An Actress's Thoughts

Vive la Nouvelle Révolution du Cinéma!

Vive la Nouvelle Révolution du Cinéma!

After the French Revolution 1789-1799, the invention of the cinematograph by the Lumière brothers in 1890 and the new women’s movement of the 1970s, France is once again very active in cracking old structures and innovating the film industry.

The Charter for Equality among Women and Men in the Film Sector

Paris, October 10, 2013. Aurélie Filippetti (Minister for Culture and Communications Minister) and Najat Vallaud-Belkacem (Minister for Women’s Rights / Government Spokesperson) signed La Charte pour l’Égalité entre les Femmes et les Hommes dans le Secteur du Cinéma, in the presence of Véronique Cayla (President of Arte France), Frédérique Bredin (President of the state film funding body CNC) and Bérénice Vincent (President of  Le Deuxième Regard).
Le Deuxième Regard  (The Second Vision, a little hint at Simone de Beauvoir’s philosophical benchmark „Le Deuxième Sexe“)  was founded in March 2013 by the fhree Paris based female filmmakers Bérénice Vincent, Delphyne Besse and Julie Billy. They presented a number of ideas to the French Minister for Culture, ideas on how to increase the number of women in the film industry and how to improve their situation. Among these ideas was the draft of a Charter, the one that was signed this month, as a declaration of intent, an appeal and a commitment.
This did not come out of the blue of course. Things started happening in June when the senate (= the French Upper House) published the report  „La place des femmes dans l’art et la culture: le temps est venu de passer aux actes“ / “The Place of Women in Art and Culture: time has come to act”. This study addresses the imbalance in the cultural sector and labels three main problems: 1. holding on to gender stereotypes in cultural context, 2. a relative invisibility of female artists (their absence from retrospectives, festivals, awards) and 3. male dominance in strategically important positions.
These are the main issues of the Charter:

The signatories pledge to

  • gender their statistics, in order to isolate  today’s problems and to participate in a collective consideration of the situation of the place of women in film today
  • secure equal representation of men and women in their decision-making committees
  • stimulate cinematographic creativity by encouraging projects that overturn the traditional representation of women and men
  • sentizise their personel on equality  issues, especially by fighting stereotypes 
  • secure equal payment for women and men.

We can look forward to finding out who else from the French film industry will join this pledge, since Le Deuxième Regard will start to contact some 50 key corporations, organizations and festivals. And we can look forward to check the possible changes  to the current situation in a year’s time. How seriously will these commitments be taken? Will there be a change in the presentation of men and women in the cinema and on television, will there be more work for actresses and female directors?
In any case, this Chater is an extraordinary measure that exceeds merely demanding the fulfillment of a preset quota, it calls for an engaging preoccupation with stereotypes and clichés, and on top this with addresses an unpleasant situation that is not being talked about in public a great deal with its call for “equal payment”.
Do we need something like this Charter in Germany? Well, we will really only be able to answer that question after we have evaluated some reliable statistics. After we know how many men and how many women exist in the industry, how many are being trained and find work, what are the productions they work in, how they are being paid, which awards and grants they win and get, and after we get the break-downs on how the told stories are cast – then as a next step we can see if things are alright or if we need to talk about causes, consequences and possible countermeasures and start implementing the other four demands of the Charter.

The State promotes the actual Implementation of Equality

This is a quote from the Grundgesetz, the German constitution (article 3 (2) GG). So based on this regional ministries and funding bodies could start by abiding to the standards of the Charter, and by inviting national film schools, public TV broadcasting corporations, publically funded festivals and film productions to pledge to the agreement as well. Other organisations from the industry (e.g. unions) and private broadcasting corporations could follow. Just as a theoretical thought.

As far as Item 1 – the genderized statistics – is concerned, this would not be something new, but something that has been neglected quite a bit. Two detailed investigations are as old as 10 years:
In 2004 the Kulturrat (cultural council, a central association) published the survey „Women in Art and Culture II, 1995 – 2000“. 10 of the 92 pages deal with the film industry.
And in 2002 Angela Haardt and the Friends of the German Cinematheque (now: Arsenal, Institute for Film and Video Art) published a documentation of: „So Far and No Further: Hearing on the Situation of Women in the Film Professions Directing, Cinematography, Sound and Composition“.
I have not been able so far to find a systematic analysis of the casts of German cinema and TV productions.

The second item on the Charter – the composition of decision making bodies – is on the agenda in Germany already, there is a large number of committees and juries with female members, although their represantation is sometimes way below 50 %, and boards – also from unions etc. – are occasionally quite male dominated, so it does not come as a big surprise that they don’t really push forward discussions on the situation of female filmmakers. And furthermore, an equal representation does not automatically solve all problems, as we can see from this French example:
The funding committees of the CNC (Centre national du cinéma et de l’image animée) show a nearly balanced set-up by gender, nonetheless in 2012 only a quarter of the funded feature film debuts were directed by women, and this despite the fact that the output of male and female directors at La Fémis, the French State Film School for Image and Sound, is split evenly.
This is something I also found when I look at two national film funding bodies and their decisions in 2012: the BKM, the Federal Appointee for Culture and Media, and the FFA,  the German Federal Film Board. By the way, there is no national Minstry for Culture in the federal government since according to the German constitution, culture and education are regional responsibilities.
So, BKM and FFA, both have balanced juries: the BKM’s has 4 women and 5 men, and the FFA’s 6 each. Last year the BKM funded 13 full lenth feature films with a total of 2,7 Mi. €, and the FFA granted funding for the productio of 49 films, with a total of 15,9 Mio. € (often as a loan). I could not find genderized statistics on how many directors had applied for funding.

Films by male directors received the bigger part of the funding, on top of this female directors on average received some 12 % less money per film.
As I mentioned cultural issues are dealt with by the regions, so the film funding by the different Länder (= regional states) plays a major part. The only summarized and genderized statistics on this are old, they are from the already mentioned survey „Women in Art and Culture II, 1995-2000“, that unfortunately does not distinguish between documentaries and feature films.
Here we see two distinct phenomena: number one, that the financial share for female directors is lower than their share of the number of funded films, for example from the regional funding in Hamburg films by female directors make up 28 % of the funded projects, but in total they only received 15 % of the €€. And number two: half the regional agencies only give 20 % or less of the total funding sums to films by female directors.
I could not find any mention on the (genderized) composition of the juries, but it was stated that in 11 (of 16) Länder (regions) the film funding institutions are led by men. Also again I could not find the numbers for the total amout of film projects that applied for funding, and even less genderized information on their directors.
Again (as seen in the BKM-FFA-comparison) the share of women is bigger when the funding is smaller.  In Bremen female directors received 45 % of 47.9000 €, in Schleswig-Holstein they received 37 % of 134.700 € – on the other hand in Bavaria only 9 % of 4,05 Mio. € and in North Rhine Westphalia only 15  of 6,85 Mio. € went to projects with female directors.

Prizes and awards can be considered as another type of film funding, regarding this in the mentioned survey we find this statement: „Film prizes given to women were very often small or without prize money, awards that were different, i.e. with prize money, were mostly awards for actresses.“
Well, all these findings are of course only snap-shots. And again loads of questions arise: what was the funding like in the years before and after the study? Are there changes? How many female and male directors actually work in the industry? What was the directors’gender ration for all films that applied for funding, and indeed for all films that were produced? What’s the distribution by age and gender among directors? Is the female/male ratio the same for each age group or do we find a buldge of men in the older generations? How many women and men attend and finishi the film schools each year?
On this, the report (Women in Art and Cuture II, 1995-2000“ we read: “Whereas the share of women was 44 % in 1998 as in 1995, it rose via 47 % (1999) to 53 % (2000)“. (this is for the field of study „Performing Art, Filma and Television, Dramatics“), and the comittee on cultural affairs of the Berlin regional parliament stated on April 11 in 2005: „At all artistic university of Berlin (UdK, KHB, HfS and HfM) the share of female students was 58 – 59 % in the autumn of 2002, 2003 and 2004“ when the university courses started. Genderized statitstics on the students according to the branch of study for the national film universities were not given.
So maybe female directors are actually underrepresented when they only account for one fifth of the 50 top grossing German films of 2012. Maybe their share in their profession is larger than the 24 % in their union and in the data base of crew united (please refer to “Give me Art, Give me Money” Female Filmmakers Part 1: Behind the Camera for further information). At this point we just don’t know.

We don’t really talk about money

Item 5 of the Paris Charter with it’s call for equal pay actually breaks the unwritten law that no one speaks about wages in public. I don’t know of any detailed evaluations of salaries in the film industry. In public conversations and of course in the tabloids you sometimes hear and read of the top earning people in the business. Behind closed doors you sometimes find out about unequal pay, of a slope not only when you compare typical male and female crew positions but also within one crew department, and of course in front of the camera. Agents talk about differently paid jobs for acting beginners depending on their gender, the same sometimes goes for leads in TV series, and we even find sometimes on an audition call-out for a new TV show.
Yes of course, all these can be the exceptions to the equal pay rule. We will only know for certain when serious research is being done. In any case, it might be a good idea for professional organizations / unions to start or to once again engage in this topic.
Last month negotiations were started on the renewal of the „Labour Agreement for Film and TV Technicians“ („Tarifvertrag für die auf Produktionsdauer beschäftigten Film- und Fernsehschaffenden“), the current is only valid until December 31. Maybe in the negociations the topic of possible gender-related wage discrimination will be brought up.
This is a chance that the acting union BFFS unfortunaltey missed in their negociations with the producers, the Produzentenallianz that was recently completed and that resulted in the first ever „Labour Agreement for Actresses and Actors“, which will come into effect on January 1, 2014.

In the „Preamble for Pay and Wages” (3.1.) we read:

The parties of this labour agreement are aware of the fact that actors and actresses are very distinct, individual artist personalities, that among other things are employed among other things based on their (…) gender (…) very differently and that have very different current values. (…)
It is the believe of the parties of this labour agreement that the practice within the film and TV industry, to individually negociate the basic pay (…)  shall remain unchanged.

This describes the current situation, there are less parts for women, and they probably earn less. A statement along the lines of ,gender may not be a criterion for diverging role offers and different current values’ unfortunately cannot be found in the agreement
In another three years this document will be renegociated. So until then there is enough time for a thorough survey of the wage reality of actresses and actors in Germany.