Friday, February 19, 2016

Will Screen Australia initiate, encourage, a public debate about gender based quotas?

Nicholas Moore
Screen Australia Board                                                                                  19th Feb 2016

Dear Nicholas

re: Gender based quotas

The argument that 50% of feature films should be directed by women is being pushed very hard by the Australian Director’s Guild. I have  written about this at some length:

If Screen Australia is seriously considering making such a quota official policy, I believe that it should be discussed, debated, by all filmmakers and film bureaucrats whose lives will be affected by such a policy. I would like to suggest that there be an open debate about the advantages and disadvantages, costs and benefits, resulting from the imposition of quotas.

Would it be in the best interests of Australian feature film production to set such a quota in stone? Might a 50/50 quota create a series of ongoing nightmares for Screen Australia as the board is faced with little choice but to back second rate feature films (with either male or female directors) in order to fulfil its quota obligations?

And what happens if some other group that feels it it under-represented in the field of feature film direction starts clamouring for a quota? Gay directors? Directors within the dozens of ethnic and religious groups that make up Australian society?

What does Screen Australia do if the 50% of films it wishes to support in any round, in any year, have failed to secure sales agents, distribution deals, because they are not considered to have domestic or internation box office potential? Will Screen Australia gear them into production simply to meet the quota?

If sales agents, distributors etc are very keen to invest in a film to be directed by a woman, say, but Screen Australia investment in the project would breach its quota obligations, what does your board do? Support a male director even if the project he is attached to is considered to be inferior to the one to be directed by a woman?

And how will Screen Australia respond if the Australian Writer’s Guild likewise pushes for 50% of feature films to be be produced from screenplays written by women? What argument will Screen Australia present to justify quotas for directors but not for writers?

And how will Screen Australia respond if male directors of documentaries (at present under-represented vis a vis Screen Australia funding) start clamouring for a 50/50 quota?

A public debate is, I believe,  in order.


James Ricketson

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