Pictured: Lucy McNally and Emma Masters attended the Gender Matters Screen Australia announcement in Sydney.
The Australian media industry is always changing. Vast advances in technology have changed how content is distributed giving access to many that would usually miss out.
However, it seem this innovation halts when it comes to gender diversity in the stories being told by traditional media and who is telling them.
A recent study by Screen Australia showed women are still underrepresented in film and television production overall holding about 35 per cent. A small statistic in itself, heightened by the 1% decline from 1971, it appears we are going backwards.
Emma Masters is a journalist turned filmmaker who believes web series are pioneering in gender diversity on screen and behind the camera.
“Web series are offering women who want to make content and tell stories, new avenues to get their work out there,” says Masters.
“There seems to be a growing band of women who are making web series and online content and have had fabulous success – the Katering Show, Skitbox, Kacie Anning and her Fragments of Friday series, Newtown Girls,” she continued.
Based in the Northern Territory With more than 20 years’ experience in media and communications in Australia and overseas Masters now runs independent production company Weave Films, making her own films and collaborating with other filmmakers on their projects.
Whilst Masters says being taken on her merits and skills is important to her, gender plays an inevitable role.
“I think I would be denying part of myself to say that being a woman hasn’t influenced my experience as a content creator,” she said.
Working in the Northern Territory Masters often finds herself the only female working in hot physically demanding roles surrounded by males, which isn’t always easy.
“I’ve worked with some incredible men in my time and learned a lot, but being part of the minority does come with some challenges,” she said
Most recently her upcoming series News Junkies was recognised by Screen Australia’s Gender Matters: Brilliant Stories program that addresses gender imbalance in the screen industry.
Inspired by Masters and her co creators own experiences News Junkies follows a Wannabe hotshot journalist when she moves from Sydney’s Bondi Beach to a tabloid television newsroom in remote northern Australia.
“For journalists it is a place that offers the best training you can get – it’s sink or swim and the stories range from kooky to huge national yarns… There’s 1 woman to every two men which could be tradies, cowboys, miners or soldiers.” said Masters.
Gender Matters has made a commitment to supporting web series creators. It recently held a one-day workshop in Sydney that covered everything from writing and character development to considering creative ways of leveraging social platforms to build audience.
“Gender Matters is a real game changer,” said Masters.
“It is not only supporting women through funding to develop their projects, but it backs initiatives that set up mentoring, attachments, writers rooms and training and development. So it’s a holistic approach to addressing the imbalance,” she continued.
While displaying female stories told by women is important, Masters doesn’t need to actively incorporate women into her work, for her it comes naturally.
“I’m attracted to stories because they speak to me in some way. I don’t consciously follow a story or create one simply because it is female focused,” says Masters.
“I love that fact that we are seeing more women on screen, where they are the main protagonist and where their characters are complicated, nuanced and challenge moldy conventions,” she continued.
While body’s like Screen Australia are taking strides to address gender imbalance Masters says it is imperative we acknowledge diversity.
“To me diversity is key, we need a diversity of voices and stories in the world. Diversity is important and stories about women by women enrich the cultural landscape and offer different perspectives to seeing the world.”