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The National Film Board of Canada Will Give 50 Percent of Its Production Budget to Women

The agency thinks it can achieve full gender parity in just three years

Women are still rare behind the camera. (Julian Stratenschulte/dpa/Corbis)
smithsonian.com

It’s not hard to find women on film—though most women in movies play supporting roles. Women in film, on the other hand, have long struggled for parity on the production side. But that won’t be the case for long, at least in Canada. The National Film Board of Canada recently announced that it will commit 50 percent of its production spending to films directed by women.

The NFB, a Canadian government agency, has long been known for producing prominent, award-winning films alongside shorter, more experimental work. When it comes to financing films directed by women, the NFB, which has financed more than 13,000 films to date, is already near parity, with 42 percent of its budget going toward female-led films. 

“The NFB has always taken a leadership role in women’s filmmaking,” said Claude Joli-Coeur, government film commissioner and NFB chairperson in the press release about the decision. “In our current fiscal year, films directed by women represent half of our total spending on production. In 2016‒2017, the numbers are projected to be well above that. But numbers can fluctuate. There have been good years and lean years for women’s filmmaking at the NFB. No more. Today, I’m making a firm, ongoing commitment to full gender parity, which I hope will help to lead the way for the industry as a whole.”

The announcement also came with a pledge that a full 50 percent of the NFB's films will be directed by women, too. In a release about the commitment, the NFB said that it will roll out the funding over the next three years.

The idea of gender parity in film applies to the small screen, too: Earlier this year, Women in View and the Directors Guild of Canada announced an initiative to double the number of female TV directors in the country within the next few years.

Canada may soon be the home of maple syrup and full gender parity in film, but could the U.S. soon follow its northern neighbor? If so, it has a long way to go: In 2015, only 19 percent of all directors, writers, executive producers, producers, editors and cinematographers who worked on the year’s 250 top-grossing films were women.

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