Toronto Fest Co-Head Joana Vicente Urges Gender Equality for Women Directors

Joana Vicente - Publicity - P 2018
Courtesy of IFP

"There's so much correction that needs to be made," she told The Hollywood Reporter after revealing that 36 percent of TIFF's 2019 movie lineup features female directors.

As Hollywood influencers get set to converge on her September event, Toronto Film Festival co-head Joana Vicente on Tuesday called for more women to be brought into the day-to-day running of the film industry's movie pipeline.

"There's so much correction that needs to be made," she told The Hollywood Reporter after finalizing TIFF's 2019 movie lineup. Her call came as Toronto broke down the gender gap between male and female filmmakers in the 328 movies — 244 features, 82 shorts — to screen next month.

This year's overall lineup features 36 percent of its films directed, co-directed or created by women, up slightly from 35 percent in 2018. That compares with 37 percent of the films screening at the recent 2019 Berlin Film Festival being directed by women.

And the Venice Film Festival recently revealed that, of the 21 films chosen for its upcoming 2019 competition lineup, just two — or less than 10 percent — were directed by women.

Vicente said around 32 percent of total film submissions to this year's Toronto festival were directed by women. "So we went beyond what was submitted to try to get a bit more parity," she said.

But to get to full gender parity in the Time's Up era, Vicente said more needs to be done to generate female-directed movies at the major studios and production companies across the industry. "There's a lot of work to be done on the pipeline side," Vicente argued, saying gatekeepers need to do more to allow women to work their way up in the industry.

Vicente pointed to film schools with a balance of female and male students. But a gender gap opens with first features, as around 30 percent are made by women, she added.

"It's harder for women to get their first feature made, to get financiers and buyers to back their films, so there's a lot of work to be done there," Vicente said. And the film gender gap widens even more with second features, with Vicente arguing women take, on average, five to seven years to complete their sophomore film, while men do the same in an average of 18 months.

"We need to work on getting equal opportunities, making sure women get the mentorship and the connections to really be able to put their films together," she said. Vicente recalled during her own career as a U.S. indie film producer choosing the scripts that most excited her but then helping women into key production positions when possible.

"When I was hiring, I would make sure we were interviewing as many women DPs (directors of photography) and LPs (line producers) as we could," she insisted. In TIFF's 2019 lineup, Vicente points to more gender parity among first films, short films and in the Canadian film section, where 46 percent of film titles are directed by women.

After TIFF last year signed the industry's 50/50 by 2020 gender parity protocol, Toronto is giving over 120 women creators free access to the festival's Industry Conference and year-round programming. And the overall number of speakers at the 2019 conference represents a 50/50 gender split, the festival revealed. 

Elsewhere, Toronto's galas slate at Roy Thomson Hall of 18 titles is evenly split, with nine of the high-profile movies directed or co-directed by women. "There's hope, but there's more work that needs to be done," Vicente concluded.