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Taking a Creative Stand to Improve Gender Equality in the Motion Picture Industry
by Shelly Schoeneshoefer

Some 10 years ago I began attending the Berlinale Film Festival; at least five years ago, the Director’s Competition section was my personal marker to see how many women were included. The scene was bleak. How times have changed, especially with the #MeToo movement! But it still came as a surprise when festival director, Dieter Kosslick, announced plans to take the Berlinale Film Festival one step further before he bids adieu after 18 years. On February 9th, Kosslick signed a pledge that there would be gender equality in the film industry by 2020.

This new initiative began at the Swedish Carl International Film Festival, from which came a concept of offering financial incentives to gender-equal productions. This pledge initiative is led by the post-production house Chimney in partnership with Women in Film and Television International (WIFTI) and Women in Film and Television Germany. Although this pledge was signed in Cannes and Venice, the 2019 Berlinale took an even a stronger stand with 41% women directors in the program, far beyond the other two festivals. The pledge does not enforce mandatory gender quotas, but will strive to succeed by a different method. The idea is 10% rebate for 50/50: in a team of eight, four should be females in order to get a 10% discount from participating industry companies. The categories include: director, writer, producer, departmental head and crew, lead actors, co-lead speaking parts. “Money Talks,” says Helene Granqvist, President of WIFTI, who spoke boldly at the press conference. Additional speakers included Theo Lindberg, a senior editor and partner in Chimney, and Kissy Dugan, the American-born but Italian WIFT representative. They explained the importance of this initiative and that they have several companies wishing to participate. Last but not least was the American producer Gale Anne Hurd, best known as the producer of TERMINATOR, THE WALKING DEAD, and ALIENS. She told us horror stories of how she had to fight to get where she is today, and why she strongly supports this pledge. She is truly this image of “I’ll be back.” My impression was in order to succeed; everyone must work together, stay positive, and be creative no matter what gender you are. I truly felt the energy in this network and wish them lots of success as they travel from festival to festival. The good news is that they won’t need to convince anyone at the forthcoming Dortmund/Cologne International Women's Film Festival!

This is not the first time I’ve heard from Women in Film and Television (WIFT), this past year they introduced the film CODE: DEBUGGING THE FENDER GAP by Robin Hauser, in conjunction with the American Consulate, Hamburg, where we were invited for the viewing. This leading national and international network for women in creative media, WIFT lobbies for women’s interests, and offers networking events, workshops, and collaborations with the production industry. The sole women’s film festival in Germany is the Dortmund/Cologne International Women's Film Festival. It is not only a film festival for female directors but also for women in other categories, such as cinematographers and film-music composers.