Recent headlines prove that being a woman in the film industry comes with its own set of challenges and barriers. It is clear that the Share Her Journey campaign, TIFF’s commitment to achieving gender parity both behind and in front of the camera, could not have been timelier. The campaign is speaking to people. As awareness continues to grow in regard to the under-representation of female-identifying and non-binary people, members of minority groups, the LGBTQ community in film and pop culture, these conversations remain an essential part of working toward progress and resolution. We are empowering countless women tell their stories, and encouraging our audiences to share in the journeys of others who have an understanding of similar experiences. We are thrilled to say that SHJ has already surpassed its $500K target for 2017 and is on track to burst through glass ceilings everywhere.
TIFF is lucky to have filmmakers Ann Marie Fleming and Erika Olde as Ambassadors for our campaign. Their creativity, passion, drive, and vital perspective into the film industry is leading the way for the next generation of female filmmakers to tell their stories and provide audiences with outstanding narratives and role models.
Even though she was not encouraged to pursue the arts (as a girl and an immigrant), animator Ann Marie Fleming has had films at the Festival since 1989. After she decided to pursue her artistic passions, she attended Emily Carr University of Art and Design where she was anything but the star student. She was asked to drop out and make room for “real artists,” but she didn’t let this faze her. “I was in school to learn.”
Fleming’s art reflects her Asian heritage and her suburban upbringing. “I realized I wanted to acknowledge my experience with work that expressed my point of view that I did not see in the dominant media. My grandma died during my first year of art school, and that began a lifetime of trying to express something of the universal in the personal.”
Producer Erika Olde took a different road to filmmaking. She did not attend art or film school, but instead grew up moving around a lot due to her father’s job. “Movies became my constant touchstones … the architects of my entertainment and escapism.”
Olde, like Fleming, pushed against the naysayers and ignored the voices telling her what her movie was about and who her audience should be. She stuck with her gut and she urges all filmmakers and storytellers to do the same. “Choose your own fairytale and walk your own path. Decide what’s right for you, not what people expect of you.”
Olde is proud to say that her purpose in this industry has been to champion female storytellers. Her production company, Black Bicycle Entertainment, has developed an identity working with very strong female filmmakers on films like Susanna White’s Woman Walks Ahead with Jessica Chastain and Home Again, the first film from Hallie Meyers-Shyer, the daughter of titan Nancy Meyers.
Both Fleming and Olde strive to give women more opportunities in a typically male-dominated industry; Olde even started IRIS-IN, a programme for female filmmakers at the Ghetto Film School in Los Angeles. Fleming strongly urges audiences to support this programme: “Through the Share Her Journey campaign, we can put a global spotlight on women in film and animation. We need to take advantage of it, wave our flags, and WATCH FILMS BY WOMEN.” TIFF could not have dreamed of having two such incredible Ambassadors.