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Can Women Command A Screen?: A Night with WIFT-Toronto

This past year we’ve seen an amazing group of women grace the silver screen and that showed at this year’s Oscars.

While Ellen’s twitter crashing selfie was the talk of the night, something else seemed to catch my attention: Cate Blanchett’s acceptance speech for her role in Blue Jasmine.

“Those in the industry who are foolishly clinging to the idea that female films, with women in the centre, are niche experiences, they are not,” she said.

“Audiences want to see them. In fact they earn money. The world is round people!” she continued.

Cate was absolutely right. Women in film and television can and do hold the show.

Women Who Run It believes in this so much that they have been working with Women in Film and Television – Toronto (WIFT-T), a member-based organization of women and men working in screen-based media that supports the development and advancement of women in the industry.

Women Who Run It recently attended their advanced screening of The Grand Seduction and their networking event afterward where we learned a few things about women in film and television with the help of WIFT-T’s Executive Director, Heather Webb.

Give us a chance, and we’ll run with it
For some reason people have come to believe that women can’t carry a movie, but WIFT-T has different ideas.

“Women are one of the largest consumers of onscreen material and we’re half the population. It’s really important that we see ourselves on-screen as well as behind the camera… I think if we can just give them a chance, and often that’s all it takes, you just give them a chance they’ll run with it and they’ll make a really successful product commercially,” Heather shared.

But we’re still struggling for that chance
While we may be the main consumers of on-screen material, we’re still struggling to be seen as the powerhouses that we are.

WIFT-T tries to combat the lack of opportunities by bringing women together to help each other.

“In the entertainment industry it’s very much who you know. Women are notoriously not good at networking and promoting themselves so that’s part of what WIFT-T does. We always have a networking component to every program we run because it is really important for women to make those industry connections,” said Heather.

In the end it’s all about diversity
“If you want to be very successful in the entertainment business in Canada you want to have as diverse a workforce as possible. You want to have as many people telling different stories, whether it’s women, or Aboriginal people, or people from other minorities… I think you want to have as diverse a population making your film to reflect our population and to set up role models for people,” shared Heather.

“I think it’s really the leaders of every company, the CEOs, the board, they need to set diversity as a priority at the top level because it really is where the decisions are being made. I encourage everyone to look at their writing rooms, look at their production set, and make sure there is as much diversity as possible reflected there and it will pay off. It will pay off in the long run with really successful, engaging, relevant stories,” she continued.

WIFT-T’s message is one of diversity, acceptance and community. This is a message that needs to be heard.

Unfortunately there are countless myths surrounding women in the entertainment industry. People believe that women can’t carry films, they are constantly trying to pit women in the industry against each other, and constantly taking the focus off of women’s achievements and onto their personal lives.

While women are more outspoken than ever, there is still a need for an organization that uplifts them, brings them together, and promotes them.

“I just think a lot of people ask is there still a need for WIFT? There’s 45 WIFT’s worldwide, so obviously we’re relevant, we’re needed. I don’t think we have seen the full potential of women in the industry yet. I’m really excited to see when that happens because I think we’re going to have some really high quality storytelling coming from that,” Heather said.

WIFT-T isn’t just for people within the industry. They host advanced screenings that anyone can attend and their networking events afterward are great opportunities to meet new people, see new perspectives and support a great organization.

To learn more about WIFT-T go to www.wift.com.

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Taylor Brown

Taylor Brown is an Associate Editor at Goddess Connections for the Women Who Run It E-Mag. She graduated from Wilfrid Laurier University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Communications Studies. She is a resident of Toronto and she has a passion for exploring topics on health and fitness, and enjoys writing stories about women’s issues. She also enjoys writing about business and how to build a career. When she is not working for Women Who Run It you can find her exploring Toronto, going for jogs, or simply enjoying life as a strong, empowered woman who runs it. Her goal is to share stories that help women of all walks of life take control of their lives and create balance with ease.