Metro Morning

TIFF launches initiative to nurture emerging female filmmakers

While gender inequity exists across many industries, TIFF bigwigs are flagging that it is just as prevalent in movie-making, and a new program called "Share Her Journey" is their way of chipping away at the glass ceiling.

TIFF organizers are looking to raise $3 million for a 5-year initiative called Share Her Journey

TIFF Industry Director Kathleen Drumm said it's all about practical ways to accelerate women's careers. (CBC)

While gender inequity exists across many industries, TIFF bigwigs are flagging that it is just as prevalent in movie-making, and a new program called Share Her Journey is their way of chipping away at the glass ceiling. 

"Like everywhere it's a pretty thick glass ceiling," TIFF's industry director, Kathleen Drumm, told CBC's Metro Morning on Wednesday.

Cameron Bailey, the film festival's artistic director, agreed, saying that women not only have to fight for the spotlight, their hardest fight is for opportunity.
TIFF's Share Her Journey will focus on mentorship, media literacy and skills development. (Toronto International Film Festival)

"This is not just a Hollywood issue, it's in art-house films, as well," he said. "Movies like Wonder Woman are helping but on the art-house level and amongst festival films, it's changing very slowly."

Share Her Journey is about accelerating change and Drumm thinks there is no better time than now.

"There's a lot of ambition, determination and purpose amongst the community and certainly at TIFF to do something about this," she said.
TIFF will launch a three-month residency program allowing filmmakers to live and work in its building with access to the resources at TIFF Bell Lightbox. (CBC)

The program has been set up with practical, hands-on initiatives that will connect women to industry-types and resources including: 

  • A 3-month residency for emerging filmmakers to live and work in its building and have access to resources at the TIFF Bell Lightbox.
  • Introducing a new producers' accelerator program for women.

The industry is so much about who you know, Drum said, which makes it important to focus on building relationships. 

"They'll learn what makes a commercially appealing film so they can be better-prepared before they go and ask for financing," she said, "So they can be successful and build sustainable businesses." 

Ignoring 50 per cent of the population and creative talent

Bailey said that for him, it won't be enough just to widen the roster of female movie-makers.
“If we don’t understand the perspectives of all of us then we don’t understand the world truly as it is,” said TIFF artistic director Cameron Bailey. (CBC)

"One of the things movies teach us is that the experiences of men are dramatic and change the world and the experiences of women are secondary," he said.

"We're trying to get voices, experiences and the stories of women at the centre of the film."

Both Bailey and Drumm talked about what's at stake if change doesn't happen now. 

"If we don't understand the perspectives of all of us then we don't understand the world truly as it is," Bailey said.

The festival aims to raise $3 million to fund Share Her Journey. The first dollars that come in the door will be matched by TIFF donors Betty-Ann Heggie and Anne-Marie Canning.

With files from CBC's Metro Morning