Tag Archives: Jill Golick

Tracey Deer on improving gender balance in Canadian TV and film: “You have to be brave to change things”

After covering the Canadian television industry for five years, I assumed the gender balance was even. I know several female showrunners like Emily Andras (Wynonna Earp), Sarah Dodd (Cardinal: Blackfly Season), Jennica Harper (Jann), Catherine Reitman (Workin’ Moms) and Michelle Lovretta (Killjoys), many female writers and female directors. And, after the CBC announced they would ensure 50 per cent of directors on their projects would be female, I naively thought, “All good.”

I couldn’t have been more wrong.

A recent report by Women in View examined more than 5,000 contracts issued between 2014 and 2017 in television, and between 2015 and 2017 in film. The report has been tracking gender balance in Canada’s film and television industry, and the most recent uncovered some movement toward gender balance since the first study in 2012, but women of colour and Indigenous women remain woefully under-employed.

“There are still gaps and, sadly, it’s women who are making the change,” Women in View’s Board Chair Tracey Deer says. “Women showrunners are hiring women. We need our male colleagues to get on board as well and then I think we’re going to see some massive changes.” Deer, who most recently directed, co-created and co-executive produced Mohawk Girls, believes the industry is slow to change because it has been male-dominated for so long. Add to that the industry is a collaboration—when you find someone you work well with, you’ll hire them again—and it’s an uphill battle for women.

“I don’t fault [men] that,” Deer stresses. “However, it’s complicit, and part of this problem. We need to shake it up, expand our network and not keep working with the same people over and over again.” There is some good news: between 2014 and 2017, there was a jump in women filling 17 per cent of the jobs to 28 per cent. But just 1.81 per cent of contracts went to women of colour, and Indigenous women only .69 per cent.

In 2017, no directing, writing or cinematography roles in television went to Indigenous women. Of the 3,206 television contracts issued during the full four-year period, just 22 went to Indigenous women, and only 12 of 1,637 film contracts. Just .87 per cent of writing roles and 5 per cent of directing jobs went to women of colour.

“There are lots of us out there who are at the calibre that is needed to do the work,” Deer says. “We constantly want to be bringing women up. But to hire women isn’t inherently throwing a bone to women, it’s about doing your own project a greater good by bringing on the different perspective that women, specifically women of colour and Indigenous women. We all bring different perspectives to our work and that makes it richer, not poorer.”

She believes the major change needs to begin at the top, at the broadcast level and the funding agency level, with a mandate to have a certain number of women and men. The people are there, Deer says, and ready to work.

“I talk a lot about people being brave,” she says. “You have to be brave to change things. When it rests just on the individual to do the right thing and be brave, it’s a really scary thing. It has to happen across the board.”

You can find more information and reports on the Women in View website. 

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Ruby Skye jumps from online to TV

Ruby Skye P.I. is a detective series, but the show’s success is a Cinderella story. An independent project two seasons old, filmed on a shoestring budget and posted on the Internet garners wide acclaim. A third season is partially funded by the CBC, debuts online and then jumps to the network’s morning television schedule. That’s Ruby Skye‘s story, and it’s one borne out of frustration.

“I wasn’t able to tell the stories that I wanted to in the restricted, narrow focus that children’s television has at this moment,” creator Jill Golick says. “There wasn’t a mystery show on television. Nobody was looking at making show’s with girl leads. It was a way for me to tell the story that I wanted to tell.”

Ruby Skye P.I.‘s tale began in 2010 when the Independent Production Fund started offering funding for web series. Golick–after writing on such series as Sesame Street, Noddy, Shining Time Station and Instant Star–was dabbling in the digital realm and had pitched several ideas to the IPF; they backed seasons 1 and 2 of Ruby Skye. A chance conversation with CBC executives at a conference led to the public broadcaster acquiring the first two seasons–The Spam Scam and The Haunted Library–for their website and commissioning a third season, The Maltese Puppy, along with the IPF, Bell Fund, Shaw Rocket Fund and Canada Media Fund. Now Ruby’s Season 3 adventures are available on CBC television as of Oct. 4.

“CBC’s intention was always to make a web show and we didn’t start Ruby thinking, ‘Oh, this should be a TV series,'” Golick explains. “We started thinking when you’re talking to today’s youth you put it on the screen where they are.”

Golick and Julie Strassman (Full House, Sophie, Metropia) co-write Ruby Skye P.I., and this third instalment, The Maltese Puppy, is a fun one. Ruby (Madison Cheratow, Wingin’ It), the sassy, smart star of the series, takes over the dog-walking route run by her sister Hailey (Marlee Maslove, Hailey Hacks) when she comes upon a crime scene. A local charity has been robbed of precious toys and there are a number of suspects, including the charity’s founder, Colin Cumberbund (Seán Cullen). Plus, Ruby has somehow ended up with one extra dog at the end of her leashes–a Maltese–and she’s doesn’t know where the owner is. Each episode–clocking in around the five-minute mark–is packed with whip-smart dialogue, top-notch performances and a cliffhanger style that keeps you wanting more.

“When people find it on the Internet they blow through all the episodes all at once,” Golick says. “We have that pace that makes you want to keep consuming it like potato chips.”

Episodes of Ruby Skye P.I.: The Maltese Puppy can be seen during the Kids CBC! programming block starting Saturday, Oct. 4, or on the network’s web page.

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