Hope Dickson Leach, Jackie van Beek Join New Zealand's Power of Inclusion Summit

Charlie Clift/BAFTA; Courtesy of the New Zealand Film Commission
Hope Dickson Leach (left), Jackie van Beek

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and 'Mulan' director Niki Caro also will speak at the two-day event, which brings together thought leaders from myriad backgrounds to posit action for a more inclusive industry and world.

Award-winning writer-directors Hope Dickson Leach and Jackie van Beek are the latest speakers to join New Zealand's pioneering The Power of Inclusion Summit, which will be held Oct. 3-4 in Auckland.

The inaugural two-day program will feature case studies, panels and keynotes addressing issues related to inclusion and representation, with the aim of positing new action to create a more inclusive industry — and world at large.

Dickson Leach and van Beek join an already impressive roster of some 35 speakers from around the world, including New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, Mulan director Niki Caro and Philippa Boyens, the Oscar-winning co-writer and producer of the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit trilogies.

Dickson Leach is best known as the writer-director of the critically acclaimed 2016 British drama The Levelling. She also is a co-founder of Raising Films, a campaigning community for parent and carers in the screen industries. The organization exercises its advocacy through first-of-their-kind surveys and reports, online case studies, and initiatives such as the Raising Films Ribbon, challenging at a structural level the demands the industry places on working parents which prevents them from sustaining and developing their careers.

"We cannot lose sight of the importance of the question of how to make the entertainment industry properly inclusive," Dickson Leach said Tuesday in a statement. "Whilst many of us are uncovering tangible solutions that really make a difference, we must remain committed to dismantling the larger issues of systemic exclusion that underpin our society and are replicated in the way we are expected to work."

Multihyphenate van Beek is known to international film fans from her role in the cult New Zealand comedy What We Do in the Shadows, and as the co-writer, co-director and star of the critically acclaimed Kiwi comedy The Breaker Upperers, which premiered at SXSW and was acquired by Netflix.

"I've always believed that parenting and feature filmmaking should not be mutually exclusive," she said. "The ability to do both was modeled to me on the set of What We do In the Shadows — the producers provided me with space and time to breastfeed my baby in-between scenes."

"Breastfeeding with fangs in was a first!" van Beek added.

Van Beek said she and her team furthered that commitment on The Breaker Upperers by offering women job-sharing roles so they could spend half the week at home with their families and half the week on set.

"It was delightful to strip away the guilt and neglect that so often comes with accepting a job," she said, adding: "It created a great vibe on set, and it didn’t cost a cent more to operate this way!"

The Power of Inclusion Summit will employ such practices itself during its two-day duration. A complimentary crèche, or nursery, will run throughout the confab and be available to children under five. Breastfeeding wherever mothers feel comfortable is welcomed, and the summit will also provide a breastfeeding space.

Added Dickson Leach: "Having an on-site crèche available for attendees displays a care and thoughtfulness that embodies the change that so many of us are striving for, and I look forward to being in the same space as so many brilliant change makers from around the world."
Other speakers announced so far include: Charles D. King, founder and CEO of MACRO and producer of Sorry to Bother You (2018) and Mudbound (2017); Franklin Leonard, film executive and founder of The Black List; Dr. Stacy L. Smith, founder and director of the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative at the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism at the University of Southern California; film director Maria Giese, who, in 2015, instigated the biggest industry-wide federal investigation for women directors in Hollywood history; and rising New Zealand star Ana Scotney (Ngāti Tāwhaki), who made her debut in The Breaker Upperers.

Additional participants — including people of color, women, inter-faith, indigenous, LGBTQI and differently abled individuals — will be unveiled in the coming weeks and months.

The Power of Inclusion will be hosted by the New Zealand Film Commission and Women in Film and Television International, with support from The Walt Disney Studios.