Inclusivity in the New BFA in Film Production at UWindsor
The new BFA in Film Production has inclusivity at the forefront of the program’s design, said professor and filmmaker Nick Hector.
The program is a consequence of students’ needs and the growth the Canadian film industry has experienced recently. The goal is to provide students with the theoretical, artistic, craft, technology, and business skills to prosper in this vibrant field. Beyond that, the degree is one of few in Canada that addresses professional practice and advocates inclusivity!
“It is crucial to teach students about contemporary industry issues such as the respectful workplace, inclusivity, gender issues in film, and the ethical dimensions of filmmaking,” said Hector.
Women’s representation is one of the best-known problems in film schools and industry, and it has to do with misconceptions about filmmaking. Just as a reference, The Oscars, the most popular event in cinema, reported that 65 of the 229 individual nominees from 2022’s crop of nominated films are women, or 28.3%, the lowest percentage in three years. In 2021, women represented 32.3% of nominations, and in 2020, 31.1%. This year’s percentage represents a decline in women’s representation and an impact on the emerging careers of female filmmakers.
How does the new Film Production program at UWindsor encourage its female students to prosper in their future careers?
“The film faculty stress the importance of building a professional network, finding mentors, joining professional associations and unions and knowing a film worker’s rights. We also make it clear that we are always here for the students and offer career counselling long after they have graduated,” said Hector.
“When students have access to faculty in these ways, everyone thrives,” said Department Head of Communication, Media, and Film Johanna Frank. “Finding ways to show you believe in and support the students can have a huge impact.”
Movements like #MeToo and Black Lives Matter (BLM) helped reshape the idea that cinema is only for men, and both had an impact on the design of the syllabus of this new degree.
“The industry was reimagining itself. It was an opportune moment for us to respond to these important social and industry issues,” said Professor Hector.
The way the film faculty approached the issue is another crucial factor. Hector has worked in the Canadian documentary field for three decades, and he has always enjoyed gender parity and feminist values in the workplace and classroom. He ensures that his students celebrate the work of notable Canadian filmmakers and have the opportunity to meet women who provide valuable role models and networking opportunities for undergraduates.
“I am a life-long feminist; it’s all I’ve ever known. My mother went out to work, and I had a stay-at-home dad. So, I’ve always looked at the world through a feminist prism.”
“My experience has been wonderful. I love my film professors, and I find my classes very educational and enlightening,” said first-year film student Ashley Piva. “Women offer special perspectives in filmmaking that men don’t offer, and since there’s an equality effort in place to give women more opportunity, it seems like it would be easier now than it was in the past to succeed.”
Piva says, from conversations she has had with her peers, female students have reported feeling comfortable in the program, and they feel like it was the perfect fit for them.
There is still a long way to go. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Canada’s top film financier, Telefilm Canada, recently achieved official gender parity in key creative roles (directing, writing, and producing). However, there are still some forms of oppression in the film industry that hopefully get corrected as time goes on. “We must continue to work hard to have a fully inclusive film industry for BIPOC and LGBTQ2s+ filmmakers,” said Hector. “Our filmmakers and our films must be representative of our community.” Fortunately, the new film program at UWindsor is making a big step forward by teaching students about a respectful workplace.