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The future is more inclusive for Finnish film

(l to r) Taito Kawata, Max Malka and Reeta Ruotsalainen, the director, showrunner and writer of Netflix’s first Finnish series, Dance Brothers, which represents an inclusive, contemporary approach to storytelling.

Arsen Sarkisiants / Endemolshine Finland

As calls for gender equality and inclusivity resound worldwide, Finnish cinema is making commendable leaps in addressing these issues, writes Johanna Wartio-McEvoy.

The issue of gender equality and inclusivity has taken centre stage in the film industry in recent years, prompting a critical examination of its historical practices and the need for change.

Indeed, at Cannes 2023, director Justine Triet's win brought the total percentage of female Palme d'Or winners to a mere three per cent. Similarly, the Golden Bear at the Berlin Film Festival has been awarded to women in only eight per cent of cases.

The disparity in gender representation, both in terms of film awards and key roles behind the camera, is a stark reality that calls for action.

In the modern film landscape, inclusivity is no longer a mere buzzword; it's an essential aspect of storytelling. Audiences yearn for narratives that reflect the diverse spectrum of human experiences, transcending traditional Hollywood paradigms. Inclusivity in cinema is about more than just token representation; it's about crafting authentic stories that resonate with a global audience.

Enter artificial intelligence (AI), a powerful tool that has the potential to amplify the efforts of film-makers in promoting inclusivity. AI can facilitate diverse casting choices, analyse scripts for inclusivity, provide translation and accessibility features, assist in content generation and offer valuable insights into audience preferences, as well as generate entire audio-visual worlds of the stories. However, as we embrace this technological innovation, we must exercise caution to ensure AI remains a creative augmenter, not a content generator overriding human creativity and authenticity.

In the modern film landscape, inclusivity is no longer a mere buzzword

As a quite egalitarian Nordic country, Finland has a film industry with a gender gap that is not as dramatic in percentage terms as in other parts of the world, but there is still a lot to be done to achieve gender parity in all roles across the domestic film industry. The statistics underscore the need for systemic change and highlight the invaluable role of women's organisations, such as Women in Film and Television (WIFT Finland), a local chapter of the WIFTI, in advocating for gender equality and inclusivity for all.

A case in point is WIFT Finland’s pioneering equality tool for the audio-visual and film industry. Supported by the Finnish Film Foundation and in collaboration with key industry stakeholders like Finland’s national public broadcasting company YLE, this tool aims to provide practical guidance for promoting equality and inclusivity in film productions.

The equality tool allows teams to create project-specific equality and inclusivity plans in pre-production that align with legislative requirements mandating all employers to promote equality. The tool also enhances resilience, risk awareness and overall sustainability goals in production planning.

The opportunity that the fusion of AI technology and art presents is unprecedented for production companies to tell richer, more diverse stories that resonate with audiences worldwide. The development of the equality tool and the commitment to legal responsibilities provide a roadmap for a more inclusive and equitable future.

By addressing historical imbalances and fostering transparency, the industry can work towards ensuring that all voices are heard and represented on the silver screen, making Finnish cinema even more internationally renowned for its diverse and powerful storytelling.

Coming together for equality

WIFT Finland's equality tool will be launched during the autumn of 2023 and presented on 22–24 September at WIFTI Helsinki Summit 2023 - Facing the Future.

The international summit of female professionals in the film and television industry will bring together representatives from six continents to discuss the solutions for an equal and inclusive future and spur international collaboration.

The tool also sees WIFT Finland contributing to the research field by providing much-needed statistics on industry disparities. Aalto University’s European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) financed project Digital Creative Industries and Beyond will be the first research and development project in Finland to utilise the equality tool statistics. In the project and a PhD research, nested at ELO Film School Finland, an inclusive, socially sustainable and financially viable leadership model for script development and film and drama production processes will be developed.

Johanna Wartio-McEvoy
Member of the Board, Women in Film and Television WIFT Finland. PhD Researcher of Leadership in Film Industry, Aalto University