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The Canadian Academy announces new apprenticeship program for female directors

Beth Janson, CEO, Academy of Canadian Cinema & Television attends the 2017 Canadian Screen Awards Press Conference held at the Thornton-Smith Building on January 17, 2017 in Toronto, Canada.
Beth Janson, CEO, Academy of Canadian Cinema & Television attends the 2017 Canadian Screen Awards Press Conference held at the Thornton-Smith Building on January 17, 2017 in Toronto, Canada. George Pimentel/WireImage

On Wednesday, the Academy of Canadian Cinema & Television announced the creation of their new apprenticeship program for female directors.

The program will assist early and mid-career female directors in film, television or digital media to identify and achieve their career and project goals, sharpen their directing skills and develop a network of allies to jump-start the advancement of their work.

“The Academy believes that gender equality in key creative positions shaping storytelling content is an essential element of a vibrant and profitable media industry,” Beth Janson, CEO of the Academy of Canadian Cinema and Television, said.

Janson added: “Homogeneity on ours screens is a missed opportunity to capitalize on the diverse experiences of Canadians. It is this belief that motivates the Academy to develop its own programming to address this industry-wide issue.”

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This initiative will receive major support from The RBC Emerging Artists Project and Canada Media Fund (CMF).

“The CMF is delighted to support this program. Supporting third-party initiatives such as this one is part of the CMF’s broader strategy to increase gender balance in Canada’s screen-based industries,” Valerie Creighton, President and CEO, CMF stated.

“We believe that the female talent and skill are out there. We only need to level the playing field, so new opportunities for women can be triggered. I’m certain this and other initiatives being implemented by organizations across our industry will trigger those opportunities.”

Participants of the program will shadow a working director in their own region for six months, while participating in biweekly working sessions with other participants, conducted through Google Hangouts.

The Hangouts will include guest speakers who will run working sessions on practical skills that are essential for every director to master.

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A small honorarium will be provided to all participants, and the Academy will hold an open call starting May 2017 to recruit participants for the program.

The recruitment process holds a goal of ensuring diverse regional representation and special attention paid to outreach among Canadian women who are members of typically underrepresented groups in the mainstream media industry, including Indigenous Canadians.

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Applicants need to submit a statement of interest, and will be asked to include a sample of their work and a letter of recommendation from a colleague, mentor, or peer.

The Academy will assemble a diverse, regionally representative selection committee of six established professionals from the industry, and the six experts will select the six participants.

Once the candidates are selected, the Academy will work with them to understand their goals and pair each participant with a regionally appropriate mentor who is an established professional working in the film, television or digital media sector.

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There have been many headlines about Hollywood’s diversity problem onscreen, but the lack of gender representation off-screen is rarely noted.

The creation of the new female director program is part of the organization’s year-round initiatives addressing issues in film, television and digital media.

Canada has a wealth of homegrown female talent, including director Deepa Mehta, who has won 23 awards for her film work. Many of her movies focus on human rights and social injustice.

Her Elements Trilogy — Fire (1996), Earth (1998) and Water (2005) — received international praise, and Water was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film.

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She also directed films Midnight’s Children (2012) and Beeba Boys (2015), which is a Sikh-Canadian spin on Goodfellas.

Sarah Polley is another female Canadian director who has had quite the career north of the border. She made her first short film in 1999, The Best Day of My Life.

She won the Genie Award for Best Live Action Short Drama in 2003 for her short film I Shout Love. Her first feature, 2006’s Away From Her, was a heartbreaking look at Alzheimer’s disease, and starred Gordon Pinsent and Julie Christie. It was nominated for an Oscar for best adapted screenplay. Her second feature, Take This Waltzstarring Michelle Williams, Seth Rogen, Luke Kirby and Sarah Silverman, premiered at the Toronto Film Festival in 2011, and has long been prized as one of the most beautifully shot Toronto films.

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Visit the Academy of Canadian Cinema & Television for more information on the program.

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