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Brilliant Careers illuminating the way forward

Gender Matters aimed to create a surge of female stories through Brilliant Stories, but how do you ensure long-lasting change? Enter: Brilliant Careers.

This integral part of Screen Australia’s Gender Matters provides the 13 successful companies with the means to develop infrastructure to support the growth of female voices.

“Brilliant Stories is about championing female voices, but Brilliant Careers is creating the framework to ensure female filmmakers continue to benefit from Gender Matters into the future,” Screen Australia Senior Development Executive Nerida Moore says.

“Initiatives to support women in film is not a new concept. But they have yet to create long-lasting impact. With Gender Matters we want to change all that and make sure the stories being seen on Australia screen, and the people that bring them to life, actually reflect the country we live in.”

Puberty Blues series 1

Putting pen to paper

Encouraging those voices behind the camera is something producer Imogen Banks (Offspring) and writer Alice Bell (Puberty Blues) have been thinking of for some time.

Bell is frequently approached by young writers – many of them women – for advice.

While she attempts to help through speaking at AWG events, or mentoring individuals, there were too many promising people appearing on her radar that she didn’t have any opportunities for.

Banks says it was while making The Beautiful Lie with Bell that this conversation continued to crop up.

<h6>Imogen Banks</h6><p>Producer (left) with actor Jane Harber at the announcement of Gender Matters funding recipients/Ben Symons</p>
Imogen Banks

Producer (left) with actor Jane Harber at the announcement of Gender Matters funding recipients/Ben Symons

“You’re always feeling this terrible guilt and pressure. You’re aware that you’ve got to some level of constant work in the industry and you feel all this responsibility to bring other people through, but you don’t necessarily have the means to do it,” she says.

They already had the name for an idea (Smart For a Girl – ROAR) but didn’t know how to facilitate or finance it, when Gender Matters was announced last year.

“It was kind of the perfect funding vehicle for it and it just helped to clarify what it was we wanted to do and to figure out a form for it,” Banks says.

Aimed nationwide, Smart for a Girl – ROAR will take 12 uncredited female writers at various levels of experience through the process of developing a TV series.

Banks says it will give these writers real-world experience of how to be in a writer’s room and bring more female voices into the television industry.

“Because that is one of the frustrations Alice and I were pinpointing – everybody is always looking for great writers, there’s so much opportunity, but it’s this strange ironic situation because there’s not the real-world training to help them grab those opportunities,” she says.

“The truth is it’s a numbers game. And that’s what’s wonderful about Smart for a Girl, is that it enables us to open this up to 12 writers and you hope that out of those 12 … certainly half of them would go onto have successful careers. Not everyone’s going to make it and that’s why you need to get the training numbers up.”

Smart for a Girl – ROAR is one of several mentorship and training projects funded through Brilliant Careers. Northern Rivers ScreenWorks has a two-pronged approach, with The Athena Project providing both networking and mentorship aspects nationwide.

Supporting the regions

ScreenWorks’ Lisa O’Meara says this will help women in regional areas overcome barriers not just because of their gender, but also their proximity.

“There are limited work opportunities and limitations living in remote and regional areas. There’s the distance and isolation from capital cities. There’s the challenge of trying to progress a career while managing a family. There are the challenges in making connections with the industry on a broader level and also the prohibitive costs of travelling,” she says.

Through The Athena Project, a one-day public forum will encourage networking, but those that cannot make it in-person can stream it live or watch it online at a later date.

Additionally four regional female filmmakers from NSW will be connected with a mentor, as well as one from each state and territory, selected in consultation with the state agencies.

These mentors – who include people like director Gillian Armstrong, producer-writer Cate McQuillan and director-producer Nadia Tass – will help develop a career plan with the filmmaker and identify ways of overcoming barriers.

But they will also provide networking opportunities.

“They will progress their career, but they’ll make connections that will continue to bring about ongoing success for them… it will open up a whole new network of contacts,” she says.

The Babadook/Matt Nettheim

Growing business

<h6>Kristina Ceyton</h6><p>Producer</p>
Kristina Ceyton

Producer

It takes companies such as Causeway Films to get behind new voices like director Jennifer Kent for something as powerful and unique as her feature film debut The Babadook to be realised.

It was off the back of the success of The Babadook that Causeway Films producer Kristina Ceyton obtained the Feature Enterprise grant, and with producing partner Sam Jennings they began building a solid slate, including Kent’s upcoming The Nightingale and Yolanda Ramke and Ben Howling’s Cargo.

However it’s through Brilliant Careers and their program The Causeway Forward that Ceyton and Jennings will be able to continue identifying and investing in female filmmaking, bringing another producer on board to help progress their slate.

“We’re entering a phase of simultaneous production and development, and this is a critical time in our company’s life where we need to focus on the medium and long term. It will mean we can plan the next few years, making sure we search out original voices with one-of-a-kind projects, and stories that are commercially focused while at the same time offer great emotional impact and international break-out potential,” Ceyton says.

“We are interested in supporting exciting filmmakers and opening doors.”

An all-female company, Ceyton says they aren’t disinterested in the male voice, but are often drawn toward female writers and directors.

“Especially for female directors it seems to be harder to find that career path as easily and maybe as confidently as their male counterparts” she says, adding that Brilliant Careers and Brilliant Stories will together help to remove the obstacles.

“It can’t be a single pronged approach and this is a brilliant step that a funding body like Screen Australia has got behind. I think a springboard to get to the next level will really help and we want to support that.”

O’Meara from ScreenWorks agrees, saying it’s not just about fixing the problem now, but making sure that change is ongoing.

“It’s all about creating a future for these women,” she says.

“But it’s also a great starting point for these programs and looking at how we can continue them in the future to support female filmmakers.”

To find out more about the other Brilliant Careers recipients, click here