25th Annual European Film Awards

Labour Party

25th European Film AwardsCongratulations to Helen Mirren on the achievement in world cinema award presented to her at the 25th annual European Film Awards in Malta on Saturday.

After the ceremony, whilst talking to the Guardian, Ms Mirren spoke about the UK film industry’s lack of focus on the European market, instead putting its efforts into the United States. “I think we have the great misfortune in Britain of speaking American. We’re always looking over there to sell our movies. And the brilliance of European film is that they can’t do that because Americans won’t watch movies with subtitles… So a [European] film has to be spectacularly successful to be shown in America.”

The point being that throughout Europe, film makes don’t try to tailor their films to the US market because they will never be successful.  Unfortunately, this may not be the case in the UK.  This is very strange as Europe is the biggest market for British cinema.  As Mirren said that night; “In a weird way it’s [sharing a language with the US] kind of paralysed us. The best movies [we make] are the truly authentic British movies, without looking at the American market – by Ken Loach, by Andrea Arnold. They look the other way; they see themselves as European film-makers.”

The European film awards are administered in Berlin and were founded 25 years ago by the director Wim Wenders as an alternative to the Oscars. In his opening address, Wenders advocated greater investment in European cinema as a cure for the economic and identity crises from which he felt the continent was suffering. “With cinema we can rightfully own and convey the European dream.”

There is perhaps a more pragmatic reason for investing in European films as well.  The creative industries are now a significant part of the European economy, especially in major European cities like London.  Many countries, including the UK already have state funded investment in film, but we could do more.  You can go anywhere in the EU and find cinemas dominated by films originating from Hollywood.  This means fewer opportunities for European films to make money, and more importantly, fewer chances for EU citizens to see them.

It’s time we thought seriously about how we can help films originating from within the EU get greater distribution.  We have a rich and varied cinema industry in Europe, we should be doing more to help promote it.

Sign the Petition for Equal Representation of Women in TV drama

Labour Party

Following on from the recent event in the European Parliament on the representation of women in TV and film, the Vice-President of Equity UK, Jean Rogers, has sent me an online petition which I would urge all of you to sign.  You will be in good company as it has already been signed by Julie Walters, Phil Davis, David Soul, and Helen Mirren, amongst others, and  has around 7,000 signatories in total. 

The petition is addressed to the major UK television channels, including the BBC, ITV, and Channel 4, and calls on them to take measures to redress the gender imbalance on UK screens.  Currently, although half the TV-watching public is female, only 36.5% of characters in TV drama are female.  What’s more, while men over the age of 45 are frequently seen in leading roles, women of a similar age often seem to disappear off the screen.

Please would you follow the link here and let the TV companies know that very many of us want  equal representation of women on TV.

Female actresses face up hill struggle against male executives

Labour Party

The film industry was blasted last week by veteran actresses Juliet Stevenson and Bridget Jones’ diary star Gemma Jones who said male executives only cast ‘nubile and beautiful young women’.

Actors of their age are only offered ‘mother roles’, they claimed and it is having a devastating impact on mature female talent.

I cannot think of another industry that embraces such an ageist attitude or indeed where it is accepted practice to discriminate against older women so overtly.

Britain is legislated up to the hilt against employers who would consider using ageist policies within their work environment, you are (quite rightly in my view), not even allowed to ask a persons age within an application for a new job. Yet it has become accepted practice in the acting world in a way it wouldn’t be anywhere else.

Today I participated in an event hosted by the International Federation of Actors (FIA) which explored gender equality in the acting world. The President of the FIA, Agnete Haaland, opened the conference, alongside Andrea Gautier from the Spanish Ministry of Culture. Gautier focused on the need to take into greater consideration the gender perspective in the media across Europe, and discussed in particular an important conference on the 31st May in Madrid, in which experts got together to debate this issue. She pointed out that gender steroeotyping in TV, film and advertising and the underrepresentation of women in the media consolidate narrow gender roles, thus restricting the room for manoeuvre and life opportunities for women and girls, but also for men and boys.

The picture is bleak for so many women because the executives are male and looking for young actresses. It is extraordinary that executives ignore or neglect to acknowledge the wealth of knowledge and life experience older actresses bring to roles.

The problem has become so grave that Stevenson and Jones said that this is prompting mature women to go under the knife.

Only two days ago we acknowledged the hugely talented actress Julie Walters who was nominated twice in the same category for a Bafta for her role playing the feisty politician Mo Mowlam and in another role playing a lady who ended her life at the Dignitas clinic.

Britain is bursting with talented older women such as Walters, Gemma Jones, Maureen Lipman, Annette Crosbie, Meera Syal, Juliet Stevenson Dame Judi Dench and of course Helen Mirren, I could go on and on and on. I applaud both Stevenson and Jones for speaking out in such strong terms against the male dominated culture that these women face and which in any other industry would simply not be tolerated. British actors really must work hard to fight this antiquated male executive way of thinking and I will certainly offer my support.