Canada Reports "Significant" Director Gender Gap Amid Parity Push

Stories We Tell

Canada (Director: Sarah Polley)

Sarah Polley is both filmmaker and detective as she investigates the secrets kept by a family of storytellers. She unravels the paradoxes to reveal the essence of family: always complicated, warmly messy and fiercely loving.

Film funding giant Telefilm Canada calls for "industry collaboration" from dealmakers to get women more gigs on big-budget movies.

There remains a large problem with the gender gap among Canada's directors, despite the government's push for parity. 

Telefilm Canada, the Canadian government's film financier, says the gender gap for local female directors, screenwriters and producers looking to work on big-budget films remains "significant." That's despite Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's government in Ottawa pushing for gender parity in the film business by 2020 amid industry rallying cries.

Telefilm, releasing statistics for its latest 2017-18 fiscal year for movies it funds, indicates only 18 percent of its largest feature films last year with budgets over $2.5 million were helmed by Canadian women. Sarah Polley's feature documentary Stories We Tell, Ann Marie Fleming's feature animation Window Horses and April Mullen's Below Her Mouth are among the indie movies made by top Canadian female directors in recent years. 

Canada's progress to close its industry gender gap, while "encouraging" and representing "positive change," said Telefilm, is comparable to a recent report by San Diego State University's Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film that indicated women held 18 percent of key behind-the-camera roles on Hollywood's top movies in 2017.

Canadian female helmers are mostly relegated to directing documentaries and other low-budget fare, Telefilm reported. As a measure of the male talent continuing to nab big budget gigs, Canadian female screenwriters got just 21 percent of Telefilm's slate last year, and female film producers grabbed just 31 percent of available financing.

Telefilm's acting executive director Jean-Claude Mahe said in a statement his agency needs the local industry's help, especially from dealmakers and boardrooms, when it comes to giving women more opportunities on bigger-budget films. "We need the industry’s collaboration to increase the number of projects led by women in this budget realm," he said.