Aine is the Senior Fundraising Manager at White Ribbon
There are power brokers on every set across Canada. They are mostly men, and they trade in favours, connections and promises. In their hands, they hold the careers of thousands of talented men and women looking for that breakout writing, acting or directing credit.
These young talents are hungry, driven, resilient people. They commit to a life of precarious employment, long hours and intense public scrutiny. They face rejection after rejection because the pool is huge and the opportunities are few. My sister, a filmmaker writing on the TIFF blog, puts it like this:
“No email a filmmaker wants to get begins with, ‘thank you for submitting your project for consideration.’ What follows is a series of confusingly positive phrases such as: ‘difficult decision’, ‘volume of submissions’, ‘serious consideration’, and ‘kindest regards.’ What I hear, however, other than my own stomach dropping, is usually a self-flagellating narrative involving, ‘why did you think you’d get that anyways?’ Or ‘I bet X got it, they get everything,’ and sometimes, ‘I should get that certificate in social media management, just in case.’
Power brokers depend on the exclusivity of the club of filmmakers and actors.They know that they reside at the top of a pyramid built upon the insecurity and self-doubt of the makers and creators whose vision we, Canadians, pay billions every year to consume. They hold the keys to the club house and they can ask anything of those who want in. They can even collect that fee and never open the door.
Women are the most vulnerable in this scenario. Actress Kelly McGee recently said on CBC’s Q, “We have our fair share of men in this [Canadian] industry at the calibre of Weinstein...Women listening are going to fill in the blanks. Am I gonna tank my career right now in naming them?”
Indigenous women and women of colour face even more of a challenge. Cara Gee remarked on the same episode of Q:
“Navigating this industry as an indigenous woman ...I am considered less valuable when I’m walking into those rooms. I don’t have the privilege to speak about what fights I’m fighting”.
But you know who does have that privilege? The men who work alongside these power brokers; the men whose careers are well-established; the men who serve on the boards of the companies that benefit most from an industry that often hypersexualizes women and glorifies violent men; the men who review the financing requests for productions where known predators are in charge. Power and privilege rests squarely on the shoulders of these decision makers.
Canada lost a legendary creative soul last month. Until the very end of his far-too-short life, Gord Downie used his white, cis-gendered, heteromasculinity as a platform to move us all beyond our narrow visions of ourselves. In 2003, he performed at a White Ribbon benefit concert. In his last public appearances he wore a patch of moosehide, the symbol of the Moosehide Campaign - a campaign to inspire men to speak out about violence against Indigenous women and girls. He took it upon himself to represent a way forward and a vision of what it looks like when privilege meets inequality head on.
For those of you mourning Gord’s passing, those of you with the power to carry on his legacy of taking our heads in his hands and turning our gaze towards injustice, don’t close your eyes. Don’t avert your gaze. Your silence earns you nothing and your voice is everything this challenge is missing.