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50/50 by 2020 – Are We There & What Is Next?

Industry Panel

by Davide Abbatescianni

The challenges of gender equality for Europe’s audiovisual sector take centre stage during the special event “50/50 by 2020 – Are We There & What Is Next?”

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The online conference, co-organised by EWA (European Women’s Audiovisual Network) and EURO-MEI (UNI Europa - Media, Entertainment & Arts), in collaboration with EFAD (European Film Agency Directors Association) and Cineuropa, was held on Friday 11 December.

In 2016, the Swedish Film Institute launched the campaign “50/50 by 2020” at the Cannes Film Festival. Four years later, the EWA network and EURO-MEI, in collaboration with EFAD and Cineuropa, have organised a dedicated online conference entitled “Are We There & What Is Next?”

The initiative aimed at taking stock of the topic of gender equality on the ground through the testimonies of audiovisual professionals, and at discussing future commitments and strategies with EU policymakers and key sector stakeholders.

The event, entirely held online, took place on 11 December.

In her opening remarks, Mrs Graça Fonseca, Portugal’s Minister of Culture, stated that enhancing the role of women in the audiovisual industry will be on the agenda of the Portuguese presidency of the Council of the EU during the first semester of 2021. She also said that screenings of films by Portuguese women filmmakers will be organised in cooperation with the Cinematek in Brussels during the presidency.

The first of the two panels followed, entitled “Equality on and off screen in the European audiovisual sector: the state-of-play” and moderated by Tamara Tatishvili, EWA network’s strategy and partnerships manager.

The first speaker, Kosovar DoP Sevdije Kastrati, talked through the beginning of her career and explained her efforts to look for women ready to join her team, in a country were crews are still male-dominated. The floor was then given to Georgian director Dea Kulumbegashvili, who spoke about the importance of “bringing feminine experiences onto the screen” and added: “When we talk about emancipation or giving women a voice, we need to abandon the narrative of what we think emancipation is and perhaps look at the places where women are challenged. Perhaps for them emancipation is making smaller steps in life. [..] I think that when we capture and portray the pain of what it means being a woman in certain places in the world, that pain is perhaps the emancipating experience.” The third speaker, French script consultant and screenwriter Geoffroy Grison, shared his take on the equality agenda and highlighted: “On the one hand, if you look at the numbers, these are depressing as they tend to remain stable for a few years. On the other hand, we’re talking about filmmaking and it’s a process that always takes time, often many years. [..] So maybe things are more positive than they look, and we should be patient. Maybe now we’re working for the next generation.” Next, German producer Jonas Dornbach discussed his feeling of “living in a bubble” as roughly 80% of his productions are directed by women, but admitted how real equality will be only reached in the long run. In this spirit he advocated for equal funding & equal pay for the next 5 years and evaluating achieved results accordingly.

The second panel, entitled “Equality on and off screen in the European audiovisual sector: what action plan for 2021 onwards,” was moderated by Daphne Tepper, Director at EURO-MEI.

The panel began with the contribution made by Anna Serner, CEO of the Swedish Film Institute and chair of the EFAD Gender & Inclusion Working Group, who pointed out that the future strategy should be “stop talking and start doing”, following the increased awareness, activism and media coverage recorded since 2015. In particular, she commented: “We gave media something to cover and that’s why we’re also happy about the institutional responses. Eurimages, for example, despite hosting many members of the Council of Europe not pleased with our work on gender equality, has provided a clear, open commitment to the cause.” Talking about their efforts, Eurimages’ executive director Roberto Olla replied: “We did not reach the 50/50 target in 2020, we’re at 37-38%, and that is clearly not satisfactory. However, when we started “counting” in 2012, only 7% of Eurimages’ total support was granted to films directed by women.” Right after, Karim Ibourki, chairman of the Belgian CSA and Vice-President of ERGA, touched upon CSA’s recent study on gender equality and stressed on the importance of sharing good practices at European level. Meanwhile, FERA’s chief executive Pauline Durand-Vialle focused on the issue of the gender pay gap. In general terms, Durand-Vialle noted that there is a rather equal start for men and women, who are at the beginning of their careers essentially low income workers and then, once their careers kick off, a clear glass ceiling for women emerges, followed by another reduction of said divide in later stages. Thus, the median audiovisual professional is still “white, educated, male and aged over 45,” she concluded. The panel was rounded off by the contribution made by Sarah Brunet, policy officer for the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Communications Networks, Content and Technology, who illustrated some of the most important institutional initiatives implemented to pursue the gender equality agenda and fight discrimination. The next Media Programme will include incentives to better promote gender equality, the obligation to abide by European values, talents promotion in their diversity, more training and mentoring initiatives.

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