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News

15 03 2017 - Industry news

ADG gives female directors a boost

Image

Kate Halpin and Gillian Armstrong.

Eight women have been announced for directing mentorships at commercial production companies as part of the Australian Directors’ Guild’s Gender Matters initiative. By Caris Bizzaca.

Before he was nominated for an Academy Award for Lion, and directed episodes on one of the most profitable TV series in Australian history with Top of the Lake, Garth Davis honed his skills as an award-winning commercials director.

It’s a pathway the Australian Directors’ Guild is hoping we will begin to see more women taking, thanks to their Commercial & Content Directing Mentorships. On 14 March at an event in Sydney, they announced the eight women who have been selected for the scheme – which came about from Screen Australia’s Gender Matters: Brilliant Careers initiative.

ADG President Samantha Lang says women make up an abysmal percentage of directors in Australia (16% for feature film), but “most alarmingly 10% of women directors are represented by commercial agencies in Australia. That doesn’t even mean that there are 10% of women directing commercials.”

And so through their mentorship scheme, eight women will spend several months with producers and directors from a production company. This will give them an in-depth look at commercial content production, as well the chance to meet potential clients and advertising agency representatives.

Lang says this is important, but not just to shift those statistics.

Gillian (Armstrong) and I talked about how we have enjoyed healthy careers as commercials directors and that didn’t just… fund the development of our feature films, we actually got to really hone our skills and have incredible relationships,” she says, adding it was through commercials that she worked with people such as Australian Academy Award-winning cinematographer Dion Beebe.

“I was working with some of the most amazing people and I really had to hone my craft in terms of visual storytelling, communicating something really concisely and getting good performances and this helped me find my voice for feature films.

“If you look at someone like Garth Davis who won a lot of awards as a commercials director and then was noticed by Jane Campion and went onto do Top of the Lake and then Lion, commercials are incredibly instrumental in developing the voices of directors.”

Through this scheme, Lang wants more women to have that opportunity.

The recipients of the 2017 ADG Commercial & Content Directing Mentorship are:

  • Arielle Thomas – Otto Empire (VIC)
  • Bree Billington – Beautiful Pictures (WA)
  • Cassie de Colling – Otto Empire (VIC)
  • Kate Halpin- Goodoil Films (NSW)
  • Laura Kurataya – Curious Films (NSW)
  • Lou Quill – Photoplay (NSW)
  • Natalie van den Dungen – Rabbit Content (NSW)
  • Sinead McDevitt – FINCH (NSW)

Sinead McDevitt, who will be mentored at FINCH, intends “to be a sponge over the coming six months to a year and learn from the directors here.”

“I suppose my first goal is to master the art of short form storytelling with the view of making longer pieces, so I saw this advertised and thought this is fantastic,” says McDevitt, who already has documentary series and a short under her belt.

Kate Halpin, who will be working with Goodoil Films, also felt like this was a chance to learn from people at the top of their game.

“It seemed like a really good opportunity which would allow me to potentially take the next step from doing short films. Because I feel like there’s this weird stalemate stage, where you make some short films and they get into festivals but then it’s like how to take that leap to be given the responsibility and money that affords you to actually direct in the commercial world,” Halpin says.

And this is only the beginning.

ADG CEO Kingston Anderson says, “More companies want to come on board so clearly it’s struck a chord.”

“We actually have other companies who want to be involved in this scheme so we’re going to expand this (into) next year… Hopefully when we run out of money, they (the production companies) will keep doing it.”

The Commercial & Content Directing Mentorships were made possible thanks to Screen Australia’s Brilliant Careers funding, the Commercial Producers Council and The Communications Council.

Applications for the 2018 Commercial & Content Directing Mentorships will be open later this year.