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Tuesday, 31 October 2017

Your taxes at work - Screen Australia discusses gender diversity at a Senate Estimates Committee - "It's quite difficult to compare apples with apples"

Editor's Note: This is an extract from the transcript of the Senate Estimates Committee examining the activities of the Department of Communications and the Arts. Those under the microscope from Senator Anne Urquhart (Labor, Tasmania) are Graeme Mason and Fiona Cameron the head honchos of Screen Australia.


Senator Anne Urquhart
Senator URQUHART: I've just got some questions around diversity and gender balance in the screen sector. In August 2017, Screen Australia announced that 39 per cent of Australian feature film productions funded by Screen Australia were female-led in the 2016-17 financial year, with female led being for drama and at least 50 per cent of the creative team roles of writer, producer, director, and protagonist filled by women. How was that 39 per cent reached? What was the calculation for that?
Ms Cameron : You're referring to some statistics we put out about two years ago, which was the genesis for our Gender Matters initiative.
Senator URQUHART: In August 2017 you announced the 39 per cent.
Ms Cameron : Thirty-nine per cent of what; sorry?
Senator URQUHART: That 39 per cent of Australian feature film productions funded by Screen Australia were female leads.
Ms Cameron : Right. There have been lots of different statistics. We pulled all that together quite recently, so it's quite a timely question. In announcing the Gender Matters initiative, we basically committed to a target for all teams that we invest in for production funding having a gender balance. By that, we mean that 50 per cent of the team should be women. The team is defined as director, producer, writer and protagonist. Our slate includes development, production, documentaries, films and online—the works. We said, 'This isn't about ticking a box; this is about dealing with the biggest problem in the sector,' which is production funding—specifically, feature film production funding, which alludes to your statistics—where, historically, writers and directors are not represented remotely fairly, with 22 per cent being writers and 16 per cent being directors. So we put in place Gender Matters and we raised that target.
We reported on that target in August and we were basically able to say that, of all the teams we put money into for production funding—not development; just production—47 per cent of our teams have gender balance; that is, 50 per cent of the team are women. So we are slowly but surely getting there. But that disguises a couple of things. One, that in feature film production, it is still quite low—referring to those stats. It's improved, but it is still quite low.
Senator URQUHART: Is that where the 39 per cent comes from?
Ms Cameron : Yes, that period was about feature film and team work. In television and online, they're doing the heavy lifting and, effectively, that hides a multitude of problems. So we've broken them all down and we've talked about the target of 50 per cent. We're at 47 per cent for production investment. If we look at all our programs, including development, we're at 52 per cent. But, with development, there's a lot coming into the pipeline, and a lot of development doesn't convert into production. So we really do need to look at production funding in getting to 50 per cent. So we're close, but we've got a little bit of a way to go.
Senator URQUHART: What percentage of applications for funding of Australian feature film productions was female led and what percentage of those applications were then successful?
Ms Cameron : We want to do it over a three-year average, because every year it spikes, and you do need to look at projects over a three-year period. We only have figures for the two years, so we're slowly but surely getting there. For feature production, it went from 22 per cent in 2015-16 to 39 per cent in 2016-17—the figure that you've quoted. That gives you a two-year average of 32 per cent. So, we've actually had a huge rise since we started deliberately looking at our guidelines and speaking about it. If you write it down, people pay much more attention to it. It's not an outlandish target. We're just asking for a team to be representative, not just talking about the director or writer or producer. We're asking for more male teams to work with more female teams to get a product that everybody will want to watch.
Senator URQUHART: Of that 39 per cent, how many of those productions had a female writer; how many had a female director; and how many had a female producer?
Ms Cameron : I don't know because, as I said, we're looking at teams, particularly. I don't even want to commit to be able to give you that granular detail, but I can explore only on the basis that what we've decided is important is a team so that we're not being too prescriptive, remembering we don't commission product. Product comes in to us. We're trying to encourage people to work more broadly. What happens, particularly in the feature film industry, is that people work with the people they've been comfortable working with and they work with the same people. A lot of meritorious women are not being involved in the process, so we're trying very hard to make sure that the teams are more representative. It's best to look at what the situation is with writers and producers. To answer your question: nothing's changed for writers and directors over the last two years for the entire industry; for what we're funding at Screen Australia, there's been some dramatic improvement.
Senator URQUHART: I'm interested, if you're able to provide that detail, but also what percentage of those productions had a female writer; what percentage had a female director: and what percentage had a female producer? How have those numbers changed from the numbers of female directors, writers and producers of Australian feature film productions for the prior three years? If you can provide that level—
Ms Cameron : It's quite difficult to compare apples with apples, but we will try and find something. You can do anything with statistics—and it really annoys me, because people do—and then people assume that it means something. But, ultimately, the objective is: more female writers, more female directors, more female producers and more female protagonists. So we'll give you something that makes sense.
Mr Mason : To add to that, one of the key things that we did in this whole initiative was flood the pipeline very early—in the development process. What we wanted to do was make sure that there were so many—only about 10 per cent of things that go into development have a shot of getting into production—so we put a lot more female-driven stuff at the top there. So, the number down here—as Fiona was saying—may not yet indicate enough of what we're trying to do and, I think, what you're looking for. It's something we need to keep watching.
Senator URQUHART: What specific targets, or KPIs, are in place to achieve parity for female writers and directors across all funding programs?
Ms Cameron : In our corporate plan, which is on our website, our KPI is to work towards a situation where, by the end of 2018-19, 50 per cent of all the teams we fund have gender balance.
Senator URQUHART: So that's your KPI?

Ms Cameron : That is our formal KPI.

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