As hundreds gathered on Saturday at a rally for gender equality in the movie business, an event organized by the Toronto International Film Festival, there were surprisingly cool fall breezes and predictably rousing calls for change – but most of all there were many practical ideas about to reshape the entertainment industries.
“What a difference a year makes,” said TIFF executive director Michele Maheux, referring not only to the fall of Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein and the rise of #MeToo, but also to the festival’s launch of Share Her Journey, a campaign to boost female careers in film that predated the dramatic events of last fall. “Women have been a central part of the conversation, in the news, and we have made much-needed noise. Collectively we have managed to shake the unshakeable.”
Organized by TIFF vice-president of advancement Maxine Bailey, Share Her Journey set out to help address the gross gender imbalance that exists on film sets where the large majority of directors, writers and cinematographers are men. But the TIFF program really caught fire alongside #MeToo and Saturday’s rally brought together a wide range of speakers associated with such groups as #AfterMeToo, a Canadian campaign to help the victims of sexual harassment, and ReFrame, a Hollywood initiative that includes certification for movies and TV shows that are gender inclusive.
Actress Geena Davis, who runs an institute dedicated to getting more female characters on screen in children’s entertainment, was the first in a lineup of nine speakers. She recommended that writers and producers do a “gender pass” on every script: “Ask who here could become female … Change a bunch of first names. Where it says ‘a crowd gathers’ write in the script: ‘Which is half female.’”