France offers bonus to back women filmmakers

Paris (AFP) –


France is to give a major cash bonus to movies made by women in a bid to try and bring gender parity to the film industry, its culture minister said Wednesday.

Francoise Nyssen, who helped persuade the Cannes film festival to sign the 50/50 charter on gender equality earlier this year, said productions that are "exemplary" on equality will get an extra 15 percent subsidy.

The new bonus will work on a points system, Nyssen said, with a production seeking a subsidy from the French film council, the CNC, given one point for a female director, scriptwriter or chief technician.

A film will have to get eight points to qualify for the extra cash.

The measures are specifically targeted at opening up technical positions to women, which have remained an almost exclusively male preserve.

"When things do not change themselves or change too slowly, we have to change them ourselves," she said as she announced the experiment, which will initially last for a year.

"We cannot wait any longer," Nyssen added. "The figures oblige us to act. As it stands, only one film in six would qualify for this subsidy."

Subsidies are a key motor for the film industry, particularly in Europe, where many are sustained by seed cash and tax write-off schemes.

- Sourcing gender balance data -

The minister is also forcing the CNC to demand that producers hand over detailed information on the gender balance of their movies, and how much men and women earn.

Nyssen has been a vocal supporter of the #MeToo and Time's Up movements that were sparked by the downfall of Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein.

She has also made the campaign against sexism and the underrepresentation of women in the film industry a priority.

"We cannot let the wave that rose up last year fall away," she told a meeting of a special commission of filmmakers she assembled to tackle gender equality in the cinema.

"We cannot go back to how it was, as if Weinstein never existed -- as if it was only him, that equality on paper also meant an equal chance in reality."

She was a key player behind a red carpet demonstration by Hollywood stars and women directors at Cannes in May calling for equality.

The 50/50 for 2020 charter which came out of that unprecedented protest has now been adopted by most of the world's leading film festivals including Venice and Toronto.

France is home to Europe's biggest film industry, with around a quarter of films made by women directors.

That is much better than many other major European players such as Britain (12 percent) and Spain (10 percent).

But it remains far behind women directors in Scandinavian countries who enjoy relative equality, with 43 percent of Finnish films made by women.

In terms of pay, French women directors are still paid on average 42 percent less than their male colleagues, according to a recent CNC study.