Telefilm Canada says it spent only 28 per cent of its funding on films directed by women and 36 per cent on female-scripted titles. (Photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Telefilm calls on industry to give female directors bigger budgets

MONTREAL — Telefilm Canada says it’s made progress in its efforts to back female-led films, but it needs the entertainment industry to help by putting more women in the director’s chair for big-budget features.

Numbers released Thursday suggest the federal agency is making headway towards its goal of achieving gender parity in key film roles by 2020.

Telefilm says 59 per cent of its production funding went to projects featuring at least one woman as a lead producer, director or writer in the last fiscal year.

The Crown corporation says it saw greatest gains among projects with female producers, reaching near parity in investments across its portfolio.

But Telefilm says it spent only 28 per cent of its funding on films directed by women and 36 per cent on female-scripted titles.

This gender gap was most pronounced in films that cost more than $2.5 million. In that category, roughly a quarter of projects were directed by women and 35 per cent had female screenwriters.

By contrast, more than half of documentaries were by female directors and 83 per cent had a female producer.

Telefilm’s executive director Christa Dickenson said the agency is doing its part to elevate up-and-coming female talent.

For example, in a program designed for first-time filmmakers, women made up 43 per cent of directors, 45 per cent of writers and 68 per cent producers.

While men continue to dominate large-budget projects, Dickenson said Telefilm has made strides to reverse this global trend since launching the gender-parity initiative in 2017.

She pointed to projects such as Monia Chokri’s “La femme de mon frère” (“A Brother’s Love”), which premiered at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, and Miranda de Pencier’s “The Grizzlies” as evidence of what female directors can achieve when given the chance.

“I think it’s about getting more and more female directors in the pipeline,” said Dickenson. “Having those success stories will bring further success stories.”

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