TIFF’s Kathleen Drumm on the 2017 Festival’s ‘Share Her Journey’ Initiative — Interview by Julide Tanriverdi

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tiff kathleen drummThere is always talk that there are not enough women in Hollywood. The latest study from the Center for the study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University revealed at the beginning of the year that only 7 percent of all directors working on the 250 highest-grossing domestic releases in 2016 were female – shockingly a decline of two percent compared to numbers in 2015 and in 1998. How is this possible? Why are we always talking and writing about this if there is no improvement? But change might be in the air – at least in Canada. Continue reading…

While covering TIFF a look into the program contained a surprise: A whopping one-third (33.6%) of the films selected for the 42nd Toronto International Film Festival are directed by women, with an even higher number of female-identified short filmmakers at Festival (42.4%). Films by women at the festival this year include the solo directorial debuts of actors Greta Gerwig, Brie Larson, and Molly Parker, as well as new work by Deniz Gamze Ergüven, Dee Rees, and documentarians Alanis Obomsawin, Agnès Varda, and Jennifer Baichwal.

TIFF also has a fundraising campaign called “Share her Journey” to support female filmmakers. Kathleen Drumm, Director of Industry at TIFF, took the time from her busy festival schedule to answer some of AWFJ’s burning questions about this positive development:

Julide Tanriverdi: When and by whom was it decided that this program “Share her Journey” needed to be created?

Kathleen Drumm: We’ve been thinking about this for a while. At the beginning of last year our Industry team had a look at five years of talent development stats and made a decision from that point on to have a min of 50% women represented in all these programmes (we were close at 42%). We kept talking across the organization and decided to put together a fund-raising campaign to provide more support for women. Film is not only a cultural and artistic activity – it’s an economic driver and the industry is worth billions of dollars, here in Canada and internationally. We believe women should not be marginalized, but be part of this. We are not complacent and realize there is a lot of work still to be done. Inclusion and diversity is at the heart of what we want to achieve at TIFF. Our mission is to transform the way people see the world through film. This campaign is both meaningful to us and in line with our values as an organization.

Tanriverdi: What opportunities does the festival exactly give with this program?

Drumm: Our fundraising campaign is designed to support industry programmes for female creators. Broadly speaking these programmes will pivot around three areas –business, connections that will make a difference to careers, and tailored professional development to advance women’s knowledge and craft. We want to create infrastructure that encourages mentorship schemes, placements, project development, workshops, events, and business networking. We want not just greater participation by women but SUCCESS in the industry. We want to encourage women to be better prepared, to make more commercially appealing projects, to have greater success at the box office and elsewhere, whatever size the screen, to sell their films internationally and to gain critical recognition and eyeballs for their work. What we offer will depend upon the amount of money raised. We have a number of ideas in development. For instance Producer accelerator program – This opportunity would place female producers in a high level business environment, where have chance to learn about the rius of script decisions, marketing, sales and to meet people who may be future collaborators.

Tanriverdi: What was the percentage of female directors before this program?

Drumm: This year a third of the Festival films are directed by women. This is a terrific number and an improvement on last year, but we acknowledge there is still more work to do. These are very real challenges facing the industry as a whole right now -— the debate is relevant and one TIFF is proud to be a part of. This as a time of great change and great excitement, especially when we see new talent coming to the forefront as a result. We’re addressing this through our recently launched Share Her Journey Campaign and in all of our own talent development programmes too.
Since 2016, our Talent Development programmes such as Talent Lab, Studio, and TIFF Rising Stars have had a minimum of 50% female participation. During Festival 2016, we deliberately set out to support women to gain access to decision-makers, and to have the opportunity to progress their careers and projects:
· We partnered with 13 women’s film groups on 2016 Industry programming
· 55% of the speakers at the Industry Conference were female
· Our new Connections series provided curated networking for women practitioners.
· Our Film Fatales workshops enabled female filmmakers to pitch their projects to key industry players.
· Each year we also partner with Telefilm Canada to spotlight 12 women for their contributions to the industry.

Tanriverdi: Is there a specific goal?

Drumm: Who is telling Canadian stories? And whose stories are being told? Are women adequately represented in key creative roles and positions of influence in the Canadian screen industry? Whatever statistics you look at, the answer is no. We want to support stories that inspire audiences, that inspire women and girls, and which reflect the diverse nature of our communities and of our neighborhoods.

Tanriverdi: Which movies are you particularly proud of in this year’s TIFF festival?

Drumm: Incredible to see Waru – an omnibus film from eight indigenous NZ women directors who each offer a perspective on one event.

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