Canada's Biggest Film Financier Pledges That Half of Its Projects Will Be Directed or Written by Women

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Telefilm Canada, led by Carolle Brabant, said it will now "favor" projects by women helmers and writers.

It may be getting less difficult to make it as a female director and writer in Canada's film industry.

Telefilm Canada, the country's biggest film financier, on Friday unveiled measures to ensure half of the movies it finances will now be helmed or written by women.

The aim is to close a stubborn industry gender gap by 2020. "Our goal is to level the playing field for Canadian female talent, and we encourage creators to submit projects directed and/or written by women," Telefilm executive director Carolle Brabant said in a statement.

Telefilm recently led an pan-industry consultation to decide on how to tackle industry bias and chauvinism that was giving female directors, writers and producers fewer opportunities than their male colleagues to work, especially on big-budget gigs. "Telefilm will now, for projects of equal quality, favor projects that have a woman as director and/or a woman as writer," the agency said Friday.

Measures to close the opportunity gap for female film producers will be introduced next September, as the industry recommended immediate action to give film directors and writers a leg up. "This can only benefit the industry as whole. Increased competition can lead to better quality projects that connect with audiences whose tastes and interests are changing along with the cultural landscape," Brabant said.

Telefilm is following the lead of the National Film Board of Canada, which earlier this year promised half the movies it finances will be directed by women. Canada already has a growing list of women helmers, including Sarah Polley, Kari Skogland and Patricia Rozema, many of which work on both sides of the border.

Elsewhere, BravoFACT, a short film investor aligned with Canadian media giant Bell Media, has pledged that at least half of its funding will back female-led projects. And Canadian film festivals are devoting more screen time to female filmmakers, including the upcoming Whistler Film Festival booking 31 films, or 36 per cent of its lineup, that are directed by women.

But the country still has a ways to go before it can break the celluloid ceiling also impacting Hollywood. A recent report titled "What's Wrong With This Picture?," prepared for the Canadian Unions for Equality on Screen, including the Directors Guild of Canada, concluded the Canadian government heavily subsidizes film and TV production that mostly has men in key creative positions.

"At present, the Canadian screen-based production sector is built on inequality," said the report. At the same time, Canada has been pinning its Oscar hopes in recent years on homegrown movies directed or produced by women.

Montreal-based Nancy Grant produced this year's Canadian entry in the foreign-language Oscar category, Xavier Dolan's It's Only the End of the World, and two other recent submissions, Maxime Giroux's Felix and Meira and Dolan's Mommy. And Canada's 2013 nominee, Gabrielle, was directed by Louise Archambault.