France Launches Subsidies for Female Filmmakers

Cannes women's march - H 2018
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Productions with women in eight key positions will get a 15 percent bonus from the country's film-funding body.

France is calling for action on gender parity, announcing new subsidies to boost the number of films made by women.

Culture Minister Francoise Nyssen, who supported the 50/50 by 2020 gender-parity pledge earlier this year, said that films that are "exemplary" in equality will get an additional 15 percent in government funding.

Productions will work on a points system similar to a tax scheme, with points for female leaders such as director or scriptwriter or for technicians, as in sound mixers, editors or cinematographers.

Once a film hits the eight-point mark, it will be eligible for the additional cash.

"We cannot wait any longer," said Nyssen. "The numbers oblige us to act. As it stands, only one film in six would qualify for this subsidy."

"The incentive effect is very strong, especially among private decision makers," said National Cinema Center (CNC) president Frederique Bredin in an interview with newspaper Liberation. "These are not quotas but incredible levers."

Bredin cited the aftermath of Harvey Weinstein revelations and credited the #MeToo movement for changing the film industry in Hollywood and beyond.

"We have seen how the Weinstein affair has challenged power in all strata of society. By its very nature, cinema has always been at the frontier," she said. "We are in a time of action to build a more egalitarian, more equal, more just society."

In the spirit of the Time's Up movement, Nyssen has also asked the CNC to demand productions provide a gender breakdown as well as earnings information to the film-funding body.

The 50/50 by 2020 movement was launched in France by a group of film professionals that includes high-profile actors and directors, such as Lea Seydoux and Jacques Audiard, pushing for gender equality by the start of the next decade. The Cannes Film Festival went on to sign the pledge in May, with other festivals such as Venice following this year.

Aside from spearheading the 50/50 by 2020 movement, France has a way to go, with under one-quarter of films helmed by women. And those women make 40 percent less than their male counterparts, according to CNC figures.

Bredin cited Spain and Sweden as inspiration: Sweden grants additional production support for female-headed films, and Spain gives bonuses for leadership parity.

"The financial effort will encourage private partners to ensure the [equal] compensation of their teams," she said. "Even today, producing a film directed by a woman is felt to be risky by decision makers. They suffer a glass ceiling that is difficult to explain. The numerical analysis shows that, all other things being equal, women are paid less, the budgets of their films are less important."

Bredin added that the country's top film school, La Femis, graduates a roughly equal number of men and women, but they do not go on to direct films. The CNC plans to launch a study to discover the hurdles women face in continuing their careers.