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Telenet refutes idea that films with more women are less popular

20:01 04/11/2019

4 November is Unequal Pay Day, the symbolic day from which women “work for free” for the rest of the year in comparison to the salaries of their male counterparts. Digital TV provider Telenet decided to do a little research into one claim often made by the entertainment industry as to why women are still paid less than men.

Male actors, directors and producers are famously paid more – often much more – than women doing the same work. The #metoo phenomenon pointed out this major discrepancy in the film industry in particular.

“This situation is often justified with the assumption that movies starring women make less money,” said Telenet in a statement. “But is that really the case? We took a look at viewer figures of the 200 most popular films and series of the last 12 months to find out.”

What they discovered on their own movie and series packages and pay-per-view service is that the opposite was true. “In the top 10 most popular movies and series, 35% of the roles were portrayed by women,” the provider said. “Among the least popular, only 29% of roles were played by women.”

It did notice, however, that a majority of roles do still go to men. In the top 200 titles, 34% of roles were played by women. The good news is that, looking at Flemish movies and TV series alone, 37% of the roles are going to women.

“With titles like De Dag (The Day), Studio TararaGent WestChaussée d’AmourTabula Rasa and Clan, it appears obvious that there is a slow evolution in better representation for women in the Flemish TV landscape,” it said.

De Dag (pictured above) was a hit TV series last year, with 12 episodes covering a single day in which thieves take hostages in a neighbourhood bank. “There has been a wave of up-and-coming female talent over the last few years,” says Julie Mahieu, who co-wrote De Dag. “I think that #metoo had a lot to do with the realisation that things had to change. But even before then, women were working on this issue. We needed change, and we’re still not there yet.”

Telenet’s research into its 200 most popular titles showed that only one in five producers was a woman and only 13% of scriptwriters were women. The worst statistic was in the director’s role: Only 4% of the directors of the 200 movies and series were women.

According to Mahieu, it’s about changing an ingrained mindset. In De Dag, 46% of the roles were played by women. “We made an effort to create a balance, even among the bit parts,” she says. “The neutral ‘journalist’ or ‘forensic expert’, who in most scripts is a man by default – we made them women. In the starring roles as well as the smaller parts, we created a balance.”

Local producers are starting to get on board with the trend, according to Sofie Peeters of Flemish production house Shelter. “It was really a man’s world here before,” she says, “but I can now report with some pride that we have created an atmosphere that values men and women equally. They have the same opportunities and – with attention paid to experience and job – are paid equally. We would not find it acceptable to pay a women less, even if she were to take less risks when negotiating pay.”

This article first appeared in Flanders Today

Written by Flanders Today