WIFT NSW and ADG take action over Canadian director appointed for 'Picnic At Hanging Rock' remake



17th December 2016

Words by Laura La Rosa
Cover image by Meg White / Video by Jamie Gray

Following the recent AACTA sausage party protest, members from WIFT NSW took action again this week against imbalances posed in the Australian screen industry. In conjunction with the Australian Directors’ Guild, WIFT members staged a peaceful picnic protest at Fremantle Media on Thursday following the decision to hire a Canadian director for the Australian television remake of Picnic at Hanging Rock.

While WIFT have been very active in the fight for more space, better representation, and equal pathways for women in film and television, this protest specifically responded to a direct violation of the Employment New Benefit test for Australian production. In short, the Canadian Director selected for the Picnic at Hanging Rock remake is in fact female-identifying, but WIFT and the ADG’s protest calls for answers as to why an Australian director wasn’t chosen when there are plenty who are not only available, but who are willing and more than capable.

The group of protesters were dressed in period white gowns, resembling the lost schoolgirls of Joan Lindsay’s 1967 novel. The outcome was a hilarious feat of visuals and a promptly produced video that highlights the notion that these filmmakers are not in fact lost, but more so, paying close attention to the baffling move by Screen Australia, Fremantle Media and Foxtel, and hence seeking answers.

WIFT NSW President, Sophie Mathisen comments “The Net Benefit Test needs to bring significant benefit to the domestic industry. In an environment where females make up just 22% of working directors in television drama, the most benefit would be to give the gig to a domestic director to help them launch or progress their career.”

Mathisen insists this has nothing to do with the individual that is the Canadian Director, emphasising that “the gross oversight serves to highlight the insidious belief that change will happen organically, an absurd and faulty argument given that no significant increase has been measured since 1970. We want our publicly funded bodies to stop their empty and tokenistic gestures, heed the lessons of the Swedish Film Institute and immediately instate quotas for funding and developing fifty percent (local) female creatives.”

Following Thursday’s picnic protest, the Australian Directors’ Guild has now met with FremantleMedia Australia and Foxtel and will be meeting with Screen Australia shortly to address the issues raised with the view to come to a fair and mutually proposed resolution.

“What women need in the industry is not more training, attachments or summits, but purely and simply, employment. WIFT stands for action and is committed to calling out companies and bodies who are not connecting the dots between thought and action and making their contribution to achieving gender equity”, said Mathisen, summing up WIFT and ADG’s stance.

Visit WIFT NSW’s website for more information and an official media release.

 Image by Meg White

Image by Meg White

Laura La Rosa