Wednesday, 16 January 2019

Ceisteanna (39)

Niamh Smyth


39. Deputy Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht her plans to increase the participation of women in projects funded by the Irish Film Board, IFB; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [1708/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Oral answers (6 contributions) (Ceist ar Culture)

The question follows on from points I raised when the House first debated the Irish Film Board (Amendment) Act last year. I raised the increased level of participation in projects funded by the IFB at the time, however the increases appear uneven. Will the Minister outline the actions she has taken to address women's participation in Irish film?

The IFB was renamed Screen Ireland in 2018. Screen Ireland is the national development agency for Irish film making and the Irish film, television and animation industry. Its statutory remit is to assist and encourage the making of film in the State and the development of a film industry in Ireland. Screen Ireland supports writers, directors and production companies across these sectors by providing investment loans for the development, production and distribution of film, television.

Screen Ireland is at the forefront of the movement towards gender equality and has demonstrated its commitment to addressing gender equality in Irish film-making and screen content. In particular, in the roles of writers and directors, Screen Ireland is working towards achieving a target of 50:50 creative talent working in screen content by 2020. Screen Ireland has reported a significant increase of 62% in applications received with female talent attached and an 82% increase in funding awards with female talent attached in 2018, in comparison to 2017 figures.

Screen Ireland’s vision for gender and diversity is set out in its five-year strategy and the six-point plan on gender equality, which outlines a number of measures to monitor and enhance gender representation across the sector.

Considerable progress has been made in terms of encouraging female writers, directors and producers into the sector through training initiatives arid through the Screen Ireland short film schemes. The commitment of Screen Ireland to gender equality has been acknowledged nationally and internationally, and 70% of Screen Ireland short films funded under the Screen Ireland short stories and frameworks schemes in 2017 have female directors attached.

There has been a particularly high number of female protagonists and producers in Irish film in recent years. In 2017, seven out of ten Irish films had female protagonists. It is something of which we can be proud. The monitoring by Fís Éireann has been valuable and Screen Ireland has played a crucial role in this. However, the number of women directors is relatively stagnant at over 20%. Further efforts by the Minister and the Government are necessary to address this. What specific measures are being introduced to increase female participation in the direction of Irish film?

I appreciate that the Deputy acknowledges that seven of ten Irish films had a female protagonist, of which we are justly proud. She is correct that we cannot rest on our laurels and I will support Screen Ireland's work in proactively seeking to increase the number of female directors, in particular. In the past year, female-led Irish films have included "The Breadwinner", "Float like a Butterfly", "Kissing Candice", "A Girl from Mogadishu", and "A Mother Brings her Son to be Shot". There are many excellent films with high numbers of female protagonists.

On specific initiatives, Screen Ireland has a six-point action plan. It is working to achieve enhanced levels of diversity in films and screen content and has several gender-focused funding initiatives to develop this, which are aimed at the under-representation of women in Irish film. Considerable progress has been made through these initiatives. There are many incentives geared towards directly increasing the numbers of female writers, directors and producers.

Is Screen Ireland on track to achieve gender parity in the industry by 2020? Can the Minister provide a detailed update on the action points contained in the 2016-20 strategic plan? Does she believe there is adequate funding to achieve the goal? On several occasions, she has mentioned Screen Ireland's six-point plan, but there must be funding behind this in order that actions can speak louder than words. Is Screen Ireland adequately funded so that those targets will be met?

There is adequate funding. Since 2016, the statistics have shown significant progress. In 2016, for example, only 34% of successful project development applications had female writers. This has increased by 10% with 44% of successful applications in 2018 having a woman writer attached. In documentary development, successful women directors were at 8% in 2016, which has increased to 48% in 2018, a 40% increase. There has also been an increase in successful women writers in animation development by 31% between 2016 and 2018. These clearly demonstrate the increased percentage in women's representation in the industry. The Deputy is correct that we must continue to do this. Funding initiatives for this include POV, which is a training scheme aimed exclusively at female talent. There is also a low-budget film production and training scheme for female talent and enhanced production funding for female initiated and driven feature films, which increased support of up to €100,000 for projects applying for Irish production funding if the film is led by an Irish woman director, writer or a combination of both. Gender parity will continue to be monitored across all schemes.