The number of women working in the film industry is a disheartening issue, with just 13% of UK film directors being women, and less than 2% being women from BAME backgrounds. So, a panel consisting of strong women who are thriving in this highly competitive field is not only a step forward, but also a necessity to shed light on the challenges they face within the industry.
Hosted by Georgina Bednar (a cross art form producer, curator and artist, and key member of the Women’s Equality Party), the panel consisted of Nicky Bentham (producer, recently of The Silent Storm, and co-founder of Raising Films – a campaign to help women with families succeed in the film industry), Suhayla El-Bushra (film/TV and stage writer, and writer in residence at the National Theatre Studio from April 2015 to August 2016), and Marnie Dickens (writer and associate producer of BBC Three drama Thirteen).
What followed was an interesting discussion on each woman’s particular career progression, how they each got to where they were and the struggles they faced. As the co-founder of Raising Films and a mother herself, Nicky Bentham discussed the difficulties of the profession when she juggled children and her career. Both Bentham and El-Bushra agreed that one of the reasons there is such a massive gap between men and women as they get higher up in the industry is due to the difficulties of the menial work necessary to hone your craft, as well as the difficulties that come with raising a child.
“This panel was held not only to celebrate … but also to show how much further there is still to go”
The discussion really found its stride when the questions were opened to the audience. The women were asked if they particularly noticed the gender bias behind the camera, and why they think that is the case. Bentham promptly responded that she believed there was a high “unconscious bias” in all of us, where men are just chosen over women because it is assumed they can do it, when women have to prove themselves. El-Bushra took up the argument, pushing it forward saying that there were definitely such things as “women’s stories” which are deemed more emotional and fitting for a smaller stage, whereas if a man wrote it then it would become a larger production. Moreover, Bednar picked up on the idea of a male ‘Gatekeeper’ of sorts, who decided what the audiences wanted to see, which limited female work.
Raindance has made a distinct effort to showcase the work of female directors throughout the course of the festival. Through their Women in Film strand they are providing a platform for women’s work to be both celebrated and appreciated. This panel was held not only to celebrate the women in film/television, but also to show how much further there is still to go. Though they admitted there was no simple solution, they all very much agreed that the “unconscious bias” had to go. The Women in Film strand of the festival is one step towards further supporting female filmmakers, small though it may be – it is still a step in the right direction.