Having started the Toronto International Film Festival’s (TIFF) Share Her Journey project to empower and promote female filmmakers – and getting it halfway to its 2020 goal of raising $3 million –
Daniel Pillai got an exclusive with this powerhouse of a woman, who is ready to spread her wings further after 18 years with TIFF.
Daniel Pillai: What inspired the start of Share Her Journey?
maxine bailey: Share Her Journey came from inequality in the film industry across all departments — from actors to directors, screenwriters to grips, editors to producers, and beyond. We felt it was time to step up and help support real change for women in film, and to affect change there needs to be a paradigm shift at an infrastructural level. We realized that TIFF’s role should be at a grassroot level through our talent development initiatives and outwardly through our programming. The primary objective is to increase participation, skills, and opportunities for women behind and in front of the camera.
Pillai: This year TIFF saw a rally being organized on Festival Street. What was the response from the public and industry?
bailey: This year TIFF hosted a rally during the Toronto International Film Festival in order to bring our film community and TIFF’s public audience together and highlight the movement. The amazing speakers talked about the challenges the industry faces, but also highlighted the tremendous opportunity we all have now to be part of something that will have film, real impact on the future of film art and storytelling — how our lives are portrayed on screen. As ambassadors for Share Her Journey, these intelligent, smart, determined women have been championing women’s equality on a global scale but we all have a part to play — anything from a small donation to Share Her Journey, to actually going out and seeing the work of women filmmakers in local cinemas.
Pillai: TIFF has made a five-year commitment to increasing participation, skills, and opportunities for women behind and in front of the camera. How is the program supported year-round outside of TIFF?
bailey: Inclusion, accessibility, and diversity are at the heart of what we do at TIFF. We have a holistic view of inclusivity and it underpins activities across all aspects of our organization. As one of the leading film organizations in the world we are not only a drawcard for outstanding talent, both emerging and established, across filmmaking, production,
Pillai: “We will prioritize gender parity with a focus on mentorship, skills development, media literacy, and activity for young people.” How has the program been able to do this so far, and what’s in store for the future?
bailey: TIFF has provided access to mentorship, skills development, media literacy to over 100 women through Share Her Journey funding. These opportunities have included (but not been limited to) complimentary access for women to events and forums (including, Canada’s Top Ten and TIFF Kids Industry Forums, Breakfast at TIFF), access to business networking, workshops, influential speakers and industry experts and specialized delegate resources, talent scholarships, fellowships, and special Share Her Journey filmmaking awards through the TIFFxInstagram Film Festival which provided monetary support and mentorship from ambassador Amma Asante. We look forward to growing our programs in the future and to use additional funding to continue to promote learning opportunities for women in film.
Pillai: The Share Her Journey program came under the direction of Piers Handling the CEO of TIFF. He’s ending a great 30+ year run with the festival. What were his contribution to the project and his support of it?
bailey: Piers has always been a supporter of strong voices in film and dedicated to championing new voices in film. None of this would have been possible without Piers’ support and enthusiasm for the initiative.
Pillai: How can men actively help women create change and support the Share Her Journey program with TIFF?
bailey: Equality in the film industry is hugely important and goes beyond TIFF’s work and female creators. Men can, and should, be encouraged to donate to the campaign, consider hiring women in all departments. We can’t do it alone, and certainly not without the support of men.
Pillai: What are some of the stories that have been told, heard, shared through the campaign?
bailey: Women who have been impacted by this campaign have shared incredible stories with us about how this has already impacted their development and how much it has meant to their respective careers. Yet, more significant are the stories we’ll be hearing in five, ten, 15 years from now. We are eagerly awaiting women directors who have been supported by this movement. This is only the beginning. We have more stories to hear and women have more stories to tell. And I for one can’t wait to get to see them.