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NZ Update #3: WIFT New Zealand

Sunday, February 19, 2017

from the WIFTNZ Facebook page

This is Part 3 of an NZ Update 4-part series. Part 1 was Gender Breakthrough in New Zealand Film Commission Funding. Part 2 was a letter to Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Women, Paula Bennett, about the New Zealand Screen Production Grant. Part 4 is a not-quite-A-Z of New Zealand women directors and some writers.

So how has Women in Film & Television New Zealand (WIFTNZ) responded to the lack of gender parity between women and men who write and direct, in particular the lack of gender parity in allocation of taxpayer funding? For example, does it endorse Telefilm Canada's statement, referred to back in Part 1 and to some extent implicit in the New Zealand Film Commission (NZFC)'s latest Annual Report?–
Based on industry recommendations that these two roles require immediate critical attention, gender parity amongst directors and screenwriters was identified as a priority (emphasis added).
The simple answer: No-one Knows For Sure. And because of this, I believe it's important to give another kind of 'critical' attention to WIFTNZ's position. Because it's the only women's film organisation in New Zealand (and therefore, of course, carries a burden of impossible expectations). Because it's often referred to and deferred to. And because it's taxpayer-funded: as I've consistently argued, to receive taxpayer funding, for anything, demands rigorous best practices, including best practice around gender.

I love women’s organisations. And I’d love to love the work of  WIFTNZ, which aims to–
  • provide information and career support;  
  • offer an educational forum;  
  • promote and safeguard the interests of women in film and television;  
  • recognise women's achievements in the industry; and
  • build capacity and benefit the screen industry as a whole.
But WIFTNZ has often disappointed me, mostly because I long for it to be more vigilant in promoting and safeguarding the interests of women writers and directors in film and television.

WIFTNZ has known, for almost a decade, about 'the gender problem' demonstrated in New Zealand's feature film development and production statistics. But in my view it's been timid in its response, perhaps because until very recently (see Part 1) those statistics demonstrated systemic failings at the NZFC. Has the organisation's dependence on the NZFC for funding been a factor in its restraint in the face of systemic discrimination against women writers and directors in the NZFC's and New Zealand On Air's (NZOA) use of taxpayer funds?

It would, for example, have been appropriate I think for WIFTNZ to make a public statement in support of Jane Campion’s commitment to gender equity as a member of the Screen Advisory Council, two years ago; and another in support of Chelsea Winstanley's statement at the Big Screen Symposium eighteen months ago. But it didn't. When Jemaine Clement and Jonathan King spoke up in support of a 50:50 gender split in taxpayer funding for film WIFTNZ could also have formally welcomed their statements and encouraged other men in the industry to offer similar support. But it didn't. 
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