13 projects chosen for first Gender Equality Film Lab

Attagirl, a new global film lab designed to promote gender equality in filmmaking and assist new talent progress their careers and feature films, has been overwhelmed with applicants from all over the world.

Thirteen projects and teams have now been selected from the US, UK, Canada, Sweden, Australia and New Zealand. The initiative is leading the charge to not only support gender equality in the global film industry, but is walking the walk on centring diverse creators, with over half of the selected films driven by women or people of colour. The focus is on female and non-binary filmmakers.

The first workshop commenced on the 10th of September, followed by nine days of bespoke project development as well as content integrated from TIFF’s Industry Conference and digital festival.

The lab includes three workshops over ten months focusing on the crafting of innovative story, audience and marketplace strategies aiming to overcome the challenges within an increasingly digitally-focused single market.

Teams of producers, directors and writers are paired with experienced Project Mentors who, over the course of the three intensives, work alongside Script, Audience and Financial consultants to craft innovative strategies for financing and release of the selected films.

The three workshops are championed by A list festivals including TIFF (through the Share Her Journey campaign) and Sydney Film Festival who will host an in-person financing forum dedicated to financiers investing in diverse storytellers.

“The arrival of streamers has radically changed audience behaviour however the pathways to production and release are yet to catch up. The quantity, quality and diversity of applications we received is a testament to the work of global agencies and organisations in driving new voices and perspectives to screen production. It is also a clear signal to the industry that new pipelines are vitally needed to support talent in finding pathways to production and release, ensuring that cinema continues to evolve to reflect audiences as and where they are,” said FFS Executive Director Sophie Mathisen.

The selected titles are:

The Wolf Will Tear Your Immaculate Hands (SWE) – Europe 1791. Isabel, having just lost her sister, is forced into an arranged marriage. Desolate and angry she begins to unearth a wilderness that roars within her, slowly realising that she has more in common to the wolves in the forest than to the rest of her new household. Writer/director: Natalie Alvarez Mesen Producer: Nima Yousefi.

Melted (UK) – An island community tries to turn back time to quell natural catastrophes that plague them. When an Elf appears, promising the Matriarch leader quick-fix solutions, a secret agreement is made. But like all Faustian pacts, it backfires and soon everything starts to unravel. Writer/director: Renowned video artist Rachel Maclean, Producer: Ohna Falby.

Bruja (UK/MEX/CAN) – After being kidnapped into a human trafficking ring and taken far from home, Casilda must use a dark family power to free herself and the other trafficked victims from their impending fates. Writer/directors: Nora Unkel & Michele Garza Cervera, Producers: Colin Day & Coco Marie Schneider

White River (CAN) Set against the hopeless town of White River, Larleen and the town’s community come together to make some f***ing money – the men by betting and the women by fighting. Writer/Director: Sam Coyle Producers: Julie Strifler & Natalie Urqhuart

In My Father’s House (US/NIG) When a young American woman arrives in Lagos, Nigeria to confront her estranged father, she unexpectedly finds herself on a tumultuous journey of self-discovery that will redefine her past and future with a man she may never come to know. Writer/Director: Abbesi Akhamie, Producer: Melissa Adeyemo

Tenderwood (NZ) In a world almost out of water, an elderly mother stands watch over an ancient forest, but when her daughter designs a water supply that requires the trees be felled, she realises her duty to protect the trees is bigger even than family: to save them all, she must become a tree. Writer: Michele Powles, Director: Alyx Duncan, Producers: Lani-Rain Feltham & Emma Slade

Claudia (CAN) London 1958: As violent race riots ravage the country, Claudia Jones, a Trinidad-born communist, and deportee from the US, comes up with an ingenious plan to unite Black and white: a fancy dress party that will become the largest street festival in the world. Writer/director: Frances-Anne Soloman, Producers: Frances-Anne Soloman, Adjoa Andoh, Co-producers: Nadine Marsh-Edwards, Lisa Wickham, Shant Joshi

The Circus (VIC) When a feisty and beautiful circus performer meets a lonely, determined female farmer in the middle of nowhere in 1950s Australia, both must decide whether to conform or follow their hearts. Writer/Director: Emma Freeman, Producer: Leanne Tonkes.

Seeing Scout (QLD) In a western Queensland town, a young woman with physical disability and the local footy hero commence a sexual relationship which not only confronts and divides their small-town community but challenges the couple’s expectations of themselves. Co-writers: Tanya Modini & Stephanie Dower, Director: Tanya Modini, Producer: Stephanie Dower.

The White Girl (VIC) Odette Brown is raising her granddaughter Sissy on her own and has managed to stay under the radar of the welfare authorities who are removing Aboriginal children from their communities. Odette must make an impossible choice to protect her family at all costs. Based on the Miles Franklin nominated novel by Tony Birch. Co-writers: Tracey Rigney & Tony Briggs, Director: Tracey Rigney, Producer: Damienne Pradier

Common Ground (NSW/SA) When Omid arrives at a coastal hideaway on the run from Immigration, Kayla, a young surfer who would rather fish and trap rabbits than deal with Centrelink, wants him gone. Then the stubborn Kayla and idealistic Omid fall in love. But just as they begin to imagine a future together, Omid betrays Kayla’s trust and she reports him, extinguishing Omid’s last hope.  Writer/Directors: Eve Spence & Amin Palangi, Producer: Carolyn Johnson.

My Sister Ellie (NSW/UK) An Australian woman abandons her life for a British winter, determined to bring home her pregnant sister, the surrogate of her unborn child. Clutching at clues trailing from London to the Kent coast, her search sends her spiralling into memories of their past. Writer: Samantha Collins, Director: Laura Scrivano, Producers: Jessie Mangum & Samantha Collins

Fads & Miracles (WA) Denise is at breaking point. Her teenage daughter, Greyson, refuses to speak. When a charismatic teacher moves to town, he offers an enigmatic treatment that he promises will help, but when Greyson finally opens her mouth it’s not what Denise wants to hear. Writer/Director: Zoe Pepper, Producer: Cody Greenwood.

Over half of the films selected are to be directed or co-directed by women and people of colour, with projects spanning the US, Canada, UK, Australia, Sweden and New Zealand including creatives from Mexico and Trinidad.

Frances-Anne Soloman, Canadian-Caribbean writer/director of Claudia, and Executive Director of Caribbean Media Tales Group, commented on the importance of her selection, “As an independent filmmaker and a woman of colour creator, I know first-hand the difficulty in finding and securing investment for independent film, especially in distribution. We can’t wait to participate in Attagirl and build a pipeline of industrial and audience support for our film from development through to distribution.”

The selected teams will be mentored by experienced global producers Diana Elbaum (BE), Mike S. Ryan (US), Lorna Tee (NL), Samm Haillay (UK), Roshanak Behest Nedjad (GER) and Michele Tunure Salleo (US) working in conjunction with script, audience and finance consultants.

Attagirl is designed and run by For Film’s Sake with major financial support from Screen Australia’s Enterprise Business & Ideas funding program. Support also comes from British Film Institute, Telefilm Canada, Swedish Film Institute, Screen NSW, Screen Queensland, Film Victoria, South Australian Film Corporation and Screenwest and Lotterywest who have contributed to the program cost. Head to www.attagirl.online for more details.

New Global Film Lab to support Female Filmmakers

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