Underwire Alumni Marcie MacLellan is currently in development with her first feature as a producer. She took a look at the current funding landscape for female filmmakers in the UK for the blog;
“More than a few years ago I quickly learned that, although filmmaking was in my heart, it required a strong business head. This meant demanding credit when it was due, sticking to tight deadlines for even the shortest of shorts and, above all, finding the money to produce what you believe in.
Fortunately, I came across Underwire through a connection with Gemma Went. And in the small world that is Shoreditch, I was soon Birkram Yoga-ing next to Gabriella Apicella. As a frequent debater and occasional educator about the portrayal of women in the media, I immediately loved everything they stood for – more women in film, more celebration of their work, more diversity in perspectives. That is why I was pretty chuffed when my very short film (30 seconds, to be precise) was selected for their inaugural festival in 2010, receiving a best screenplay nomination.
Underwire was among the few organisations to make me feel positive about what the future could hold for female filmmakers. Yes, it’s true that in 2013, according to Celluloid Ceiling, women accounted for only 16 percent of behind-the-scenes employees on the top 250 domestic grossing films. It’s true that the study Exploring the Barriers and Opportunities for Independent Women Filmmakers found that the five biggest blockades that hindered women’s career development were “gendered financial barriers, male-dominated industry networks, stereotyping on set, work and family balance, and exclusionary hiring decisions.” And it’s true that the lack of female involvement in these roles results in male-dominated films that often patronise and demean women, unintentionally or otherwise. But it is also true that more and more funders and organisations – like Underwire – are tired of it and doing something about it.
Among them is iFeatures. If you don’t know about this scheme, you should. It is an innovative, low-budget filmmaking initiative that helps get regional stories from talented new filmmakers on the big screen. Its team takes pride in the diversity of stories they support, the people who bring them to life, and the characters within them. Now in its third iteration, my feature film project (with writer Charlotte Wise and director Dan Kokotajlo) was one of 18 films to make the short list, drawn from just under 400 submissions. Our goal now is to soar through each development phase to be able to produce our feature on a £350,000 budget.
“We’ve worked closely with organisations such as Women in Film & TV and the Black Filmmakers Network, amongst others, to increase diversity this year and I’m delighted to see that our overall cohort is now evenly split between men and women,” stated Christopher Moll, head of film at Creative England and the architect of iFeatures, in an article for Screendaily. “The higher numbers of outstanding female, BAME and LGBT talent coming through is reflected in the much greater diversity of stories that we’ve read. That can only be a good thing for industry and audiences alike.”
According to a recent press release, the BFI has also announced its commitment to diversity across the film industry, telling movie makers that they must meet new targets for ethnic minority, gay and female characters on screen to be eligible for future funding. Given that, “the BFI Film Fund is the largest public film fund in the UK, investing over £27m into film development, production, international sales and distribution each year,” they can also go a long way in changing the industry.
With a smaller pot of £10,000 up for grabs, Creative England’s inaugural iShorts+ initiative, “Funny Girls”, is also looking to “shine light on areas of under-representation in England’s filmmaking community.” They are on the hunt for bold, exciting and funny female directors across England.
With funding for females on the rise, the future of film looks a bit brighter than before. Personally, I’m pleased to have Apostasy in development with iFeatures – a film that centres around two strong female characters, who talk to each other about far more than men. And I’m proud that this success was boosted by a film deemed worthy of Underwire’s lofty goals. While the statistics related to women in film have been far too grim for far too long, perhaps there is a happy ending in store.”
Marcie MacLellan is co-founder of Incontext Productions, a content production house based in London, England. She has a BA in Journalism and an MA in Screenwriting and Production. She is the producer for Apostasy, a feature film currently in development with iFeatures3