Balancing act

There has apparently been little change over the past five years since the Film & Television Producers’ survey in 2009 revealed that out of 130 commercials directors in Sweden only six were women. And now the Swedish Association of Producers has been proactive in creating a campaign called “One of Three”. In each pitch between the advertising agency and the production company at least one of three treatments is to be by a female director. We talk with Henrik Eriksson, chairman of commercial producers, Swedish Film and TV Producers Association about the enterprising strategy.

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Is it too early to know if the initiative has had a positive impact?

It´s not too early, it became headline news in all national medias and we already see a different positive attitude in the business: among the female directors to actually make it; producers to believe and keep pushing for new talent and as a simple solution for agencies to be modern. Now with this simple way of thinking, we have given the agencies the tool to actually make a difference. It has also started an international discussion, but nothing happens overnight, it´s just a beginning.

Our perception of Sweden is very much a country that is at the forefront of social equality especially when it comes to sharing the domestic load, and the causes and effects of why there are few women directors has been widely debated in leading production industry countries for some years now. What do you think are the reasons why the discrepancy still remains?

Old habits. Sweden may be in the forefront but the industry is lagging behind on this matter. Sweden has been successful internationally and is at the same time influenced and affected by the demands internationally.

For our industry the agencies are responsible for the demand and at the same time having the power to make a change.

If most commercials are made by men, what are the implications for society as a whole? Do you feel the gender imbalance is reflected in the messages of the commercials?

Absolutely. 90-95% of all commercial films worldwide are made by men. Director Roy Andersson said the following about responsibility a few years back and is also right on target for our industry’s unbalanced problem: “Whether you are handling the means of artistic expression in the service of sales or totally independently, the activities have consequences. The works that are created are an expression of valuation of life. These expressions are a part of the material with which people create their image of the world.”


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Is there still a gender inertia whereby clients and agencies are reluctant to change and keep hiring the same safe male directors? Are men simply more comfortable collaborating together? Surely not!

It’s a question to all agencies to answer for every new project. Being brave, modern and to think different are key words for all of us, if half the talent is left outside it’s a pretty solid successful way to find new impacts out there to use.

More women are going through art and film schools, there are more women in agencies – why is it so few make it to the next level as directors? Is it the women who need to change their attitude? For instance should they learn how to fight to get their ideas and treatments through. A leading woman creative director once said that men tend to push their ideas relentlessly in an ego-charged environment while a woman tends to think twice about her work if it is criticised.

Commercial film production is a life style of short-term insecureness, hard competition together with a creative and financial challenge to become successful. The practical fact together with this imbalance we’re talking about, has unfortunately not attracted enough women. Also, with so much bad work to be directed for no good sake, men obviously say yes, maybe as you say, in the hope of creating something outstanding in their own egoistic artistic world more than for the final product. Needless to say again, it´s in the hands of the agencies to make this move!

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