Female representation in the film industry and Amy Darling

In 2012, the Women in Film and Television Advocacy Committee of Vancouver did an in-depth study of Telefilm Canada’s feature films. In the study, the Advocacy Committee found that in Western Canada only 35% of films were produced by women.

Naddine Madell-Morgan, Writer, Producer and Director at Calgary company, Quirkgirl Productions, says “having women behind the camera, let’s people see things differently,” “in my experience, having women fosters a safer environment in which to tell a story.”

Poster courtesy of Media Darling. 

Poster courtesy of Media Darling. 

Female representation in the film industry has historically been difficult to find, but Calgary’s film community has grown together to create a more inclusive scene for women both in front of and behind the camera. One such producer is Calgary native, Amy Darling.

After spending the last two years as executive producer on the film Violent, she was able to get the film screened at – most notably – Cannes and the Toronto International Film Festival, as well as countless others. Violent has been critically acclaimed and was named Best Canadian Film at the Vancouver International Film Festival.

While Darling has drawn international attention to Calgary’s independent film scene withViolent, she is constantly contributing to the growth and improvement of the culture of film in her hometown. With the first screening of Violent in Calgary happening at Knox United Church to a sold-out crowd, before moving to individual screening at local art house theatre, The Globe Cinema.

An influencer in Calgary’s male dominated film scene, Darling has shown herself to be an invaluable support to other women in film, participating in Femme Wave’s “Woman In Film Panel” in 2015 as well as holding the position of Vice President of the Board of Directors of the Calgary Underground Film Festival.

To her, being a producer is more than job, she takes brings a more personal element to the job by using her creativity to influence the product, “some people are creative producers, you could say I’m one of those,” she further identifies her job as one that, “has a hand or will consult about the script, or about casting choices, or sometimes about filming locations that are more about look or feel than about budget.”

Her role within Violent was more specific though, for Violent she entered the project post-production. What she did was take a “hyper-low-budget film – a labor of love” and, “get in front of the right people so the film ended up being shown at Cannes.” Throughout this process, she was still working within the oil and gas industry, a “necessary evil” in order to focus on projects that she loved.

“I had taken a contract in oil and gas because I really have enjoyed – historically, throughout my career, having a balance between film and between jobs that pay well. So that you don’t have to take projects that you don’t love. Llife is too short.”

Photo courtesy of Amy Darling.

Photo courtesy of Amy Darling.

To maintain that balance she worked twice as hard, “I started sweating and I didn’t stop until we got the news. I’d be having conversations in quiet corners, or under conference room tables, and they actually thought I was getting into corporate espionage because I was being so secretive about it but you can’t say anything. I was just rolling around like inspector gadget all the time.”

While Violent was not an official selection at Cannes, it was screened for industry professionals. “The committee was very frank with us. They made us understand why they didn’t pick the film, and it wasn’t because they didn’t love it, or it didn’t deserve to be there. They just thought that putting young directors on the red carpet like that is a really sensitive issue, because the critics are extremely vicious at Cannes,” she continued to explain that, “this film is loved and that when this film was put it together everyone was all very young, they were all under 25 when they did it. They were extremely vulnerable and so I appreciated that, and they said we’ll talk about the next one.”

She’s much less anxious about the future. “I see now, so many people think that every chance you have is, this one chance, when really you have an entire lifetime of opportunities.” Darling has had to compete with a lifetime of internalized oppression to get where she is, “it’s a process as a woman of getting to that place of ‘why not me?’”

“I am certainly humbled and my love for this industry has not changed, but in the two years that followed since this journey began, I absolutely feel 180 degrees different. I’m just really proud of the effort I’ve put through and I’m absolutely thankful and fortunate, but I’m no longer shy about acknowledging the inhuman amount of work that it’s taken for me to get here.”

There’s a way that women are often treated by men within the film industry, “some guys have said some pretty shitty things to me that might have taken me out ten years ago, or five years ago but I really don’t believe in gatekeepers anymore and I really don’t believe in being polite anymore when I’m not impressed with what’s going on in front of me.”

Calgary’s film community has grown exponentially the past few years. New programs such as the Herland mentorship program, a program through CSIF to encourage female mentorships, is just one of the ways for new female film-makers to get involved in Calgary.

Darling ends with this piece of advice, “at a certain point you have to dig in and acknowledge that you need to take a risk and go where you need to go. And I’m extremely fortunate that the risk paid off.”