Women pushing into the big picture

| Agence France-Presse 10 Sep 2018

Hollywood stars were among nearly 200 men and women who rallied outside the Toronto Film Festival headquarters to call for equal pay and respect for women in film.

Demonstrators shouted "Women rock" as they marched amid growing calls in the industry for more women-led storylines and meaty roles - and in the wake of the MeToo movement spawned by the Harvey Weinstein scandal.

Addressing the crowd, Thelma and Louise star Geena Davis spoke of the need to make an early start to eliminate gender bias. For example, she said, there was a need to ensure there are more female characters in children's television shows and movies.

Davis said she began pushing for this because she felt a need for role models for her own daughter.

She asked: "Why are we teaching kids something that we try so hard to get rid of later on? Why are we training them to have unconscious gender bias from the beginning when we know it's so hard to get rid of?"

Actresses Amanda Brugel (Room, Handmaid's Tale) and Mia Kirshner, who co-founded the AfterMeToo campaign, were also on hand to call for people in the film industry to support female voices.

"It's about having everyone stand together and recognize a culture that's unhealthy and toxic and doesn't help anyone," said Callum Middleton, a 23-year-old camerawoman from Vancouver. "When we all watch out for each other and create an environment that's respectful for everyone, everyone can have a safe workplace."

Earlier, Toronto International Film Festival boss Cameron Bailey underlined the event's commitment to gender parity.

The proportion of films by women screened there this year was 35 percent - up slightly from 2017. There were also 136 female leads.

The festival also set up a hotline for staff, volunteers, guests and audience members, posting signs at venues to highlight a zero tolerance for harassment or abuse.

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