Women in Film and Media: Navigating a Post-Weinstein Era

On January 23rd, the Department of Cinema and Media Arts in the School of the Arts, Media, Performance & Design at York University hosted an industry panel to discuss the issue of sexual harassment and its impact within the Canadian film and television industries. The panel entitled, “Culture Shift: Gender and Diversity in the Film Industry”, featured an ensemble of industry, filmmaker, and activist voices, including Melanie Chung (producer and director), Rina Fraticelli (executive director of Women in View), Jill Golick (president of the Writers Guild of Canada), Anita Lee (Executive Producer – Ontario Studio, National Film Board), Chelsea McMullan (York BFA alumna and documentary filmmaker), and Theresa Tova (president of ACTRA Toronto).

The event follows forth from the recent exposure of Hollywood’s history of sexual misconduct and the ensuing wave of acts of intervention. Students, filmmakers, and other members of the general public in attendance gained insight into happenings within Canadian film and media, and learned more about newly created and ongoing initiatives undertaken to navigate a way forward. Panelists also shared personal experiences and offered advice to both emerging and more established creatives in the industry. What resulted is a strategy of best practices to tackle career challenges and to contribute to building a productive and successful working environment:

  1. Surround yourself with allies. In the creative realm, you can’t do it all on your own, so form a team of good contacts that you work well with and on whom you can rely.
  2. Find a support network. Whether it’s a union, a Facebook group of like-minded artists and crew, or a locally-run artist centre that can provide guidance, training, and more, there are people you can turn to when you’re in need.
  3. Stand up for yourself and others. Be prepared to recognize and call out uncomfortable and unacceptable behaviour, and be supportive to others on your team who may be experiencing that behaviour.
  4. Keep at it! Working at your craft and having confidence play a big role in career-building. Have faith in your abilities, be persistent, and remember: rejection is not personal and it’s not fatal.
  5. Know your boundaries before you start a project. Define what you are comfortable doing beforehand and stick to it. Ask questions and do your research before making a commitment.
  6. Create the culture you want to work in. Build diversity and parity into hiring practices. Decide what ‘rules’ are right and comfortable for your set and your creative team. Be respectful. Listen to others. Find solutions. Don’t disempower or mistreat others. Consider meeting with possible collaborators in advance of committing to a project to see what your rapport is like.
  7. Don’t limit yourself. Embrace opportunities to grow or improve. Your project may be a larger scale production that you’re used to, or require a higher budget, but don’t be afraid to ask for what you need.
  8. Seek out funding wherever possible. Apply to as many grants and funding programs as you can, even if just for the practice of writing grant applications. It may take a while, but you can’t allow grants or financing to determine your identity or your value. The more you apply for, the more opportunity you create for yourself. Eventually, something is bound to stick.
  9. Aim to tell your own stories, and speak your own voice. You may be surprised to find that it’s the personal, specific narratives that stand out and set your project apart from trends.
  10. Pay it forward. When you gain success, look for emerging voices that you can help to elevate or mentor so that progress can be passed along to others.