Saturday, 9 June 2018

Screen Australia discusses Gender Diversity at a Senate Estimates Committee hearing on 24 May

Editor's Note: This is an edited extract from the transcript of the recent Senate Estimates hearing at which Screen Australia executives Graeme Mason and Fiona Cameron discussed Screen Australia's approach to gender diversity in the film industry.

Senator BILYK: You have made quite a bit of progress, I know, with regard to diversity in the screen sector. Can you give me a quick update, because we are running very late, on the work you're doing on cultural and gender diversity?
Graeme Mason
Mr G Mason : Yes. Obviously, we're incredibly proud of the work we've done in both areas. We have a program called Gender Matters, which we invested money into to try to increase the representation of women in front of and behind the camera. That has had real success. Obviously, at the moment we are thrilled that one of the very first projects from that is a film called Ride Like a Girl, which is filming at the moment in Melbourne. The actress, Rachel Griffiths, is directing her first feature. It's based on the story of Michelle Payne, the first woman to win the Melbourne Cup.
Gender Matters was one of (Fiona Cameron’s) pet projects. 'Pet' is a terribly wrong word. It's an incredibly exciting thing that we're very proud of. Again, Ms Cameron is the one who drove that through. We have also done real work on diversity to try to ensure that Australians of all shapes, sizes, colours and dimensions are represented on and off screen. We're doing that because we believe in that culturally; we believe in that creatively; and we also believe in it commercially in the environment in which we now work. If you can't see yourself on screen, you'll find it somewhere else. We have great buy-in from the networks and everyone else. We are doing projects, including Developing the Developer. We're getting people from diverse backgrounds to be involved as script editors and mentors. We believe, with both gender and diversity initiatives, in making changes upstream. You change the things that are getting written rather than try to meet quotas or do something at the tail end.
Senator Fifield: In this encounter. I might take the opportunity, since we're on the subject of Ms Cameron, to acknowledge her outstanding service as the chief operating officer of Screen Australia. She has made a remarkable contribution. The great news is that she is not lost to the communications and arts portfolio as she has been appointed a commissioner of the Australian Communications and Media Authority.
Fiona Cameron
Ms Cameron : It's a lovely ending for me, really, because it was the first feature film to be funded through the Gender Matters program only about 18 months ago. As Graeme said, that's an extraordinarily quick turnaround to get something from development into production. I don't go to a lot of set visits, but I was on set (of Ride Like a Girl) last week just 50 minutes outside the airport. It was the Cathy Payne wedding scene at a horse stud. That is an extraordinary scene with hundreds of people. I was talking to the co-producer on set, Naomi Cleaver, who reminded me that the set was predominated by women—meritorious and extremely strong and extremely great women. That includes two out of three of the producers, obviously the director, obviously the protagonist, the cowriter, the line producer, the financial controller, the production manager, the costume department head, the art department head, the hair and make-up department head, the casting director and the extras casting director. I'm running out of space on this piece of paper.
Ms Cameron : Eight camera operators. She was saying thank you to me. She was saying to me, 'These women are extraordinary at what they are doing and meritorious at what they do. All they need is more opportunities. By breaking down your barriers and allowing women to have that equal opportunity, it's created this environment that we're working in now.' It's really good to see. I basically think that Rachel Griffiths, given that field of candidates, like Michelle Payne, can bring this home.

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