Does Stockholm have the answer to stamping out sexism in the film industry?

This article was produced November 2017 by The Local Client Studio and sponsored by Invest Stockholm.

Amid the continued fallout following sex abuse allegat-ions against Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein, there may be lessons to be learned from the work taking place in Stockholm to promote gender equality in the film industry.

Gender equality in the film industry is something of a hot topic these days after a wave of women came forward to accuse Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein of sexual assault.

The allegations set off a ripple effect, empowering other victims of historic abuse to come forward, both in Hollywood and elsewhere.

And Stockholm is no exception, with the ensuing #metoo campaign leading to revelations about inappropriate behaviour from several leading entertainment and media figures.

“I’ve met guys like Harvey Weinstein here,” admits Stockholm-based film producer Gila Bergqvist Ulfung.

But unlike many of her counterparts outside of Sweden, Gila felt empowered to push back against the stereotypical ‘alpha-male’ embodied by Weinstein, thanks in no small part to the emphasis on gender equality that is a cornerstone of Swedish society.

“I was lucky because I had a platform of my own, so I could say ‘Stop it, you’re making a fool of yourself!’”, she explains.

Now I’m always looking out for it and giving people the option to speak up.”

Gila is one of several women in the Swedish film industry who have built successful careers in the Stockholm region.

Recent statistics released by Filmregion Stockholm-Mälardalen (the Film region), the production center for film and film funds in the Stockholm region, confirm the considerable progress in the region when it comes to achieving equality in the industry.

We are a strong leader both nationally and internationally when it comes to female production.

Anette Mattsson, CEO of the Film region

The statistics, based on 20 productions co-produced through the Stockholm Film region network of investment companies in 2015-2016, show that well over half of the productions included a female scriptwriter, director, or producer.

In fact, a staggering 90 percent of the 20 productions included a female producer, while 75 percent had a female scriptwriter, and 65 percent had a female director. 

A snapshot of examples to come out of the region in this period include Den allvarsamma leken (The Serious Game) directed by Pernilla August, En underbar jävla jul (A Wonderful F***ing Christmas) directed by Helena Bergström, and Flickan, mamman, och demonerna (The Girl, The Mother, and The Demons) directed by Suzanne Osten and produced by Agneta J. Bergenstråhle.

Compare this to a report from San Diego State University that showed just 7 percent of all directors in 250 of Hollywood’s biggest productions were women. Among scriptwriters and producers the figures were only slightly better, at 13 percent and 24 percent respectively.

But it’s no coincidence that women are so well represented in Stockholm’s film industry.

The region has worked hard to foster a strong female filmmaking community. Anette explains that in an industry typically dominated by men, Filmregion Stockholm-Mälardalen has made a concerted effort to give women the opportunity to excel.

We wanted women to have the support of each other during a production, as well as developing a network for them to share experience and knowledge.

Anette Mattsson, CEO of the Film region

One innovative way the film region is tackling the issue is through a series of workshops aimed at strengthening the leadership skills of female producers. The workshops run over a year, with a consultant present for the ten sessions.

“We run a leadership programme for female producers called ‘The producer as a leader’”, explains Anette. “We wanted women to have the support of each other during a production, as well as developing a network for them to share experience and knowledge.”

She believes that the stronger the network of women in the industry, the better their chance at success.

Anette adds the film region also runs a scriptwriting workshop, and although it wasn’t specifically aimed at women it just so happened that more women signed up than men.

“We’ve been working with scriptwriter training programmes for many years. We didn’t set out for it to be a course for women, it just happened! Then we saw there was a need for it.

Gila, who runs production company Breidablick with her husband and works as an assistant professor of production for film and TV at Stockholm University of the Arts, previously took part in the “Producer as a leader” workshop.

Although she already has over two decades of experience in the industry, she found it invaluable for bolstering her professional network.

“Our group of 12 female producers have formed a network and are very supportive of each other. The workshop meant a lot to all of us, and shows how determined the film industry is to build up women in the industry.”

Gila confirms she has firsthand experience that Stockholm’s film industry is as gender equal as the Film region’s statistics suggest.

“I’ve always found there to be more women than men working on productions. I tend to work with a lot of female directors and scriptwriters, and there’s also a lot of women in the art department, photographers for example,” she says.

Furthermore, Gila is helping lay the foundations for a film industry free from sexual discrimination and abuse by creating an environment where women feel safe to speak up.

“Last year some of the female students raised that they felt some of the men on the external team had been quite belittling towards them,” she recalls.

“We were really happy they raised it, in my generation it wouldn’t have been brought up. As a result we’ve made it clear this behaviour isn’t acceptable.”

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