New global film lab launches to support female filmmakers

Australian advocacy organisation For Film’s Sake announced Attagirl, an intensive narrative feature film development lab running in 2020/21 and 2021/22, supported by Screen Australia’s Enterprise Business and Ideas program.

Created by Sophie Mathisen, Executive Director of For Film’s Sake, Attagirl will see up to 12 majority female and/or non-binary creative teams participate in a 10-month incubator program designed to support the development trajectory of narrative features in an increasingly digitally focused marketplace.

The course content centres on three major pillars – story, market and audience – with support provided by international screen agencies and leading international film festivals.

Whilst the initial Attagirl program included travel to three continents to participate in three international festivals, the COVID19 pandemic has pivoted the program to a predominantly digital delivery, championed by Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) and the Sydney Film Festival (SFF).

Selected teams from international territories will each be assigned a Project Mentor who will, over the course of the three workshops, engage Script, Audience and Financial Consultants to support creation of strategies for progressing their films to production and release. Attagirl will culminate in a financing forum integrated into Sydney Film Festival in 2021, drawing together new and established financiers dedicated to the creation of diverse stories.

Meet the Mentors

The approach is based on FFS Executive Director Sophie Mathisen’s Churchill Fellowship in 2018 that identified distribution support as key to achieving greater participation by female and marginalised filmmakers. An early pilot of the approach, entitled Filmonomics Australia, ran in conjunction with UK organisation Birds Eye View and was supported by Screen Australia, the Queensland Government through Screen Queensland and the Brisbane International Film Festival.

Picture above: Staff from Filmonomics
Picture at the top: Sophie Mathisen – Director of FFS

“A major finding of my Fellowship was how the changing nature of distribution is stalling completion of many female-driven films. With the decline of theatrical revenue for smaller budget films, investors are increasingly more risk-averse in deciding whether to support new talent who rely on third-party investment to trigger government support. If we are to see a significant shift in the numbers of women and non-binary creatives working in feature film, a reimagining of the financial pathway is crucial. A more innovative, audience-centric approach needs to be adopted to prove not only the cultural, but economic viability of their work. Attagirl has brought together an exciting roster of stakeholders committed to the feature film format and we are excited to launch at a time when the wider screen sector is reassessing its methods and mission for working.”

Film bodies around the globe welcome the initiative. Christa Dickenson, Executive Director at Telefilm Canada, says, “The disruption to the film industry resulting from the global pandemic proved the need for new pathways for developing and distributing films. Attagirl provides a framework for filmmakers to experiment and test the boundaries, while also encouraging a collaborative approach not only to achieving gender parity, but broadening access for Black, Indigenous and People of Colour creators in both Canada and the international film industry.”

Support also comes from Anna Serner, CEO of the Swedish Film Institute. “We all know increased gender equality in the film industry will bring new stories not seen before, more perspectives to reflect upon and make us, the audience, grow as both individuals and society, also on a global level. I strongly believe that collaborative approaches across countries will speed up the 50/50 movement to reach the goal of parity, and in that sense Attagirl is a brilliant initiative.”

Female creators are chronically underrepresented in the English-speaking feature film market. According to a recent UNESCO report, in Europe only one in five films is directed by a woman, and only 16% of the funding goes to films directed by women.

“It will take our whole industry to commit to deliver a more equitable spread of voices telling Australian stories, and we’re pleased to support Sophie Mathisen and her team pursue this market and audience-led approach,” said Nerida Moore, Head of Development at Screen Australia, a major funding body of the initiative.


  • The program includes three intensive workshops, two of which will be online and the final workshop will be staged as an in-person event, in partnership with the Sydney Film Festival in 2021. Applicants will receive full accreditation to the participating festivals.
  • Creative teams must have a minimum of two people (producer/director). Larger teams are welcome to apply, however should the team require more than the producer and director to travel to Sydney in 2021, these costs will be incurred solely by the participant.
  • Creative teams may include male applicants, however 50% of above the line talent (director/ writer/ producer) must identify as female or non-binary.
  • Each creative team must apply with a narrative feature film (70 minutes+) in development, ideally at first draft stage. The feature can have theatrical and/or streaming release in mind. Documentary features are not eligible.
  • Applications will be open to filmmakers aged 18 and over, with no professional credits required. Due to the nature of the program, a sound understanding of marketplace financing and distribution strategy is advised
  • A minimum of six creative teams from Australia will be selected. All members of these teams must be Australian citizens or permanent residents. The films they are developing must be on the path to being Australian films (i.e. they will satisfy the Significant Australian Content test) or Official Co-productions.
  • The cost of the program is $10 000 AUD per applicant or $20 000 AUD per team. Most Australian have subsidised places for State applicants. In the instance that a state or territory is not listed, applicants from this state or territory will need to provide details of how they intend to meet the lab fee.
  • This is a global program and will include a minimum of six international creative teams. Selected applicants from territories with participating overseas film bodies (Telefilm Canada, British Film Institute,  Swedish Film Institute) will have their places subsidised by those agencies. Applicants from outside these territories are welcome to apply however will need to provide details of how they intend to meet the lab fee. Screen Australia funding is not available to international participants.
  • The first workshop will be held September 10-19th with applicants receiving accreditation for the Toronto International Film Festival. Due to the global pandemic, dates for the final two workshops will be confirmed throughout the program however are suggested for January 2021 and June 2021. Applicants must be available to attend all three workshops.
  • Project selections will be made via a two-stage application process. Due to the turnaround time in assessment, applicants are advised to prepare both Stage One and Stage Two materials prior to submission.
  • Applications open July 22 and close midnight AEDT August 16th August 16th. No late submissions will be accepted.
  • More details of the program and partners will be announced in the coming weeks.


  • Creative teams retain the full copyright of their work. Attagirl and For Film’s Sake or partners have no financial interest in the projects being developed.
  • Applicants should review the full guidelines before applying.

Applications for the 2020 intake now open. Further details available at

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