The Role of Women in Icelandic Filmmaking: Facts and Figures

In recent months and years, questions of gender equality and women's involvement in the Icelandic film industry, and in the film industry at large, have taken center stage, and understandably so. Historically, filmmaking has been a male-dominated field, and efforts to correct this imbalance should be encouraged and applauded. All of the stakeholders in the industry have a role to play in this effort. For our part, the Icelandic Film Centre takes these questions very seriously, and we believe that we have a responsibility to encourage greater participation of Icelandic women in filmmaking and to ensure that grant applications by women filmmakers are given equal consideration to those by their male counterparts, so that our funding practices strive toward a balanced representation according to gender.

We are in agreement with our Nordic and European colleagues about the seriousness of this issue, and about many of the measures being taken by our sister organizations to bring more female voices to the filmmaking table. Stories by women, for women and about women are an essential component of any society and our understanding of our place in the world.

The role of our consultants

The Icelandic Film Centre employs several consultants who are experienced professionals in various aspects of the field of filmmaking. The consultants' primary responsibility is to read and evaluate grant applications and to advise the director of the Icelandic Film Centre on the merits of those applications for support. Support is given based on merit, and applications are evaluated according to time-tested, objective criteria used industry-wide. In addition, consultants are encouraged to keep in mind the criteria laid down in the Bechdel test, and to consider whether the script content of the projects they are evaluating promotes well-rounded, three-dimensional female characters. Applicants, too, are encouraged to apply these same criteria to the content of their work.

Better tracking of data

As we begin to upgrade to a new and more efficient electronic application system, we will also be initiating a new system for collecting and tracking data on applicants. As part of this system, applicants will be able to indicate the gender of the key participants in their projects, both at the application stage and when settling their accounts with the fund after production has been completed. This data will provide us with a clearer understanding of participation by gender so that we will be aware of, and be able to address, gender imbalances in a more timely manner.

The data

The figures provided below were pulled from applications to the Icelandic Film Fund – the funding arm of the Icelandic Film Centre – between 2012-2015, a time period that corresponds to the term of the existing film agreement enacted between the film industry and the Icelandic government. The data has been selected in order to provide an overview of the development of female participation in the funding process during that period. It should be remembered that, relative to our Nordic and European partners, the Icelandic Film Fund is small, as is our industry. On average, we are able to support only three to four feature-length fiction films per year, in addition to a handful of documentaries, short films and fiction TV series. This means that our sample size is also small, and large swings in data from year to year are possible. With this in mind, we think this data gives us some indication of the larger picture and the trends that have been emerging in recent years.

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