Troubling lack of aspiring female filmmakers: Screen Aus

01 August, 2010 by IF

By Brendan Swift

Screen Australia's head of development says there is a troubling shortage of young female writers and directors putting their hand up to work in the mainstream after assessing 56 applications for its Springboard talent escalator program.


The concern was raised by head of development Martha Coleman at Screen Australia's June board meeting in her latest six-monthly report, which has been released in response to a question on notice from Liberal Party Senator Mary Jo Fisher at the recent Budget Estimate hearings.

"It was interesting to note two things: the emerging filmmakers are much more interested in genre films than my own generation was and they display more of an understanding of the genres they are working in than we as a whole did," Coleman said in the report.

"And second, more troubling, there is a shortage of young women writers and directors putting their hand up to work in the mainstream."

Since the report, the Australian Film Institute has announced that eight of the 19 feature films that are in contention for its 2010 awards were directed by women although such a strong showing remains rare with women traditionally more strongly represented in producer roles.

The last two Springboard short film workshops were run last November and this February. They are targeted at writer, director and producer teams who are one short film away from making their first feature film. The workshops help the successful teams develop and produce a short film that acts as a calling card for the feature while showcasing their talent at festivals.

Four short film projects were recently selected through the Springboard program: sci-fi thriller Cryo by Luke Doolan and Drew Bailey (the team behind the Oscar-nominated short Miracle Fish) and Matthew Dabner; apocalyptic drama Transmission by Zak Hilditch and Liz Kearney; thriller Mercury by Paul Oliver and Pippa Campey (who also produced the documentary Bastardy); sci-fi thriller Rarer Monsters by Shane Krause and Shane Armstrong (the team who wrote the last draft of upcoming feature Bait) and Charles Mitchell.

Coleman also said that Screen Australia has now approved 28 single development applications for funding in total – split evenly between dramas and various genre projects (including about 10 comedies)  – since October 2009.

"There is no bias towards or against drama or specific genre. In every case we approve a project based on the strength of the project’s premise and story, the presence of a clearly identifiable audience – whether that is a festival audience or mainstream  – a budget to match the audience, and the strength of the voice and talent of the team," she said.

"Some projects present more risk than others. The merit of certain elements at early stage might be unclear. We go in to such projects armed with optimism but with our eyes open.

"We want the development landscape to welcome strong ideas and strong voices across the whole spectrum, from intimate, intense drama to the broadest, mainstream comedy, and for filmmakers to develop with an eye on where their films fit in the marketplace. That’s the dialogue we’re often having internally."