The place of women in European film productions: Fighting the celluloid ceiling

17-01-2019

The sexual assault allegations brought against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein laid bare the painful reality for scores of women working in the film industry around the world. However, sexual harassment is seemingly just the tip of the iceberg in an industry where gender inequalities relating to biased representation and pay are arguably systematic and pervasive. Europe's own film industry has not been spared. The weighted average of films directed by women in the 2012-2016 period is just 19.6 %, with country results varying from 5 % (Latvia) to 30 % (Sweden). More worryingly, research shows that the various positions in the film industry appear to be dominated by one or the other gender. Thus, women are over-represented in professions traditionally considered feminine – such as costume design and editing – and under-represented in others viewed as more technical, such as those dealing with sound, music and image. To start redressing these imbalances, various EU-level initiatives have been introduced in support of female film projects. One such example is the LUX Film Prize, through which over the past 11 years the European Parliament has been consistently encouraging the dissemination of films directed by women and portraying strong, inspiring female characters. For its part, the European Commission has started measuring women's participation in key positions in projects supported under the Media strand of its Creative Europe programme. Similarly, it is currently considering specific ways for a more gender-balanced provision of support. Yet again, the cultural support fund of the Council of Europe – Eurimages – committed in its 2018-2020 strategy to achieving equal distribution of co production funding between women and men by the year 2020; the distribution of funding currently stands at 38 %. Sweden is the EU leader in terms of regulatory policies at national level. The critical acclaim won by Swedish female filmmakers in the past 10 years has shown that by applying a methodical and systematic approach it is possible to achieve gender equality without compromising quality.

The sexual assault allegations brought against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein laid bare the painful reality for scores of women working in the film industry around the world. However, sexual harassment is seemingly just the tip of the iceberg in an industry where gender inequalities relating to biased representation and pay are arguably systematic and pervasive. Europe's own film industry has not been spared. The weighted average of films directed by women in the 2012-2016 period is just 19.6 %, with country results varying from 5 % (Latvia) to 30 % (Sweden). More worryingly, research shows that the various positions in the film industry appear to be dominated by one or the other gender. Thus, women are over-represented in professions traditionally considered feminine – such as costume design and editing – and under-represented in others viewed as more technical, such as those dealing with sound, music and image. To start redressing these imbalances, various EU-level initiatives have been introduced in support of female film projects. One such example is the LUX Film Prize, through which over the past 11 years the European Parliament has been consistently encouraging the dissemination of films directed by women and portraying strong, inspiring female characters. For its part, the European Commission has started measuring women's participation in key positions in projects supported under the Media strand of its Creative Europe programme. Similarly, it is currently considering specific ways for a more gender-balanced provision of support. Yet again, the cultural support fund of the Council of Europe – Eurimages – committed in its 2018-2020 strategy to achieving equal distribution of co production funding between women and men by the year 2020; the distribution of funding currently stands at 38 %. Sweden is the EU leader in terms of regulatory policies at national level. The critical acclaim won by Swedish female filmmakers in the past 10 years has shown that by applying a methodical and systematic approach it is possible to achieve gender equality without compromising quality.