‘We need more’: Report finds Indigenous women given less opportunity in Canadian film and TV

A new report finds Indigenous women are “significantly” under-employed in the television and film industry.

Women in View, a non-profit organization, released their 2019 ‘On Screen’ report earlier this month with the goal of examining the Canadian film and television industry with a critical eye.

It’s the first time data concerning Indigenous women and women of colour was compiled and analyzed in the report.

From the jump, the report states that while some progress has been noted in women’s contributions to film and TV production roles, “Indigenous women’s contributions to film and TV dropped from insignificant to negligible” in the span of just three years.

“Indigenous women and women of colour are not being hired; if they were getting hired, those numbers would go up,” explained Mohawk filmmaker and Women in View Board Chair, Tracey Tekahentahkhwa Deer. “This is not good enough, and as an industry we really have to do better.”

A filmmaking veteran of over 20 years, Deer is now working on her first feature film — a coming-of-age story set during the 1990 Oka crisis.

She says that in all her projects she strives to showcase authentic Indigenous voices, a move she hopes will be matched on other production sets throughout the country.

“I never want to be the only Indigenous woman in the room. That’s a lot of pressure, for one, and currently there are so few of us in this industry. We need more,” she said. “And the way we’re going to get more is by hiring them in that capacity, and that’s always been really, really important to me”

Among the 24 TV shows studied over the course of four seasons, Women in View found “no Indigenous women working as a writer, director, or cinematographer.”

Between 2014 and 2017, for example, Indigenous women received only 0.69 per cent of contracts studied.

Those numbers peaked in 2016, when a total of five (1.83 per cent) production contracts were offered to Indigenous women – the highest number of contracts offered in the three years this report examined.

Projects by women of colour and Indigenous women are funded “almost exclusively” at the lowest level, according to the report.

In 2017, the average investment in men’s projects was almost $2,000 more than for women’s, $6,000 more than for women of colour, and $8,000 more than Indigenous women’s projects.

While more indigenous women like Deer are directing for television, overall they make up only one per cent of Canada’s industry players.

But there’s good news.

The “diverse showrunner effect” means projects led by Indigenous women or women of colour generally have a healthier gender balance, and more diversity among team members.

Summed up in one line in the report: “When Indigenous women lead, more Indigenous women work.”

“I know the perspective, the unique perspective that I bring, and so I value the unique and diverse perspectives that other people bring, and that’s what you want to have a good story told, you don’t want everyone’s perspective to be the same,” Deer explained.

Women in View says their hope is to achieve gender parity, or 50/50 status by 2028.

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