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COTTBUS 2017 Industry

First female producers’ round-table at coco paves the way for future action


- The 19th coco inaugurated a new network initiative focused on gender equality, which promises to lead to interesting future exchanges and action to improve the situation for women in film

First female producers’ round-table at coco paves the way for future action

As a new "think tank"-type network initiative, the very first female producers’ round-table organised as part of connecting cottbus, under the watchful eye of market director Rebekka Garrido, was mostly dedicated to identifying the situation that needs tackling, defining goals, setting possible directions and strategies, and so on. To steer the discussion and pave the way for future progress regarding the place of women in the film industry in every European country, a panel of speakers described existing gender equality-targeted initiatives.

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The testimony of Ursula Wolschlager, CEO of Witcraft (also a member of the Project Commission of the Austrian Film Institute, the European Film Academy and EAVE, amongst others), a company now well known for producing titles with a female angle (such as Barbara Albert’s latest, Light [+see also:
film review
interview: Barbara Albert
film profile
, the most expensive film ever made by a woman in Austria), was also edifying thanks to its personal angle, as the seasoned Austrian producer had to get around and overcome many gender-based hindrances throughout her training and career. She did this initially by taking roundabout routes and embracing the niche she had been assigned to, later becoming an active promoter of what became her cause through the creation of ProPro, a residential workshop organised every other year in Vienna since 2015, which aims to support female film producers in order to remedy the gender imbalance in the national film production landscape. ProPro (the Producers’ Programme for Women) was also represented by the head of the Austrian Creative Europe-MEDIA DeskEsther Krausz.

To highlight the action of the Berlin-based Pro Quote Regie movement, guided by the motto “When it comes to public money, it has to be distributed equally” (a quote by Jane Campion, the only female director to have won a Palme d’Or), producer Tatjana Turanskyi provided a vehement exposé that began with her stressing the importance of the appalling figures her lobby first collected and analysed in 2014. This was soon followed up on by other entities and institutions, as this tangible proof of discrimination proved the most efficient way to convince the industry (starting with broadcasters ARD and ZDF, which have made some timid steps towards an improvement) of the need for a major change. Indeed, her organisation stands for positive action, which may not necessarily be the introduction of a quota, but would take the form of a measure integrated into law within the next five years. 

Iris Zappe-Heller, deputy director of the Austrian Film Institute (in charge of consultancy on funding, and gender and diversity issues), presented the new point-system-based gender incentive funding programme created by the institution, an enviable initiative that the other participants were keen to imitate in their own countries, whilst struggling to establish how exactly to proceed, since it originally came up as an internal mechanism. 

Indeed, even though gender inequality is blatantly obvious in most European countries (with the exception of Macedonia and the Baltic countries, the situation of which nevertheless could not be used to construct a model, as it doesn’t disprove the fact that women lose ground in the industry as soon as budgets get bigger; nor can Bulgaria, a country where 40% of producers are women, or Turkey, where female producers are well represented... when it comes to arthouse cinema), there is indeed a patchwork of situations and cultures to deal with, and opinions vary as to how aggressively positive discrimination should be implemented, and as to the best level at which to operate – the EWA network’s Simona Nobile, for instance, supports intervention at the European level. 

The example of Spain’s point system, as recounted by an attendee, Indie Sales’ Elena Manrique, obtained through the realisation that ads on TV were mostly directed at women and that they could very well stop buying these products were they not to be heard – a strategy that produced instant returns – suggests that inviting men into the conversation might be the way to go in future, not only because the path towards parity cannot logically stem from an antagonistic approach, but mostly because throughout the speakers’ various different efforts, the “other half” has proven to be open to being convinced. 

This fruitful first edition of coco’s gender-equality round-table is likely to become a regular appointment. 

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