EXCLUSIVE: A three-day Women’s Media Summit is being planned to develop “actionable strategies” to address the underemployment of women in key creative positions in the film and TV industry. It will be held March 31-April 2 in Provincetown, MA.
“In this current political climate, now more than ever, it’s time to come up with meaningful actionable strategies that will effect an immediate shift toward gender equity among American storytellers,” the organizers told Deadline. “The goal of the summit is to create a unified, non-partisan strategy of federal action and legislative reform to achieve enduring gender equity among U.S. directors and storytellers in accordance with America’s ideal of fairness and equal representation.”
Producer of the summit is Christine Walker, president of New Globe Films and executive director and CEO of the Provincetown Film Society, whose credits include producer of Howl, starring James Franco as beat poet Allen Ginsberg; executive producer of Darling Companion, directed by Lawrence Kasdan; and line producer of American Splendor.
Co-chairs of the summit are Dr. Caroline Heldman, principal researcher for the Geena Davis Institute for Gender in the Media and an associate professor of politics at Occidental College in Los Angeles, and director Maria Giese, who in 2013 took the issue of discrimination against female film and TV directors to the EEOC and then pushed the ACLU to press the EEOC to undertake its ongoing investigation.
“The stories and images that emerge from U.S. entertainment media help define our national ethos, contribute to the voice of our civilization and are powerful influencers of the way people look at issues both here and abroad,” Giese said. “Yet despite the attention paid to the staggering lack of gender equity in the media, nearly 100% of those stories remain outside of the control and influence of women.”
Speakers and panelists will provide an overview of the issues on Day 1 of the summit, followed by working groups that will explore multiple solutions and strategies on day two. On Day 3, the working groups will present their best strategies to the entire assemblage, which will vote on the order of priorities.
Their goal will be to produce a “White Paper” that spells out actionable strategies with benchmarks to measure their success in creating “an immediate shift toward gender equality among American storytellers” – focusing on directors, writers, producers, cinematographers, composers, production designers, editors, casting directors, sound designers and costume designers.
“It’s time to take the problem-solving out of Hollywood,” Walker said. “As a result, we are inviting representatives from a variety of industries and sectors. We will also consider our event successful if we manage to attract a diverse group of individuals from different racial, ethnic, sexual orientation, and economic backgrounds. We will do this by providing stipends to those in need.”
Said Giese: “What will distinguish the summit from other events like it is our commitment to pursuing solutions that we can implement after the forum is over, and follow up on through on-going programs. We are treating the exclusion of women of all ethnicities from contributing to our nation’s cultural narrative as a civil rights dilemma, a deeply entrenched problem in which women cannot control their own messaging. Instead, women’s creative expressions and concerns are filtered through a male voice piece. This blocks women from their full rights under the law, and it is not in keeping with American ideals of freedom and equality.
“We hope our summit will reflect a microcosm of the ideal of equality we hope to spearhead: this is not an event in which panelists and speakers preach to an audience. Instead, all the participants are experts in their own fields who can contribute out-of-the-box thinking in a dynamic, organic brain-trust of equals. In this way we hope to build a community, constructed of diverse thinkers who share a vision for a more equitable global narrative that will create enduring, immediately actionable solutions. We think providing the opportunity of equal voice to women could move our world toward greater common good.”
Organizers say that the key questions the summit intends to address include:
Can reform to Equal Employment Opportunity law result in greater effectiveness in reducing industrywide discrimination against women directors?
Is the FCC being underutilized in terms of insuring that American entertainment media content represents women and the female perspective equally?
Can Affirmative Action programs still be utilized to increase the employment of American women storytellers?
Can the 5th Amendment, the 14th Amendment, and the Equal Protection Clause be more effective in supporting Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act?
Are women being denied free speech if they are effectively excluded from participation in American storytelling through systemic bias?
Could exclusion from one’s chosen profession through discrimination and systemic bias be interpreted as a denial of the pursuit of happiness guaranteed in the Declaration of Independence?
Is ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment essential to the solution?
The stated goal of the DGA’s diversity efforts are to increase the number female and minority film and TV directors. But the organizers ask: “Do the diversity policies of the DGA effectively aid the studios in violating Title VII?”