WeirAnderson.com believes in investing in Australian stories and Australian storytellers.
But why do stories matter? And more particularly, why do screen stories matter so much?
Deanne Weir is an active player in the Australian screen sector. A board member of Screen Australia for eight years until 2016, Deanne was instrumental in the development of its Gender Matters program and remains a member of its Gender Matters Taskforce. Passionate about the shared experience of stories in the cinema, Deanne is also Chair of the Sydney Film Festival.
This passion for screen stories is behind investments made by WeirAnderson.com in various Australian feature films, including I Used to Be Normal, Babyteeth, Miss Fisher & The Crypt of Tears and I Am Woman. Its newest project is a feature documentary by Sophie Mathison: a project on which Deanne is also a producer.
Humans have been telling stories since our earliest days: around campfires, in the town square, over the dinner table and in our churches, temples and mosques. It is through stories that we make sense of that which we cannot understand. These stories pass on our agreed version of history, they venerate people who society values and they issue warnings about behaviour we deem detrimental. These stories inform our culture, guide our values and regulate our conduct.
For most of history, these stories were only verbal, then two-dimensional as visual art, more recently as text, and now, three-dimensional, via film and video. With the explosion in video driven by television (and now ubiquitous broadband), whether high level drama made for the big or small screen, reality television or user-generated YouTube videos, screen stories are now the driving force of our cultural identities. That puts a lot of responsibility onto the screen sector and it means that decisions about which stories get told, who gets to tell them and how story participants are represented are foundational building blocks of our cultural understanding of who we are. But what if we are only telling part of our stories? And if we are telling them through a very limited lens?
Although women played an active role in the creation of the moving picture industry at the turn of the 20th century, soon after, the film and television sector came to be dominated by men. And this domination saw limits on the types of stories being told and the way women were represented - if indeed they had a presence at all.
If we accept the concept that “you can’t be what you can’t see”, this lack of representation can be seen as reinforcing gender stereotypes and assumptions about the roles women can - and should - play within our society. While the drive for gender equality has been taken up by progressive voices across society and the economy, it is a work in progress across the screen sector. Yet this is the sector that should be leading the charge on change, because it is the sector that is responsible for the cultural product shaping our dreams and shared conversations. The screen sector has a responsibility to tell stories that represent the perspectives, issues, hopes and dreams of our whole society.
And that has to start with the 51% who identify as female.