Gender Matters: record-breaking funding for women to be seen and heard

Screen Australia Gender Matters The Dressmaker Jocelyn Moorhead Kate WinsletThe Australian Government has today revealed the 58 recipients of Screen Australia’s Gender Matters: Brilliant Stories and Brilliant Careers – marking the largest cohort of projects funded in a single day in the agency’s history.

A combined 45 story ideas and 13 industry projects led by Australian women will share in more than $3 million of funding. For Brilliant Stories, the funds enable the creative teams to fast-track the development of their creative concept. For Brilliant Careers, the funds are for the implementation of business proposals to tangibly grow careers and create work opportunities for female screen makers.

Gender Matters is unashamedly providing express-lane access to female business ideas and stories,” said Screen Australia Chief Operating Officer, Fiona Cameron. “The funding boost provided by Screen Australia has been a game-changer, providing the industry with an opportunity to get behind some very commercial and creative prospects. It’s now time for action.”

Screen Australia received a record-breaking 452 applications for Brilliant Stories (333) and Brilliant Careers (119), the most applications ever received for a funding program. Both initiatives are part of the broader $5 million Gender Matters program, with the aim to ensure Screen Australia’s production funding is targeted to creative teams that are at least 50% female by the end of 2018.

“What is significant is not just the number of applications we have been able to attract and support, but that the Gender Matters program has opened up funding opportunities for applicants who might otherwise fall outside of the established structures,” said Gender Matters Task Force Chair, Deanne Weir.

“For instance, nearly 20% of the successful Brilliant Stories teams would not normally be eligible for Screen Australia development funding because they do not have that magic first professional credit.”

“Although there are good reasons for these checks and balances, by opening the door a little wider, Screen Australia is showing faith in the potential of many female filmmakers. I absolutely believe that the opportunities being created today will have a resounding effect on our screen industry for many years to come.”

Gender Matters was announced in December 2015 as a direct response to the identified gender imbalance in lead creative roles across the screen sector. The disparity is most notable in traditional film with just 32% of women working as producers, 23% as writers and only 16% as directors.

Brilliant Stories: Diversity of Creatives and Narrative
The Brilliant Stories slate includes 45 original, ambitious and compelling concepts across television (16), online (11) and feature film (18).

Television concepts include Sex in the West, the story of three mixed-faith friends living in Western Sydney and I Am Woman — the life of one of the mothers of modern feminism. Diana Glenn and Offspring’s Kat Stewart and Jane Harber move behind the camera into first-time writing roles with The Elementals, penning the tale of a group of washed-up superheroes in a share house.

Public Relations is a comedy set in a PR firm that puts our culture of spin in the spotlight, while Sixteen is a sci-fi tale of sixteen girls who disappear on a three night hike. Writer Elise McCredie is also set to pen crime drama Overflow with Claudia Karvan on board as producer.

The online slate includes Skitbox, the brains behind viral hit Activewear, teaming up with online sensation SketchShe to create Manifest, three female creatives adjusting to life without chai lattes in a post-apocalyptic creative slum. Triple Oh! follows the antics of a mismatched pair of ambulance paramedics, while Funny Rabbit is a dark satire created by one-woman producer/writer/director Biddy O’Loughlin – told through the eyes of a rabbit named Bill.

In Sheilas, two sisters dramatically explore the forgotten and most ‘badass’ women in Australia, and Good Grief is a funny and touching series on the inevitability and inconvenience of grief and mourning.

The feature film concepts include Ride Like A Girl – the story of the first woman to win Melbourne Cup (with Rachel Griffiths making her feature film directing debut). Cloud Money sees an elderly artist from a remote community run away to France to fulfill her lifelong dream to visit Claude Monet’s garden.

2015 NSW Young Australian of the Year, Genevieve Clay-Smith, whose work in supporting underrepresented people continues with Baby Cat – a tale of a vivacious young woman with Down syndrome, determined to make it on the international krumping stage.

The Last Flight tells the true story of the brave Pan Am flight attendants on a rescue mission into Vietnam during the war, and in Girls in Hotels, Gracie Otto and Jessica Carrera from Dollhouse Pictures work with writer Lee Tulloch to reveal the last 24 hours in the life of one woman.

Meanwhile, producer Alex White and writer/director Mirrah Foulkes (the sole female member of Blue Tongue Films) are teaming up with acclaimed filmmakers Jan Chapman and Jane Campion, who are set to executive produce their drama-thriller Runaway.

Brilliant Careers: From the Northern Rivers to the Northern Territory
Brilliant Careers is about creating business and industry infrastructure around women that is ongoing, and covers various business initiatives from networking to new VOD platforms.

Networking applicant Northern Rivers Screenworks will run The Athena Project – a program that will provide writers and directors from regional areas around Australia with industry forums, while Bunya Engendered will see women from diverse backgrounds develop their stories within a writers lab, and have access to ongoing networking and mentorship support.

Mentorship and training applicant and renowned producer Imogen Banks (Offspring) and writer Alice Bell (Puberty Blues, The Beautiful Lie), will address the lack of new female voices coming into the TV industry by taking 12 uncredited female writers through the process of developing a series with Smart for a Girl – ROAR.

Another successful application is The Causeway Forward, from the production company behind Jennifer Kent’s The Babadook and the upcoming The Nightingale – who will aim to use development funds to identify, nurture and promote stories by women.

Directors including Gillian Armstrong, Samantha Lang and Sherpa’s Jennifer Peedom are just some of the representatives from Australian Directors Guild attachment proposal with Gender Careers for Screen Practitioners – a two-year plan to place female directors in the feature film and television space. It will not only seek to change the shocking lack of female directors (16% in feature film in 2014), but will give them the credits they need to progress into more opportunities. will soon be moving into narrative storytelling as well as providing a distribution avenue for a Screen Australia-supported web series for its female audience base with Mamamia: Love | Laugh | Learn. The business development concept already has Starting From Now’s director Julie Kalceff and story producer Rosie Lourde attached.

The final two stages of Gender Matters: Better Deals (a pilot program to enhance the distribution and marketing of Australian films with significant female content) and Attachments for Women (a program that requires female attachments to projects when Screen Australia invests more than $500,000) – will be announced later this year.

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Image: Director Jocelyn Moorhead and Actress Kate Winslet on set of The Dressmaker (supplied)