Female & Funded – Is Gender Equality in Film This Year’s Trend?

VIDEO: Trailer for Tracks dir. Claire Oakley

Screen Social returned on the 12th August to it’s usual haunt The Book Club to present Screen Social: W=M – an evening dedicated to examining gender equality. Working with key organisations – we saw a whole host of voices and perspectives addressing issues in the balance, using film, discussion and shared views to examine gender diversity within the creative industries.

“Festivals like Underwire receive no formal funding, because all the focus is on audience development, but the filmmakers need support in their careers” – Gabriella Apicella, co-founder of Underwire

The evening began with a screening of Claire Oakley’s Underwire Winning Short Tracks – a story of tradition and masculinity set within the highlands of Scotland. The film explores the relationship between a father and son during a hunting trip where the son, Ed, makes his first kill.

The father is played by Gordon BrownOnly God Forgives (2013) Valhalla Rising (2009) and Ed is played John BellThe Hobbit (2012) and Wrath Of the Titans (2012) who together bring a subtlety to the story, written by Oakley, revealing the complexities of nature, cultural traditions, fathers and sons.

Tracks is a gorgeous short film too – it’s aesthetic worked on by Oakley and Rob Hardy BSC who is famed for working on films such as the recent Ex Machina (2015) and James Marsh’s Shadow Dancer (2012). Inside the frame it’s hazy and damp (we’re in Scotland after all) whilst showing the stillness, scale and beauty of the highlands.

“We’ve been lucky to see in our community of filmmakers that we’ve met through Underwire there have been some really positive success stories – however, that is not reflected in the mainstream cinemas” – Gabriella Apicella

Claire is a member of the Film Fatales – a collective of female directors who meet regularly to mentor, collaborate and support each other in a creative community. It’s an organisation well worth checking out and a brilliant example of a community led group creating it’s own support system outside of national programmes.

In a slight deviation from the overall theme of the evening, we then went onto screening a short film by artist, filmmaker and cultural activist Andrea Luka Zimmerman Towards Estate (2012). Assembled from varying elements of her long term production Estate, A Reverie (2015) this short tells different stories from the Haggerston Estate about social housing, gentrification and everyday humanity.

” – A lyrical and gripping vision of the loneliness and disempowerment that haunts life even in the world’s wealthiest cities.” Joshua Oppenheimer, Director of The Act of Killing (2013) and The Look of Silence (2014)

Estate, A Reverie (2015) played at this years East End Film Festival and played at the BFI last month.

In the run up to the evening’s discussion we began screening films created by two members of our panel. The first was a film by Isabelle Sieb (another member of the Film Fatales) called College Romance: The Musical (2013) a candid approach to the musical genre featuring music written by Stephanie Taylor, reworking genre conventions and using the film’s format to remind us it’s not all about serious shorts.

Along with this we also screened Terminally Happy (2015) written and directed by Adina Istrate and produced by Giannina La Salvia through their production company ToyBox Films. It’s a beautifully shot short film loaded with melancholy and futurism, teasing us towards a wider narrative, unnerving and mysterious – we can’t wait to see what Adina’s going to do with this… We’re thinking Charlie Brooker’s Black Mirror

Both Isabelle and Adina are part of the Northern Film and Media scheme ‘RISE’ – An intensive year long development programme for female writer-directors based in the UK.

“This is going to take generations. At the moment it’s trendy to talk about this stuff and it’s very much a cyclical thing and it needs to not be a trendy thing or a novelty thing – it needs to be supported.” – Gabriella Apicella


In one of our main events of the evening, Screen Social presented a live discussion hosted by Alexandra Haddow and Marisa Bate of The Pool – an innovative new website for women from Lauren Laverne and Sam Baker that launched earlier this year.

Joining Alex and Marisa on the Panel we had the pleasure of welcoming:

Taking to the microphone, Marisa began the discussion by asking about the current situation for gender diversity within film and other creative industries; bringing in Gabriella and Sophie to provide their opinion.

“There’s more and more entry level activity that happens – but that doesn’t mean that there’s support for sustainable careers.” – Sophie Mayer

During the discussion we were pleased to screen some of the work that Shape History have created – their trailer for Sci-fi Drama Credence and their viral success How do you shape history? (see below)

In other parts of the discussion – our panel got into talking about solutions, representation, mentoring and advice for future creatives. More highlights coming soon.

After our discussion we were joined by Singer/Songwriter Cathy Valve – performing two of her own original songs and a cover of Years & Years – King. Take a look at her SoundCloud to listen to more of her stuff – let’s support those indies!