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Anna Serner: the woman who changed a film industry

Resourced from: http://www.smh.com.au/entertainment/movies/anna-serner-the-woman-who-changed-a-film-industry-20170424-gvr6vg.html

Author: Garry Maddox

It’s the film industry that produced the master director Ingmar Bergman and such internationally acclaimed talents as Lasse Hallstrom​, Lukas Moodysson​ and Roy Andersson​.

The industry responsible for such striking films as The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo trilogy, As It Is In Heaven and Let The Right One In.

But when Anna Serner​ took over as chief executive of the Swedish Film Institute six years ago, she recognized her country had a problem – not enough women were making films.

So she set an ambitious target that 50 per cent of films would be written, directed and produced by women within four years.

The resulting transformation of the industry into a world leader for gender equality – a remarkable 64 per cent of features were directed by women last year – has led to Canada, Ireland and Norway introducing their own targets.

And in this country, Screen Australia launched the Gender Matters program last year to encourage more women to take key roles in film and television.

Serner, who is in Australia to speak at the opening of the For Film’s Sake Festival on Wednesday, believes Sweden has a better film industry as a result of the changes.

A key measure that is that twice as many films are screening in leading international festivals “compared to when there were only white men” making features."In every country, there are a lot of flops and they are usually made by men": Anna Serner, chief executive of the ...

“In every country, there are a lot of flops and they are usually made by men”: Anna Serner, chief executive of the Swedish Film Institute. Photo: Peter Rae

“I don’t believe it’s because women are better directors,” Serner says. “There has been a lack of female perspective on stories so [these films] feel unique and original and that’s what everyone is looking for.”

With a system of government funding that produces 20 to 30 films a year, Sweden was much better placed to improve the lot for women in film than Hollywood, where private funding dominates.

But Serner still ran into opposition – even hate – from both sides of the gender equation.

Some men were upset because it became harder to get funding; women both because they wanted to be considered “directors” rather than “women directors” and because their funding applications were still being rejected.

“We say 90 per cent ‘no’ and that goes for women and men so there were lot of women believing ‘now it’s my turn’ and they got rejected,” Serner says. “That, of course, made them really unhappy.”

But she believes most are now proud to be part of a movement giving better opportunities for women.

“We reflect ourselves through cinema,” she says. “In every country, there are a lot of flops and they are usually made by men so maybe it’s time to let the women try.”

Under the new guidelines, the proportion of women directing features jumped from an average of 26 per cent to 39 per cent in 2013, 44 per cent in 2014, 38 per cent in 2015 then 64 per cent last year.

And while it is predicted to be just 40 per cent this year, Serner believes the change is permanent.

“It goes up and down and so it should because it’s quality that’s the real target,” she says.

It’s apparent that women are not telling different stories to men; just approaching them from different angles.

“There aren’t any female stories in my opinion but there are female perspectives,” Serner says.

Among the new directing talents emerging in Sweden are Anna Odell​ (The Reunion), Gabriela Pichler​ (Eat Sleep Die),  Amanda Kernell​ (Sami Blood) and Lisa Langseth​ (Pure).

From among their number, Serner is hoping there could be another Bergman, Hallstrom or Moodysson.

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