Film Institute.

The discussion started with updates on work focusing on gender equality from around the world.

AUSTRALIA – Sally Caplan, Screen Australia and producer Sue Maslin

  • Gender Matters initiative called Brilliant Stories – To receive funding, a film must pass a 3 Tick Test: Female producer, Female director, Female writer, Female writer/director (counts for 2 ticks), and/or Female protagonist (who does not get maimed).
  • 45 projects were funded for development, including 21 features, 18 TV shows, and 8 web projects.

UK – Nicky Bentham, Raising Films

Raising Films was created by four filmmakers and one critic. Their emphasis is on retaining talent, since women who have children often fall off the map.


  • Offer support and guidance through hardships
  • Help women filmmakers maintain or restart a career
  • Improve hiring practices in film’s casual environment
  • Explore job sharing
  • Build online community and support including Ask Her Anything

Held Industry Summit that included accountants, agents, and life coaches.

There is a small fund for childcare/family and financial support – one-time fund of £1500 or smaller amounts over the course of a year that allow women to work, attend trainings/education, etc.

USA: Lydia Dean Pilcher – PGA Women’s Impact Network

  • The Producers Guild of America has set an agenda for gender equity regarding barriers facing women.
  • Inter-guild networking (Cinematographers, Writers, Directors, Set Dressers, etc.) – noted as very successful. Share and screen reels, business cards, etc.
  • Salons for financial information = Access to capital.
  • Fighting unconscious bias: Ms. Factor Toolkit, a compendium of data for women to cherry-pick items that pertain to their pitch packages and prepare for conversations with others who will invariably throw (incorrect) information at them regarding reasons they “can’t” fund their film.
  • How to have the difficult conversations about hiring bias and unconscious bias.
  • Developing best practices.

 ReFrame from Women in Film LA and Sundance

  • How to challenge the systemic barriers. ReFrame has 50 ambassadors who are high-level decision makers.
  • Talk about corporate culture.
  • Toolkit to improve gender parity.
  • Development of a Gender Parity stamp to be announced in June.
  • Protégé program – mentorship for mid-level female filmmakers who need a career boost will have practical assistance that helps them get to the next level.

 Women’s Media Summit convened in March 2017 – Kate Perotti

  • Focused on gender equality as a civil rights/legal issue.
  • ACLU submitted letter to Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), which has been investigating systemic discrimination against women directors in the U.S.
  • Next Step is the creation of White Papers that will lay out activities moving forward. Ideas include: litigation; lobbying Congress; working for tax credits on Federal and state level (case by case); developing a financing network; marketing and educating the public about job discrimination and consumer pressure.

IRELAND: Annie Doona, IADT College President & Chair of Irish Film Board and Marian Quinn, Irish Film Board

  • Irish Film Board had a  target of 50/50 funding by 2019 and realized in 2017 that they are not making enough progress to achieve it in time.
  • Five women and two men are on the Irish Film Board.
  • Launched 6-point plan for young women in film.
  • Speed Dating with producers was good in theory but unsuccessful in practice because the producers did not commit to projects.
  • Job-shadowing on TV should end with a job.

Possible Action Items:

  • 20% extra funding for women’s films/female-led projects
  • Quotas
  • Get big production companies on board, to help quicken the pace
  • Co-produce with countries that are interested in promoting gender parity

European Women’s Audiovisual Network (EWA) – Alessia Sonaglioni

  • EWA Conducted research and collected data from seven countries
  • Promoted advocacy at the EU level
  • Held conversations with European commissions – they put a lot of money into films and need to integrate gender equality

Goals for 2020

  • Push for complete programs for members
  • Established producers mentor or co-produce with new producers
  • Build partnerships with festivals and co-production markets
  • Award for female filmmakers

GERMANY – Christina Dessenberger, International Women’s Film Festival in Dortmund & Cologne and Nicole Ackermann, Women in Film and TV Germany

WIFT Germany

  • Invite women female filmmakers to screen and discuss their work
  • 85% of German directors are male currently
  • Quotas for female directors?
  • Discussed Berlinale event – reception and networking
  • Creating a list of demands for politicians – force them to promote equal treatment of women in the industry

AUSTRIA – Ursula Wolschlager,

  • Visibility and networking
  • Looking into funding
  • Cinema Salons – mentorship programs
  • PRO PRO Producers Program – empower female filmmakers
  • 75/25 film funding in Austria currently
  • Don’t Be Too Soft Skills – leadership and negotiations
  • 2019: want more international partners, Macedonia, Serbia, Luxembourg, Vienna

SWITZERLAND – Laura Kaehr and Stéphane Mitchell, Swiss Women’s Audiovisual Network (SWAN)

  • 2014 – Swiss public film fund results were awful
  • Want to add 1,000 members in next six months or year
  • July 2016 Gender Equality Measure in Film fund regulations aren’t allowed to favor men

FRANCE – Anna Ciennik and Geoffroy Grison, Le Deuxième Regard

  • Need to get men involved in our initiatives to help us gain traction
  • CNC obliged use 25% funds for female directors
  • Film Center resists quotas and political incentives in France
  • A Film Lab will be launched for female filmmakers 

Ideas for Action and Next Steps

Need to take action in Cannes

  • Can we host our own awards here?
  • Can we hold a march? In flats or tuxedoes? On the Red Carpet?
  • We need to have a presence and we need to make a big splash at Cannes
  • Can we force funding institutions to adopt gender-blind submissions? Or adopt the practice of just using first initial/last name in submissions?

Jury = decision makers

  • We need to have more representation there
  • New Orleans Film Festival included 45% female directors this year – and an all female jury

Get men involved

  • Impose mentorship on men – men need to mentor women
  • Bring more men on board and committed to action items.

Other ideas

  • Organize action on International Women’s Day (March 8)
  • Aggregate/consolidate info so we’re not duplicating effort
  • Spend more time spreading the word about specific films/women directors 
  • Education: Women are in fact directors, not “just” producers – See Her Now