How Canada Became a Springboard for Female Directors

Multiple government initiatives are pushing for gender parity in the film business by 2020.

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Illustration By Dan Woodger

Multiple government initiatives are pushing for gender parity in the film business by 2020.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau proudly displayed his progressive bona fides three years ago when he announced that his 30-member Cabinet would be the country’s first to represent men and women equally, 50- 50. When asked by a journalist why, he made global headlines with his blunt reply: “Because it’s 2015.”

Roughly a year later — and well before the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements — Telefilm Canada, the powerful, well-funded film financing arm of the Canadian government, followed Trudeau’s lead and unveiled its own ambitious drive to achieve gender parity in the film sector by 2020. The goal was clear: The agency would choose which films to finance based on whether projects were directed by, or revolved around, women (among other criteria).

The initiative already is having an effect: A 2017 Telefilm study shows a 27 percent increase in agency-backed projects directed by women since 2015. And it’s not just Telefilm: The National Film Board of Canada, the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. and the Canada Media Fund also have unveiled plans to achieve gender parity by 2020. But with its deep pockets — the agency invests around $100 million annually in homegrown filmmaking — Telefilm is leading the way.

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