Do you know who Sid Sheinberg is? You probably should. He’s the guy who mentored a young Steven Spielberg and turned him into the filmmaker he is today. As Spielberg took his first job with Universal Studios at the age of 22, Sheinberg offered ” …a lot of people will stick with you in success… I’ll stick with you in failure.”
The belief Sheinberg invested in Spielberg is not an isolated incident. For those working in the film and television industry, a supportive and influential mentor is probably the reason you’re here today. They are someone who recognised your unique talent, believed in you, and helped you break into the notoriously difficult industry of film and TV.
Each year, mentors give thousands of unpaid hours of guidance to emerging filmmakers across a broad scope of disciplines, including directing, writing, producing, cinematography, composing, production designing, or editing. Their support goes largely unrecognised. Until now.
In an Australian first, Indie Gems is shining the spotlight back onto Australian mentors with the 2012 inaugural Mentor of the Year Award. The Award is an opportunity for mentees to publically recognise and honour their mentors.
The inaugural 2012 Mentor of the Year Award goes to TOM ZUBRYCKI.
“I find mentoring incredibly rewarding. It’s the knowledge that you’re passing on a skill-set to the next generation of filmmakers and nurturing some really great talent” explains Tom.
Tom was nominated by Sydney based filmmaker Ana Tiwary.
“Tom has been mentoring me for a couple of years and he has been incredibly generous with his time and advice. Over the years, Tom has mentored formally as well as informally several emerging documentary filmmakers and given them the practical guidance needed to enter an industry that creates very few opportunities for young filmmakers. I am thrilled that he has been awarded the inaugural Indie Gems ‘Mentor of the Year’ Award and thank Titan View for creating this important award to acknowledge the wonderful mentors in the screen industry.”
Ana Tiwary is a Sydney based filmmaker and owner of ‘inDiVisual films’. She is currently in post-production of her documentary ‘Sunshine & Shade’ and is being mentored by Tom Zubrycki.
Tom’s documentaries currently in production include “Light from the Shadows” – writer/director John Harvey, and “The Sunnyboy” – writer/director Kaye Harrison.
Congratulations to Tom from the Indie Gems Team
The Australian screen industry is full of talented and successful women, but this doesn’t mean gender imbalance is a thing of the past. Georgina Pearson writes.
Gender equality is an age-old debate; one that’s been analysed and pulled apart countless times before. Yet as women in the Australian screen industry continue to deliver on a global stage we must dispute its relevance – is there a significant gender imbalance within the industry, or has this argument become a moot point, questioned merely as a matter of principle?
When the list of films eligible for the Australian Film Institute Awards was announced last year, AFI CEO Damian Trewhella pointed out that eight out of the 19 titles were directed by women, arguing that “in an international industry where women are still significantly under-represented, Australia is heading in the right direction.”
And the Australian Subscription Television and Radio Association (ASTRA) followed closely– declaring that the subscription TV sector has reached near gender equality amongst its 4,643 strong employees.
When Encore asked a number of industry bodies whether they knew the exact percentage of women working in their respective sectors, the answer was negative. It seemed that different sources had different statistics and opinions about the situation of women in the screen industry, yet for almost two decades no definitive research had been conducted in the area – not until associate professor of cinema studies at RMIT University Lisa French decided something needed to be done to address the information gap.
French is currently undertaking a study researching women in the screen industry – the first since the AFC/National Working Party report Portrayal of Women in the Media, in 1992. The study has received support from Screen Australia, Women In Film and Television, producer and RMIT adjunct professor Sue Maslin, the Australian Writers’ Guild, the Australian Film Institute, the Victorian Women’s Trust and the Australian Teachers of Media (ATOM).
French told Encore that whilst Australian women are continuing to succeed, there is still a huge gender discrepancy.
“Gender equality has not been achieved in the Australian screen industry,” she explained. “While Australian women such as Catherine Martin, Jan Chapman, Jane Scott Jill Bilcock, Laura Jones, Mandy
Walker and Janet Patterson shine internationally, women continue to be a minority in every position in the screen industry in Australia and their representation as a numerical percentage is actually shrinking, not increasing in many industry jobs.” French’s Girls on Film survey was completed by 135 people, out of which 114 were women. Her aim is to map gender imbalances, the possible reasons behind them, and then use the research as an evidence base for action.
So far, French has found that although the overall industry view regarding gender developments was optimistic, new figures from the survey indicate otherwise. “There is gender inequity when it comes to views on improvements for women in the last five years – only a fifth of women believe there has been improvement compared to nearly half the men. No men believe the experience had deteriorated for women, but 13 percent of women indicated this.”
A DIFFICULT CHOICE
Kate E. Wills, board director for the Australian Production Design Guild (APDG) agrees there is a long way to go before we reach gender parity, and suggests this may be due to a lack of support for women
with families. “We have fundamentally led women to believe we live in an equal society in terms of employment opportunities, only for them to discover that it’s still the 1950s once there is any thought of having a family. Girls are not made fully aware of the ramifications when they are choosing what they would like to do as a career. There is still a long way to go before the pendulum stops swinging and a true balance is reached so that women don’t feel guilty going to work, or inadequate staying at home.”
Ana Tiwary, program director for the Australian section of Women in Film and Television (WIFT) also questions the absence of family support. “We are all aware that women are expected to multi-task and look after their homes as well as work. Although more women are going through film school and higher education, fewer women are able to stay in their chosen fields due to concerns in the late twenties and early thirties about starting families and the ‘biological clock’. So women face an extremely difficult decision – family or career? There is much support needed for mid-career women trying to re-enter the industry after having children. “
Screenwriter and producer Jenny Lewis takes a different angle – it’s the competitiveness between women that reflect a gender imbalance and the distinction shouldn’t be between a woman or man, it should be between the work produced: “If there are fewer women in the screen industry than we’d like, then perhaps it’s because when a certain type of woman makes it she is reluctant to give other women a leg up. I have seen this scenario time and time again. Some women in high positions are threatened by talented women and use their power to undermine and exclude. Certainly these women in power will give jobs to other females, but only if they don’t pose any threat whatsoever. The result is minimally talented females getting important positions which undermine the entire cause. This insecurity is our gender’s greatest enemy, and the unhealthy competitiveness between women is also present in most of our female onscreen characters.”
Lewis told Encore gender equality is far from black and white. “The issue of gender equality isn’t as straightforward and un-political as it seems. I want our country to be put on the map as top notch story
tellers and I’ll take whatever gender we can get to achieve that. I’m not about to champion for women just for the sake of it – they need to be the right women, just like we need the right men.”
THROUGH A WOMAN’S EYES
But gender equality in the Australian screen industry is vital to its future – and not just because of women’s rights, or the need to look good on paper. With the global industry rapidly evolving the challenge is to be constantly producing new projects that stand tall internationally – and a collective portfolio produced by both genders offer a uniqueness that is only achieved by having different perspectives. Ron Johanson, president of the Australian Cinematographers Society, agrees. “Our industry needs to be constantly stimulated with new thoughts, new ways to do things and stay motivated and balanced across a broad cross section of the industry. We cannot let past bias influence what we do in these current times or into the future. There is a place for all genders, all philosophies at the table, so we can learn and grow together.
“Women bring another view, another perspective, in all areas. They challenge you to listen to their opinions and their ideas,” said Johanson.
French also believes a woman angle is important. “In terms of content, we’d miss out on the range of stories and perspectives, as well a the aesthetic approaches of half the population if women didn’t
get to contribute, and we wouldn’t have films like The Piano, The Well, The Last Days of Chez Nous, and Looking for Alibrandi — all written, produced and directed by women.” But she believes the
discrimination doesn’t just end with the female gender. “Men are equally discriminated against because of gendered ghettos in the industry, because their choices will also be limited, and in line with historic workforce patterns in the industry—this is a loss of creative potential.”
THE TECHNICAL MYTH
Job stereotyping is another issue that perhaps limits the number of females working in traditionally male roles. However, Tiwary argues the belief that women go for less-technical career options is simply not true: “Lack of interest in some specific occupations is one the myths that surrou ons is one the myths that surrou yths that surrou Bigelow) winning best director. That hardly comes up in our awards; people aren’t really that fussed.”
But Tiwary disagrees, adding that representation of women behind the screen industry in Australia is declining: “Australia is falling behind other developed as well as developing nations. I was a member of WIFT in Washington DC for four years and they had several events every month, large budgets and big funding from the US Government, thousands of members – including 30 percent male members. They also had men serving on their 20-member committee. WIFT in DC is not treated as a niche women’s organisation but as a mainstream powerhouse and everyone wants to be part of it.
“The industry in Australia is much smaller compared to the US, and there seems to be a sense that ‘cliques’ in the screen industry make it difficult for any emerging filmmakers- male or female, to get a foot in the door. Also due to geographic isolation, new progressive ideas and studies do not make it into the public discourse until many years later. There is a resistance to change, intellectual
debate and anything new or different may be looked on with suspicion or considered un-Australian,” said Tiwary.
What can be done to correct the situation? To create an equal structure that will encourage not only women, but men as well, screen industry bodies need to take an in-depth look into what their organisation can do to ensure that discrimination, stereotypes and misconceptions become transient – and many already have.
For example, the APDG has six volunteer directors, three of whom are women. “We also have an awards committee and five of these six volunteer members are women,” explained Wills. “In an industry that provides all different avenues of media, it is arguably important for both genders to have input as this is what constitutes the voice that the public ultimately view.”
Cindy Clarkson chairperson for the Victorian Committee of the Australian Screen Editors Guild believes that actively promoting women is important. “Not only should the ASEG promote those who are successful editors, but those who are up and coming, or women who are assisting or grading. We have a mentorship scheme which the ASEG is currently reigniting; we can encourage women to seek this
opportunity by promoting it widely within the industry.”
According to Tiwary, gender equality is an issue that can’t be ignored in any industry, because it’s first and foremost, a human rights issue: “It is unacceptable and inhuman that anyone should have to give up their passion and career simply because the system and society is biased against them. All dreams are equal and deserve a fair go”
Women working behind the Australian screen industry are continuing to shine both locally and internationally but it is clear that gender equality is still a vitally important and valid debate –for both women and men.
[press release from WIFT NSW]
Women in Film and Television NSW congratulates management committee member, Ana Tiwary on being a finalist for the NSW Woman of the Year Award.
She is the first woman from the Film and Television industry to be short-listed for this prestigious award. The NSW Woman of the Year Award is about recognising the work of an outstanding woman, who can represent all the talented women who give their time and experience to other women and their communities in NSW. The Award recipient will be announced at the Premier’s Reception for International Women’s Day on Thursday, March 5 2009.
Ana Tiwary is Vice President of Women in Film and Television NSW and has established the successful and popular Media Mentorship for Women (MMW) program, which enables one to one relationships between industry professionals and emerging female filmmakers in order to create a supportive community and improve the status of women in the industry.
Latest statistics on the Screen Australia website reveal that in many technical areas, the number of women working dropped between 1996 and 2006. For example the number of women Editors dropped from 26% to 23% and women Sound Technicians reduced from 15% to 10%. The numbers of women Directors (24%), Technical Directors (10%), Directors of Photography (6%), Camera Operators (5%), and Lighting Technicians (9%) have not significantly increased. President of WIFT NSW, Lindy Monson states that “Women are under-represented in most areas of filmmaking. This remains not only a matter of equal employment opportunity but also impacts on the way stories are told on screen.”
Before immigrating to Australia in 2007, Ana travelled around the world making films to support numerous charity organisations, giving a voice to the powerless and telling untold stories. A passionate filmmaker, Ana has made a film about the Women’s Peace Movement in war-torn Liberia and the election of the World’s first Black Woman President. From interviewing World Leaders to filming in Bombay slums, from National Geographic Channel to ‘Bollywood’, Ana continues to work on some very challenging projects. Ana holds double masters in English Literature and Film Production from the American University, Washington DC.
Ana says, “When I first moved to Australia, I did not how and where to start. I joined WIFT NSW and started volunteering as Technical Director for the WOW Film Festival. A speech by Tania Chambers (CEO, NSW Film and TV Office) inspired me to launch the Mentorship program.” In Round 1, 75 women were accepted into the program and 38 have been successfully matched with mentors in 10 different technical areas. Mentorship Round 2 has already attracted 77 applications and the matching process has begun. Talking about the popularity and interest the program has generated Ana adds, “The success of the program shows that there is a definite need for mentorship opportunities in the Media industry. I am absolutely amazed by the support the NSW Government, Private Sponsors, Industry Partners and our wonderful Mentors have given to the program.” The Media Mentorship for Women program is attempting to create a nurturing, warm and supportive atmosphere in which women filmmakers can thrive.
While announcing the State’s top-ten women, NSW Minister for Women, Hon. Verity Firth, said “The NSW Woman of the Year Award recognises the achievements of women and the leadership they provide as positive role models, particularly to younger women”.
Mentorship Coordinator, Heaven Muecke has worked closely with Ana in making the program a success. She states, “Ana’s desire is to create a community in which women support each other as well as improving the status of women in the Film & Television industries, which has continued to decline in the last ten years. Her passion, commitment and generous spirit is outstanding and worthy of recognition, she inspires me to dream big.”
Ana feels honoured and energised by being short listed for the 2009 NSW Woman of the Year Award. She is herself inspired by the incredible role-models she has met in Australia – Hon. Virginia Judge, Hon. Verity Firth, Wendy McCarthy, Rosemary Blight, Debra Richards, Sonia Borella, Jane Roscoe, Jan Chapman, Heidi Tobin, Katrina Southon and her guide and mentor Tania Chambers.
Women in Film and Television NSW are also holding events in Sydney on Thursday 5th and Friday 6th of March to celebrate International Women’s Day. WIFT NSW will be screening an Australian Short Film Showcase on Thursday 5th March 2009, at 12.30 pm in the Parliament House Theatrette at NSW Parliament House, with an opening address by Hon. Verity Firth MP, NSW Minister for Women & Minister for Education & Training. The Australian Short Film Showcase includes three stimulating short films, both fiction and documentary, from the World of Women – 15th WOW Film Festival highlighting the diversity of Australian shorts made by women.
International Women’s Day celebrations continue on Friday 6th March, at 7.00pm at the Australian Film Television & Radio School, Fox Studios; WIFT NSW will be screening an International Short Film Showcase featuring International shorts selected by Women in Film & Television International (WIFTI) of films by women from around the world and an opening address by Tania Chambers, Chief Executive, NSW Film & Television Office.
Multiculturalism: on the screens, no more softly, softly
Tuesday 11 August, 2009
We are all multicultural now, right? No, say Ana Tiwary and Natalie Millar, who are adding another forum to a discussion which is passing from generation to generation.
Nearly thirty years after the creation of SBS, the role of diversity in our screen media is becoming increasingly bizarre. On the ground, our society has become steadily more multicultural, as succeeding waves of migrants establish themselves, and their children move confidently into the wider world.
Ask any teacher about the changes in schools. Sit on public transport for a day. Look at the faces in any large workplace. Check the stamps on the passports of young travellers venturing beyond Australia. We live in a multicultural world.
But commercial television, and to a significant extent the ABC, still pretends Australia is a monoscopic, white bread society. SBS, starved under the Howard government, has not been rescued by the Labor Party, and grapples with acute financial distress.
This bland vision of Australia doesn’t reflect the audience. It avoids wonderful opportunities for story, tension and humour. It hides from the simple fact that some of our most dynamic drama on television comes from SBS, which is focused on intercultural stories. Think of East-West 101, The Circuit and Remote Area Nurse.
Most remarkable of all, Australian cinema at the moment is full of multicultural stories. Balibo, Cedar Boys, Samson & Delilah, Mao’s Last Dancer, The Combination, Stone Bros, Two Fists One Heart and even Australiaitself all revolve around cultural identity.
Ana Tiwary is the founder/director of WIFT’s Media Mentorship for Women Program, and is a producer and director who has worked around the world, from Nat Geo to Bollywood. Natalie a Sydney production manager, and is also undertaking an MA Research project in Indian film at AFTRS.
Together, they have written this background document for the website.
The Diversity Dilemma: Some reflections from Ana Tiwary and Natalie Millar.
It’s strange that such a well-worn topic as diversity and multiculturalism on our screens should still be a sensitive issue that only the “brave” will tackle.
Yet we are asking the same questions which have been asked for decades, and we are met with trepidation, frustration and occasional despair.
In our screen and media culture, is diversity and ethnic mixing – including Indigenous Australians – now a normal, everyday part of life? Or is it still seen as a “threat” to a “mainstream” Australian culture?
Diversity Dynamics in Society and on Screen
Diversity is a reality, it is dynamic and growing around the world as more people are migrating than ever before. Closing our eyes and living in denial will not make it go away. The sooner we accept diversity as a positive force rather than a problem, the sooner we will be able to recognize and use it’s potential.
In a post 9/11 world the threat of violence arising from ethnic tensions, fear and suspicion caused by popular alienation is arguably greater than ever before, and the recent Indian student protests reminded us of what happens when minority voices are continually ignored. This week news about the alleged involvement of four Australian citizens with Somali and Lebanese origins in the Melbourne terror plot, is the extreme to which social exclusion can take us.
What has happened to the great idealism we felt 20 years ago as we envisioned a multicultural Australia, leaving our assimilationist and “White Australia Policy” days behind us? It’s the sad truth that you may see more diversity on one train trip in Sydney than you would on a whole year of your commercial free-to-air TV screen.
Tony Ayres told us that over the 20 years he has been in the industry little progress has been made and “the discourse around the issue remains the same”. Why are we still stuck in this situation and what will it take for the mainstream media establishment to remedy it?
After all, it makes both social and financial sense to tap into the large part of our population being neglected by our small screen characterisations. Cultural value and commercial success need not be mutually exclusive.
In Black & White
Australian culture is often painted in terms of either/or indigenous and white cultures. But what percentage of people living here at this moment actually falls neatly into these two categories? Many of us have much more complicated ethnic and cultural identities than that. Can we accept the “Anglo Aussie” culture as but one face of our diverse identity? We can absolutely embrace the core values that have come to define “Australian” such as fairness, equality, mateship, humour and a relaxed approach, while letting go of a stereotyped Aussie image. We think it’s about time we get real and represent ourselves as we really are.
Film director Helen Goritsas, who is working on a cross-cultural comedy Alex & Eve believes that “It is important that we make Australian films about all Australians. I strongly believe it is crucial that we are able to express through our own cinema our own stories, stories that are at heart truly Australian and voice the concerns of our communities.
Socio-political satire offers a wonderful vehicle through which to communicate difficult issues such as these. It is a means by which we are able to hold up a mirror to ourselves and to our society and really look. In ‘Alex & Eve’ the stereotypes depicted serve to emphasise the central theme of the film, generational-frozen values. In a cheeky way these barriers are challenged and in so doing we hope to reduce the ignorance and misunderstandings that currently surround us about Greek, Lebanese as well as mainstream Australian culture.”
No drama in Drama
We can celebrate some diversity in the area of feature film with examples of Australian box-office success for films like Samson & Delilah and The Combination in this year alone. And with Cedar Boys currently on our screens and Mao’s Last Dancer to look forward to soon, comparatively cross-cultural stories seem to be faring better than mainstream films.
The popularity of these films is a clear sign that the population wants to see diverse representations and authentic stories. Will our mainstream TV networks take this as a hint and review their programming to reflect this evolving audience taste?
And we thankfully still have SBS, but the low funding sends a clear message to the ethnic communities that the Government is not serious about social cohesion. If the SBS has to rely on advertising and ratings, it makes it more difficult for it to be committed to presenting diverse points of view and multiculturally aware stories. In the long run this will mean that SBS will loose its distinctive multicultural character.
But what about the mainstream top-raters on TV? Can we honestly say that we’re seeing healthy degrees of colour-blind casting and real-world diversity being reflected at us from our commercial free to air channels? Or is it possible that we’re slipping deeper into a segregation of our popular TV audience down ethnic lines as we all too often fail to break out of stereotyped “Anglo-Aussie” character moulds?
Down at the local grocery store Greek cable TV plays in the background, and our South Asian friends have switched off free-to-air in favour of expensive international satellite TV channels because they feel alienated by the mainstream fare. The Head of Programming at SBS, Dr. Jane Roscoe says “At SBS we are not driven by ratings, but guided by our Charter. The big challenge is really to represent the contemporary face of Australia in all it’s diversity. That means moving away from obvious stereotypes and recognising that there is more than one way to be ‘Italian’ or ‘Greek’ or Chinese’. The biggest challenge is in being able to serve all of these specific communities, whilst still be accessible and engaging to the broader audience.”
Conflict & Creativity
It’s a bit of an Australian myth that we shy away from conflict and avoid confrontation, and it is often all too much of a reality. But then isn’t enjoying difference and conflict resolution at the heart of the creative force that drives not just story, but growth, learning and social development? There is no doubt that much can be gained both as creative professionals and as a society by choosing to engage with diversity in the stories we tell. In this way we can also develop a more real and inclusive picture of the everyday fabric of Australian life on our screens and contribute to the development of a more mature Australian culture and society that can embrace diversity and become richer for it.
Talking about how to deal with diversity in the scriptwriting stage, script-coach Karel Segers says “Cultural stereotyping is not needed in stories as long as the writer signals the function of the character to the audience using the techniques of archetyping. People from all cultures can relate to archetypes”.
Karel adds, “I feel that we have been preaching to the converted: films with an accurate representation of cultural diversity are rarely told in a way the mainstream audience understands them. I find that both filmmakers and policy makers have taken an elitist position by encouraging this type of cinema.”
In everyday life Australia is made up of a very diverse mix and the majority of us accept this as a reality; a recent survey revealing 93% of Australians think we are in fact a multicultural society. In 2008 over a quarter of Australians were born overseas and more than one third have either one or both parents born outside the country. People from around 200 countries have made this country their home and over 200 languages are spoken here.
However, compared to this mix in other sectors, employment in the audiovisual industries continues to have a much lower representation of this ethnic diversity. Tony Ayres noted that we do see some of our diversity reflected in the mix of participants cast on reality TV shows, demonstrating that it’s not for a lack of talent and interest in participating in screen culture that we’re missing this diverse mix particularly in TV drama series.
One has to question – is something happening in the creative and commissioning processes that are ethnically selective or worse, actively exclusive? Believing we are a multicultural society is not enough in itself. Belief in the value of it is something much more.
Preeti Kannan, a media professional who recently migrated from UAE says “The truth is that multiculturalism exists here. However, it just exists. It hasn’t been integrated and included not just in the media but elsewhere too… Diversity is conspicuously inconspicuous in the Aussie media, politics, university faculties… just about everywhere.”
No Soft Solutions
An 11-year study into Racism in Australia by a collaboration of Australian universities found that 85 per cent of Australians acknowledge racial prejudice occurs in the nation with one in five claiming to be a victim of racist verbal abuse or related incidents. This should be reason enough for us to get serious about redefining what ‘Australian’ content means.
After 20 years there is still a long way to go in terms of diversity in Australian screen, especially on the small screen. It would seem that if we are to achieve a living, vital and diverse screen culture, we need some renewed policy intervention in the commercial sector.
We can again look at creating initiatives that encourage diverse participation in the mainstream industry. Community inititiatives such as ICE (Inter-cultural Exchange) which operates in Western Sydney for example, are working closely with ethnic communities but how much of their work actually reaches the mainstream audience?
Dr. Jane Roscoe says that “I think it’s also important that we identify new talent within various communities and where possible work with them to get their stories to air. The more diversity in our content producers, the more perspectives and points of view we’ll get in our television and online content. SBS is committed to screening stories that reflect the changing face of Australia, and part of this is nurturing creative talent that can do this.” The other option is a top down approach. Perhaps we need to consider measures that encourage commissioning in commercial networks and to consider diversity, and not just “leave it to SBS”.
Since majority rules, in any Democracy it is difficult to for ethnic minorities to feel a sense of belonging to their adopted land let alone get their voices heard. Having said that Australia has the potential to turn this around and create an inclusive and rich society without having to give up its national identity. This is where the Australian screen industry can play a powerful positive role in bringing about change.
Tony Ayres comments “I think that we need a comprehensive study of cultural diversity on our screens which factors in what has changed and what hasn’t, and government has to decide whether cultural diversity is genuinely important to Australian cultural identity, and therefore Australian culture… This may sound dogmatic, but it doesn’t have to be – it becomes one benchmark alongside many others… After being around this industry for the last twenty years, and watching the same arguments about our screen content pop up year in, year out, I feel that the “softly, softly” approach won’t ever work.”
We think that a first step in this process is getting discussion re-opened around this topic amongst ourselves and to this end we’ve created a forum.
We’d love to hear your comments so please visit the Facebook group ‘Diversity in Australian Media’ and leave your comments: here.
If you do not have a Facebook profile you can join our online forum and participate in an open discussion here: here.
If you are in Sydney you could also participate in the ‘Diversity Debate’ hosted by Women in Film and Television NSW at AFTRS on 16 September 2009.
WIFT: momentum on mentorship
by: Tina Kaufman
Friday 16 January, 2009
The second round of the WIFT Media Mentorship for Women Program is now underway, and three new mentorship areas have been introduced: Media Law, Interactive Media and Location Management. Tina Kaufman has the details.
The program, which was launched at the WOW Film Festival in October last year, saw thirty-eight mentors come on board for round 1 in a number of different specialities.
When she launched the program at WOW, Tania Chambers, Chief Executive of NSWFTO, said that everybody she has spoken to `who has either had the opportunity to be mentored by somebody, or who has been involved in mentoring, talks about the fact that it is a two way experience; that the people who are there as mentors get invigorated, inspired and enthused and actually get to see the world in a slightly different way.’
She added that she hoped the program would continue to expand and extend beyond the initial two rounds, and was very proud that the NSW FTO was a sponsor.
In fact it was a remark made by Tania Chambers at WOW in 2007, when she commented that WIFT should consider reviving its mentorship program, that initiated the process. Ana Tiwary, WOW technical director, who had only arrived in Australia earlier that year and had joined WIFT because she’d been a member of WIFT in Washington DC, was activated by that comment. She had felt that a mentor would have been a help in her first months in Australia, and went to the WIFT board, suggesting the program (which WIFT had last run seven years earlier) be revived.
Although the program had been successful in the past, the board was not willing to commit immediately, but they did encourage her to do more research. She spent three months looking at other mentorship programs, past and present, local and overseas, and talking to people who’d been through such programs as either mentor or mentee. (Can someone think of a better word? Mentee is awful!)
When she went back to WIFT with a detailed proposal, it was the surprise promise of an immediate sponsorship of $500 to kick-start the program from an enthusiast at the meeting that clinched WIFT’s agreement. NSWFTO soon came on board, while the City of Sydney promised free venue hire for events and functions. A number of other sponsors have since been found, but the program would welcome more – at this stage much of the work is done by enthusiastic volunteers.
Responses flooded in after a call went out for expressions of interest from mentors, mentees, sponsors and volunteers. `I’ve been waiting for this for years!’ was a frequent comment, while there were a number of women who’d actually joined WIFT because of its mentorship program, only to find it had been discontinued. Ana Tiwary had expected applications from women in regional areas, and from women with few contacts, but she was surprised to find many from women working in more mainstream areas who still felt the need for a mentor.
With help from a team of web designers from Israel who are now in Australia, a targeted website was attached to the WIFT website – `it’s warm, friendly, youthful and creative,’ says Ana Tiwary – and a call for applicants was sent out in July. The matching process took place in August and September, and the first round matches were announced at WOW in October, followed by a Work/Life Balance discussion and a networking session as the first official events.
While the program has attracted mentors from many different areas of the industry, from scriptwriting and cinematography to sound design and editing, 22 of the applicants were actually teamed up with people they had named as preferred mentors, who enthusiastically joined up when approached.
The rest of the 38 applicants to be matched up in the first round were teamed with mentors who had come forward independently. Industry professionals including Piet De Vries, Robert Humphries, Jessica Douglas-Henry, Susan MacKinnon, Guy Gross, John Edwards, Tom Zubrycki, and Laura Sivis, together with overseas mentors US-based Laurie Scheer, UK based Anna Reeves and Anjum Rajibali from India, came on board for Mentorship Round 1.
Ana Tiwary says, `the most vital part of our program is our mentors, and we are extremely grateful to them for contributing their time and sharing their wisdom with the next generation of women filmmakers.’
Agreement forms between mentors and their prot?g?s set out how many times they meet and how many days they spend together. The mentorships are normally six months, but for some very busy mentors they can be restricted to four. `Once it’s set up, we let them work out the details,’ says Ana Tiwary, `and there is a mid-term evaluation and then a final evaluation – and, hopefully, a certificate.’
The program is just about to hold its first evaluations, but they have already had some feedback – and are asking for more. `We’ve already learned a lot, and we’ve made some improvements, but I’m surprised and pleased at how well it’s going,’ she says.
Deadline for Round 2 is 6 February; guidelines and the application form can be downloaded from the websitewhere there is also much information about the program and about those already taking part.
The program will establish mentor relationships between industry professionals and women who are seeking to further their careers in key technical areas such as Cinematography, Editing, Sound Design, Music Composition, Directing, Script Writing, Animation, Location Management, Media Law, Interactive Media and other areas in which women are consistently under represented.
All applicants will be invited to attend free workshops and forums and will have free access to the online forum i-Mentoring, as well as to podcasts of events. This is proving very useful for the number of applicants from regional NSW who do feel isolated. They can pose questions they have on a range of issues, including careers advice and technical concerns, and mentors are being encouraged to participate in this process.
Applicants will be welcome at the program’s upcoming events, including a talk on media law by Sonia Borella and Cathy Hoyle at Holding Redlich (6-8pm, 21 January), scriptwriting workshop with Karel Segers at the Rex Centre in February, and the cinematography workshop with Piet de Vries at Getting Creative in March.
Tina Kaufman is a freelance writer on film and media issues who was editor of ‘FilmNews’ for seventeen years. She is now an Honorary Life Member of both the Sydney Film Festival and the Film Critics Circle of Australia.