Anna serner crop

Source: Swedish Film Institute

Anna Serner

Top European film professionals called for more action to tackle gender inequality in the industry at a highly-charged Berlinale debate yesterday, with the controversial issue of funding quotas raising its head again.

The debate unfolded as news broke that 190 women from the film, theatre and TV industries have signed an open letter calling for an end to harassment, abuse and impunity, to coincide with the Bafta ceremony in London tonight (Sunday).

The open letter and the Berlinale debate are among a wave initiatives unfolding as the fledgling Time’s Up movement takes off to combat sexual harassment in response to the Harvey Weinstein scandal and #MeToo movement.

Saturday’s debate, organised by the Swedish Film Institute and Women in Film and Television, addressed what could be done structurally to ensure women attain parity in terms of funding and opportunities.

Anna Serner, the tough-talking CEO of the Swedish Film Institute, said affirmative action, or the threat of it, combined with education programmes to raise awareness of gender bias among both men and women, was the only way to bring change.

“We said we will aim for 50-50 by 2015 and if we don’t get there we’ll impose a quota for the money,” Serner said of her institute’s actions over the past six years.

“Because it was very clear that we meant it, it made the applications change. The production companies wanted the money, and they were like ‘the money wants women’, we’ll find women.”

Serner said that in spite of the progress in Sweden more had to be done: “We’re still not there because women still don’t get the bigger budgets. If the Swedish industry doesn’t shape up we will quota.”

Christine Berg, CEO of the German Federal Film Board said her organisation had last year introduced a 50-50 gender split for the juries deciding how feature film funding should be meted out.

But she said the move had yet to result in more female-driven projects securing finance, with the share for women remaining around 20% mark of the past decade.

“It’s only the first year so it remains to be seen how the situation evolve,” said Borg. “I’ve made no secret of the fact that I don’t agree with quotas but it is clear something has to change.”