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The NFB Just Did Something Awesome For Women Filmmakers

While Hollywood studios continue to remain silent on the debate about the opportunity gap for women filmmakers, one major North American film producer is showing everyone else how it should be done.

The National Film Board of Canada (NFB), the esteemed filmmaking arm of the Canadian government, has promised that at least half of its productions will be directed by women and half of all its production spending will be allocated to films directed by women.

The plan to ensure gender parity will be implemented over the next three years, and the film board has committed to complete transparency in budgetary allocations, which will be made available to the public online. It shouldn’t be a difficult goal to reach since the NFB already does a much better job of providing opportunities for women filmmakers than almost any other film production outfit.

The NFB says that for the 2015-’16 fiscal year, 43.4% of its production spending will be on films directed by women, and 43.5% is being spent on films by men, with 11.3% spent on films directed by mixed teams, and the remaining 1.8% not yet allocated.

“The NFB has always taken a leadership role in women’s filmmaking,” said NFB chairperson and film commissioner Claude Joli-Coeur, who made the announcement this afternoon at a panel of the Vancouver International Women in Film Festival. “In our current fiscal year, films directed by women represent half of our total spending on production. In 2016‒2017, the numbers are projected to be well above that. But numbers can fluctuate. There have been good years and lean years for women’s filmmaking at the NFB. No more. Today, I’m making a firm, ongoing commitment to full gender parity, which I hope will help to lead the way for the industry as a whole.”

Women also play a significant role in creative and management positions at the NFB, with 55% of the board’s producers and executive producers being women, and 66 percent of upper management and 70 percent of NFB Board of Trustee positions staffed by women.

The NFB has a long history of supporting women filmmakers in animation, stretching back to the work of experimental filmmaker (and frequent Norman McLaren collabator) Evelyn Lambart. In fact, two of the last three women winners of the animated short Oscar have been NFB filmmakers – Torill Kove’s The Danish Poet (2006) and Bob’s Birthday (1994, co-directed by Alison Snowden) – and other women animators from the studio have been nominated for Academy Awards, including Caroline Leaf, Janet Perlman, Wendy Tilby, and Amanda Forbis.

The board produces a wide variety of content that includes animation, documentaries, and interactive media projects. Its upcoming projects from women directors include Ann Marie Fleming’s feature Window Horses, Torill Kove’s Threads, Marie-Josée Saint-Pierre’s Oscar, Janice Nadeau’s Mamie, Diane Obomsawin’s J’aime les filles, Regina Pessoa’s Accounting of the Days, Janet Perlman’s Trouver M. Pug, and Michèle Lemieux’s Illusion, among others.

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  • Honest_Miss

    I wish there was a way to “like” articles. I love this, its fantastic that a company is taking the initiative!

  • Beamish Kinowerks

    If only America subsidized the arts the way their northern neighbors do. I adore the NFB and what they’ve done for Canadian culture.

    • Doconnor

      Canada has to subsidize the arts or Canadian culture would disappear under the mountain of content and money available from the United States.