HER SPACE – HER STORY – HER SCREEN a feminist lecture performance PART I


“HER SPACE HER STORY HER SCREEN” is a performance lecture series by Tatjana Turanskyj, a writer-director-producer and Co-Founder of the german organization Pro Quota Film

This lecture series is about how to bring gender equality and diversity into the old AND the new film and media industries – and why this is so important. In this special lecture I am talking about the work and ideas of my organization PRO QUOTE FILM.

Hello, thank you very much for inviting me here today as a representative of Pro Quote Film. My name is Tatjana Turanskyj, I am a writer-director. Pro Quote FILM is an initiative directed against sexism to promote gender equality in the film and TV industries. We started in 2013 – just the female directors – and now our initiative currently represents more than 1300 female professionals. We are very different from other networking organs – we don ́t do networking – we are genuine politic – we want a law, we want to change an unequal system, we want to change the way of storytelling, we were to change the whole pictures and We want to do this through a quota!

In my 25minutes speech, I will show how we built up the organization, how it all started and what strategy we chose, what worked, what failed, about the successes we had so far. Before I talk about how we work, I like to show you some facts & figures and give you a few impressions of the status quo of the German Film and TV-industry right now! Actually, all this information we have so far is an output by the work of Pro Quota Film.


Imagine a female director, a female producer, scriptwriter, an actress and a female cinematographer in Germany. What do you think they all have in common?
They got less work to do, they got less money for the same work as their male colleges and they got less budgets for their work. Actresses disappear from the screen at the age of 35. The lack of female professionals behind the camera is mirrored in the stories we watch on screen: unchecked stereotypes, sexism, cliches, racism.

– 95% of German cinema and TV-films and TV-shows are funded with public money. – Women are always at a disadvantage when being awarded commissions or funding. – 90% of all public film and TV funding is being awarded to our male colleagues.
– (producers or and directors)
– The gender pay gap in the film industry is about 73%.

What does these facts mean for our society? We have no gender equality in the society. And it is not only the film industry that has this problem. Almost all industries have these problems. These are general structures that are a part of our society. It is so important tounderstand and analyze what kind of system is working behind these figures. It ́s not just there by nature! You will see, that it ́s about structure, it ́s about power, it ́s about a culture. The consequences of these structures are very big in film, because it is a democratic issue as well. Why? Because the lack of female professionals behind the camera is mirrored in the pictures and stories we see on screen. The perspectives of women, their experiences and stories just don ́t exist. And this starts at the very beginning in children TV! What do we let our young children girls and boys see and take part of? This is what children see, when they watch TV or movies:

– mostly men explore the world, in fiction films the hero is mostly male and in cartoons 8 from 9 characters are described as male by voice or and behavior.

– and in Cartoons just for girls they see themselves as tiny, slim, sexy little women.

But it ́s not just about representation – we also have to ask what kind of cultural impact is reflected within films, which stereotypes are reproduced, how reality is constructed. When these figures came out last year it was discussed in TV and in the newspaper. Oh my god, where does this come from? In the field of gender and organization studies, that have been going on for 25 to 30 years now, there is already done a lot of research. And a lot of knowledge why it is like this. A lot of knowledge about the processes behind these facts and figures. Pro Quota Film has learnt a lot from these researchers while doing and working as gender activists.


I like to come to the point where the pro quote movement started. We stand on the shoulders of the “female film workers” in the 70 they wanted the same. Since this time nothing has changed. After 40 years we began to reflect the gender issues in the film industry again. It all began with a review of a journalist about the film funding in 2013. She just shows how little the film funding was for women. We couldn’t believe this.

So, some of us met in living rooms and kitchen. We talked. We start talking to each other about our work – money, jobs, reputation. The whole shame issues. We set off with asense of not being appreciated as artists, not getting as much work as male colleagues, and often seeing our careers stagnate while male counterparts overtake us for no obvious reason. This was our impression – we’ve so far not mentioned discrimination – an impression, which would seem to need corroboration. Numbers don’t lie.

In the view back, the first question was: How to prove discrimination? Or to go a step behind – to ask the question is it discrimination? All of us thought: this is just an individual level! We learnt: it ́s all about structures. We began collecting evidence and compiling our own statistics in 2014. For several nights we counted the number of female directors in TV and Film analyzed how funding was awarded, work was given, how many female students were graduated from film schools, we phoned our colleagues and told them to phone other colleagues so that we have the number of female directors.
We saw: wow!

We found out that 89% of all TV Films are made by men and just 11% by women.
Only about 15% of films in cinema are being made by women directors.
BUT we also found out: This is outrageous, given that 44% of TV and cinema school graduates are female.

Until this time no such official statistics. In the view back, it was a good point to start talking about the labor situation of female professional directors! We just wanted to show “Hello, we exist here as female directors, but we are not allowed to work!” 2014 we made big press conference and went public with our figures. How to change a system? Now the interesting part started.

How to change a system. What happened after the press conference was very strange:
Nobody wanted to believe that these figures existed! Everybody was shocked, and no-one wanted to be responsible that these figures existed or wanted to see that there is a structure and processes behind. But as I said before all this is not a black box.
It is not a mystery. This is our culture. Let ́s face it!

And this was what leading industry decisionmakers said, to explain the lack of work for female directors and to analyze the figures:


All these “explanations” have been put forward to highly experienced female directors with long and proven track records in the film and TV industries.

But we have to look closer to these “explanations” and why do people still argue in this way? The most responsible people in the industry is not very educated when they talk about gender. They have deep-seated prejudices against women, and populist conceptions on their side. “women and men are different by nature” – don ́t blame them, they don’t know any better, this such a deep-seated idea in our western culture!

And also, the belief exists among our elitist and bourgeois society that art originates per se, regardless of class, social background and gender – a blissful ignorance of privilege as a fact. Let us hence examine the film and TV industries more closely. There is inherent structural sexism here, that rests on a long tradition.
Of course, this sexism is veiled, camouflaging behind neutral labels such as performance and high quality, we have all heard the dictum, quality will pervade. As women don’t occur, it seems their work has no appreciable quality, or their performance just isn’t strong enough. It’s a delusion, of course, but it demonstrates how superiority and hegemony are constructed.

The exclusion of women in this day and age seems weird, given that the past century is gone, when the discrimination of women was official and legal. So, let ́s have a look on their arguments why gender equality in CULTURE is just not possible by quotas: What do you think?

because it is just quality what leads the decision makers. because of the freedom of art. because culture is made by “nature”.

We listened to these arguments and we saw the need of a big debate about gender inequality and it ́s reasons. We became a group of “gender statistician”. That means we operate with relevant facts and evidences in order to prove and discover abuses in the film industry. Our demands are based on researches which proves discrimination of female professionals. And we learnt a lot: about our culture – about the concept of inclusion and exclusion, about the power of statistics, how to read them and how to work with them. Efforts to achieve gender equality are often met by arguments and explanations as to why it simply isn’t possible. As Pro Quote Film we believe that efforts can be made at a range of different levels. Our strategy is therefore to meet every argument with an action. Each challenge with a constructive suggestion.

A quota for women directors
– parity in all committees and juries
– gender monitoring
– an official gender research about work and money in the German TV and film industry.

I want to give you one example for our strategy: The biggest Challenge against the Quota came from the TV-Producers/editors. “There are very few competent female filmmakers and the quality of the films might sink.”
No, we disagree. We know that there are plenty of competent women making film. However, those women are not visible enough.

We made a directors Poster and sent it to all decision makers in the German TV- Stations and to the film founder.
– we invited always the main responsible TV-Boss to our Berlinale-panels and confronted them with our facts and figures.

We talked to all fe/male TV-Producers/inhouse in informal rounds “Ritterinnen der Tafelrunde” to talk about the gender situation in the TV-Station and about their “quality fears” we did this because unfortunately the female producers have the biggest prejudices against female directors

We organized a “speed dating” with TV-Producers and Female directors.
– These actions were made over 4 years now and there is good exchange now between Pro quote Film and the TV-Producers.

As I said we have made some remarkable achievements and have yielded visible results.
We became a voice what is heart: and this has changed so far. I bring up the most important topics.<

National TV-Broadcaster have set a 20% target for female directors.
One TV Broadcaster Studio Hamburg TV has now a 50% Quota for their TV-Shows.
The boss is a fan of Pro Quota Film.

The other big National TV-Broadcaster ZDF has decided on a catalog of measures, an 8 points plan: Public gender monitoring / annual increase in the number of women directors / for each fictional project directors must be proposed / so that CVs can be judged more objectively, family time should be made visible in the CVs / individual support for childcare on set / support programs for junior female directors.

The legal framework for film funding has been revised to include a general paragraph on gender parity and equal institutional representation. The German national film funding institution FFA is now indeed filling its boards and committees with an equal share of women and men (starting with its executive board right through to the funding award juries).

Our biggest success is the professional data material, the official study from the national film funding institution FFA and the two big “national” TV-Chanel ARD and ZDF*: official gender research about work and money in the German TV and film industry.
This study shows how the structural disadvantages for women stifle their creative potential. Here you see how many females are working and here you see how many female film workers are trained.

The word potential is very gendered. Researchers found out: Woman are evaluated based on what they already have a accomplished. Men are evaluated based on what they will accomplish in the future. It also clearly shows how women are underrepresented not only as directors, but also in all other creative key positions.

Risk aversion and a lack of creative courage at all levels of decision making;
– a preference for familiar and well proven formats.
– Stereotypical perceptions and criteria are applied during the appraisal of people and project proposals;
– career options are determined by male-dominated connotations.

So, that’s it: Discrimination is proven – this was our biggest success.

It is very important to bring your ideas and thoughts under the crowd. So, every year we did a campaign on the Berlinale with a different topic. We always had a little tent – “the media bubble with a glass ceiling” and a panel at the Berlinale and other German film festivals. Every year we focused on exactly the topics where people are afraid of. It was us who brought the facts and figures, it was us who talked about discrimination, it was us who talked about the situation of women before and behind the camera. We became influencer the debate, no- one was writing about this topic without asking us, we became experts, since 2014 we have organized, and the members have spoken on round about 50 Panels, we have given more.

Four years of hard work talking to politicians, funding boards, people in public service Broadcasting chiefs and funding agents the awareness of the imbalance has emerged. No one would say It ́s the women ́s fault. Some might think this, but they wouldn ́t speak out loud.

And we the activist also have changed: we know now: It is not on an individual level. This is about structure! What does that mean: Of course, we all have our individual experiences, both men and woman in the film industry, but if we want to work with change, we have to look at the structure level, the pattern in society.

Structures can restrict individual action, but the can also be challenged. They are not to be taken for granted. These are structures and they are reproduced in every day actions. They are performed. by men, by women, by us, every day. And it is so important to understand this!

It ́s not the women who have to lean in the system – the system has to be changed! A mandatory quota would provide an instant remedy. The quota is blind. All it does is provide access to existing resources and it create diversity.
The quota is the catalyst for a change in attitude.
The quota can provide a quick and easy remedy.
The quota is the only effective way of effecting long overdue progress.

After 4 years working with some successes we also know, that there is a lot of resistance – active resistance – we still have to fight the biggest enemy: the unconscious bias, the “women and men” are different by nature argument. But we have to take this discussion. It is important to be prepared.

Now it ́s all out there – we have achieved a lot
Now we demand, the people in charge must take action.

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