Seeking more equality in world of film-making

Writer, director and producer Yvonne Coughlan wants to see more equality in the world of film-making - especially on the film festival circuit, writes COLETTE SHERIDAN
Seeking more equality in world of film-making

Award winning filmmaker Yvonne Coughlan Picture. John Allen

KINSALE-BASED Yvonne Coughlan is delighted that her short silent film, An Étude in Art, garnered awards on the international film festival circuit.

But she has called out festivals for having a ‘Best Director’ award and a ‘Best Female Director’ award as this implies “a lack of equality between the male and female awards”.

These categories imply “that the male award is the main award and the female award is a secondary off-shoot from this main award. To change it reflects a more egalitarian vision for the status of the sexes.”

Yvonne, of RSVP (Red Sandstone Varied Productions), wrote to the various festivals concerned and is pleased that the GONA Film Awards in India and the GIMFA Gralha International Film Festival in Brazil agreed to make changes to reflect the equality of the sexes.

“It’s important to our society in general, and especially to all women working in this male-dominated film-making world,” she said.

Yvonne points out that if there’s just one director award, judged on the quality of the work, then a ‘Best Director’ award is appropriate.

“But I think festivals are recognising that there is an imbalance in the film business and that it’s not equally populated by men and women.

“There is a very low level female population in the film industry. So having a male and a female award allows for the fact that there is going to be a percentage of males always winning.”

This, she feels, justifies having two different categories based on gender.

Having been reared by “a very strong mother who has run a pub for most of her life, I learned that I’m as equal as any man. That was my lesson in life.

“I’m not someone who feels I’m in a sexist battle or a feminist battle. I never felt I had to fight that fight in a way. But if I see inequality, I’m certainly not shy about speaking up.”

Yvonne feels that the film festivals were “maybe unaware” of their sexism.

“The GONA Film Awards wrote back to me immediately and thanked me for bringing it to their attention.”

While the film industry can be tough for women, Yvonne says that because of her personality, “as someone who is easily able to stand my ground,” she is in a relatively lucky position.

She added: “I definitely have spoken to women who feel they’re always having to stand up for themselves to be heard, in a way that they don’t feel their male counterparts have to do.

Award winning filmmaker Yvonne Coughlan.
Award winning filmmaker Yvonne Coughlan.

“A lot of women speak about how they get spoken over at meetings. Their ideas are often uttered by a man minutes after the woman expresses them.”

There is, says Yvonne , a need to point this out by saying ‘you’re not listening. I need you to listen right now’.

“It depends on your personality. I know people who are very quiet and shy and have the best ideas you’re ever going to hear.

“On a social level, we have to realise that not everyone is outspoken and extroverted . Sometimes, introverts are incredibly intelligent and need to be given an opportunity to be heard,” she said.

Asked if she has experienced degrading incidents that the #MeToo movement has been highlighting, Yvonne says that on a personal level, she hasn’t been a victim of predatory men in the film industry.

“But I certainly wouldn’t rule out anyone else’s experiences. On a first hand basis, I haven’t had that experience. The only thing that vaguely came close to it was at an almost all male board meeting that I was at in a film context. Someone made an inappropriate comment. It was humorous on one level but denigrating from another perspective.

“I didn’t take offence but just felt it was inappropriate. The MD wrote to me after the meeting apologising. People can be unaware and ignorant.”

The pandemic has put a stop to much of RSVP’s film-making plans so the company is concentrating on getting its work out into the world through international film festivals where An Étude in Art won several awards.

Directed by Yvonne, it was created as part of the musical theatre show, A Night on the Town, staged at the Everyman in October, 2018, in aid of the Samaritans. This silent movie, accompanied by concert pianist, Santa Ignace, unfolded as part of the stage show’s storyline.

The film has been re-edited by David Leen and a soundtrack added, for film festivals, as a stand-alone piece of work. The frustrations involved in the creation of art is the all-encompassing theme.

Normally, Yvonne would have gone to the international festivals where the film has been screening over the past year.

“It’s part of what I want to do in life - see the rest of the world while working and going to places where people I’ve connected with are based. I don’t want to go on holidays.”

Yvonne recently also worked on a music video for a song, entitled Embrace The World that was written by an autistic musician, Kevin Walsh. The video with 12 singers was launched last year.

As well as this, Yvonne has written an unproduced short film script, Regret. The short film script, which has won awards, is a response to an idea of Yvonne’s friend and colleague, Maurice Supple. It’s an emotional father/son story. It’s hoped that shooting the film will begin in early 2022.

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