Filmmaker Hope Dickson Leach reflects on the last couple of weeks representing Raising Films at a range of exciting events that took place around the UK
The last week has seen a flurry of activity around the country. Gatherings of people looking to the future, organising around change, challenging the status quo. Raising Films has been trying to get to as many of these events as possible. Nicky attended the Women’s Equality Party Conference in Manchester, along with sister organisations Parents in Performing Arts and Pregnant Then Screwed. I myself was in London for Underwire’s Wired Women conference talking with the incredible researchers behind Calling the Shots, and then yesterday I was in Glasgow for This Way Up – the film industry’s annual exhibition conference.
It was wonderful to have parenthood and caring as part of these (very different) conversations.
In advance of their film festival this coming weekend, Underwire held a weekend of panels and discussions around all the different challenges and opportunities for women entering the film industry. Our session looked at Changing the Stats – what are some of the ways that people are working to change the number of women working in the industry. As only 14% of women in the film industry have children, compared to 74% in other industries, this is obviously something Raising Films has a lot to say about. It was great to hear from filmmakers in the audience about how they are finding power in community, and how coming together allows them to address some of the missing links that they are finding as women in the industry. As an organisation with a community at its heart, it was a wonderful opportunity to welcome new members, and start listening to concerns they have. Class and socio-economic factors were raised as an area of inclusion that doesn’t seem to be being addressed formally by any of the diversity schemes, for example. It was inspiring to hear a new generation of female filmmakers thinking so inclusively and pro-actively.
At This Way Up we were talking about how film exhibition can be revitalised to be more family friendly – both for audiences and for employees of independent cinemas, festivals and venues. The discussion ranged from the fantastic work that Newcastle-based organisation Chalk are doing creating live and cinema events for families in unusual venues, to the issues around maternity pay for employees dependent on funding streams that don’t cover such things. There were some brilliant suggestions made – from programming a loop of family friendly content throughout the day that ticket holders can wander in and out of according to their schedules (nappy changes, temper tantrums etc.) to challenging the government around the gap in state-support for parents of children between the ages of 9 months and 3 years. One large area for discussion was the content available in cinemas for young people. Venues wanted to embrace more family screenings, but the dearth of non-Disney content was a cited as a challenge (and by Disney I mean also the US studio generated fare that has massive advertising budgets and so dominates the market). The Disney films sell out, but exhibitors are keen to introduce young people to more work and find ways to nurture the next generation of film goers. One challenge was that lots of other content isn’t licensed for cinema exhibition, and the licensing costs can be prohibitive, given the smaller revenue they are likely to generate. A suggestion was made that perhaps a coalition of interested parties could work together to license a body of material that could then be shown at interested venues. Anyone interested please raise your hands! I sniff a new Raising Films project…
Our session at This Way Up finished by someone saying that we must find a way to join together all this thinking together. That real change will only happen when there is a shift that allows employers to be thinking creatively about hiring practices in the same thought as baby proofing venues. This is right at the heart of what we’re trying to do at Raising Films, and we couldn’t be more pleased to be out there finding others who feel the same way.