L-R: Vice-President Jessica Giacco, President Sophie Mathisen, Assistant Treasurer Bronte Jovevski, Vice-President Sara Gajic, Treasurer Leonie Mansfield, Secretary Annie Parnell.
WIFT NSW is a thirty-five year old advocacy group championing the rights and opportunities of women on and off screen. At the most recent AGM, a new committee took the reigns, promising big changes for women in the screen industry – some of which they outline below.
WIFT NSW boasts an impressive lineage. A large percentage of leading figures in the domestic screen industry have had some contact with WIFT throughout the years, either through programs run by WIFT or through the cornerstone event staged by WIFT – the WOW Film Festival. At the 21st WOW Film Festival, we expanded the festival to showcase not only shorts but also features made by Australian and international women, as well as an extensive panel and symposium series entitled POW-WOW. The enthusiasm for the scale and ambition of the festival helped us recognise that an entrepreneurial leadership approach to WIFT was necessary and overdue.
At the exact time awareness surrounding rights and representation of women in the screen industry has never been greater, opportunities for career progression remain frustratingly slim. Despite state and national bodies making strong strides towards gender equality practices, the question of how to boost participation and access for women who are not direct beneficiaries of Gender Matters remains. Without installing gender quotas at a guild and national funding level, organisations like WIFT are the main support structure for women who are otherwise overlooked or ignored. We provide both broad support and specific project based initiatives to give women the opportunity to have their creative voices expressed and shared with audiences both domestically and abroad.
Through strategic partnership with grassroots networking and advocacy groups – Screen Vixens, Film Fatales and WITS, as well as others we hope to soon see established – we will create a strong interdisciplinary network of women who champion both their own and their contemporaries’ efforts on and off the screen. WIFT recognizes and truly believes that we are all in this together. The issues facing women in the film industry are no different from the issues facing women in tech fields, women in trades or women in business so through a sharing of resources, time, support and advice, the smoother we can make the transition from where we are now to where we want to be.
Gender parity is the best outcome for us all, both male and female, as increased access will result in a fluid and evolving screen culture that depicts the truth of how we live as Australians as well as global citizens. As we develop our membership base we want to encourage women of all screen disciplines and backgrounds to join us in making our screens reflective of our lived experiences. Change first begins with the individual but we stand more strongly together. We will be lowering our membership fees as well as encouraging open and consistent dialogue with our membership base to fully understand how best to serve the quorum we represent.
Each of our Executive Committee brings a unique skillset however we are all bound by a passionate belief that the seat that WIFT holds at the national table is vital and we are committed to making that seat count. We will lobby for real and lasting change so as not to be having this same conversation in another forty years. We are developing new partnerships with like-minded businesses and advocates who will help us to strengthen and reinvigorate our position in the domestic industry and once again become a driving force for change, and a guiding light for equality and access.
We are volunteers working full time jobs, juggling both families and screen projects, but it is such a rewarding experience to encourage discussion and encourage change for the better to the predominant culture.
We are relaunching WIFT with a first of many events taking place in late August. If you’re Sydney based, or within travelling distance we would love to meet or reintroduce both the organization and the leadership team to the NSW community. We will also be calling for further nominations as we have some key spots to fill with courageous and interested women. Please head to our newly revamped website for more information and please, drop us a line. We’d love to hear from you.