Female Directors Face Closed Doors in Canada, Study Finds

Sophie Giraud
'Below Her Mouth'

The all-women cast and crew behind 'Below Her Mouth,' a lesbian romancer shot in Toronto, is helping break up an old boys' club.

Hollywood's gender bias debate has received statistical fuel from Canada with a report indicating that local female directors, screenwriters and cinematographers have few opportunities to work on big-budget films.

The study, Women in View on Screen, concluded Canadian women mostly get to sit in the director's chair on small film and TV projects, while male colleagues get the big-budget gigs. "(Canadian) women are not only an unacceptably small minority of those employed in these positions, but also they are least present where the financial power is the greatest," the report, written by Women in View executive director Rina Fraticelli, concluded.

The findings follow recent studies about a gender imbalance in Hollywood hiring practices. The Canadian study found only 17 percent of the largest 91 feature films financed last year by Telefilm Canada, the federal government's film financier, were directed by Canadian women.

Female writers were part of 22 percent of the Telefilm Canada slate and only eight female cinematographers were hired. Canadian women also get the cold shoulder in TV, where they represented only 14 of 84 directors on 29 local English language dramas, or 17 percent, though they were better represented in the writers' rooms. And no female cinematographer directed a Canadian English language drama last year, according to the study.

A Canadian industry searching for solutions to gender bias this month played host to Below Her Mouth, an indie film about a lesbian romance with an all-women cast and crew — including its writer, director and producer — that was shot in Toronto. L.A.-based Swedish model Erika Linder and Canadian actress Natalie Krill got hot and heavy between the sheets on a closed set without men looking on.

"That allowed the actresses to feel more vulnerable and more comfortable, to expose themselves in a really shocking and amazing way, where I feel they even surprised themselves," director April Mullen told the Hollywood Reporter. Below Her Mouth portrays an unexpected affair between two women whose escalating passion changes their lives forever.

Linder, whose androgynous look landed her a Tom Ford campaign and roles in music videos by Katy Perry and Of Monsters and Men, is doing her first movie role, and welcomed being with a woman, and the full femme crew during lesbian sex scenes.

"I did a (fashion) shoot once where I had to end up being naked, and there were all men on set, and I was like, how will this work? You're naked. You feel vulnerable," she said, comparing the experience. Krill, whose TV roles include Orphan Black and Rookie Blue, has her first lesbian role in Below Her Mouth, from screenwriter Stephanie Fabrizi, producer Melissa Coghlan and Serendipity Point Films.

"It's like being in a women's change room. You feel more comfortable to do that level of intimacy when it's just women," said Krill.