All Women, All The Time
"Men dominate creative filmmaking in Australia, and always have. Male writers and directors are responsible for more than 80% of the feature films made since the 1970s... the time has come to dig deeper and ask the tough questions about our ostensibly unbiased, meritocratic system.”
- Monica Davidson, Knocking on a Locked Door 2014
HANDBAG did not start out as an exclusively female story or crew. In fact, when the idea was first born in 2005 the film was supposed to be an equal collaboration between our director, Monica Davidson, and her best friend (and fellow filmmaker) Peter Dominic Ryan. We really wanted to look at both sides of the Handbag friendship equally. Tragically, Peter took his own life in April 2007 and Monica decided to shelve the film indefinitely.
When Monica decided to take up the movie again in 2012, she sought out a producer who had achieved great success for her previous films about the GLBTQI community, Phoebe Hart. Together, Monica and Phoebe embarked on reviving the story and changing the angle to feature more on the women's story - the 'hags' behind the 'fags'. Some of our shoots involved male crew, gorgeous guys who have supported the film from the start, but then something happened...
In 2013 Monica started her Masters degree at the Australian Film, Television and Radio School, and decided to focus her thesis on the lack of equity for women filmmakers in Australia. Her findings were alarming - more than 80% of feature films are creatively led and crewed by men. Given that she and Phoebe were both women, telling a story about women, they decided to do what they could to rectify that imbalance on their own film.
As a result, Handbag is now a very rare thing indeed - a female story, told almost exclusively by a female creative team and crew. All of our creative leaders are women, including our director, producer, writers, editor, key cinematographers, sound designers, animators, artists, music supervisors and technical crew. Our only male head of department is James Gallagher, our wonderful composer who has been a part of the film since it began in 2004. Of our assistant helpers, over 75% are women. This shouldn't be so rare, but it is, and we are incredibly proud to have done our bit for gender equity in Australia. We hope it is the beginning of much, much more.