Interview with Annika Hellstrom

Interview with Annika Hellstrom, from Doris Film, Sweden

Why did you start Doris Film and when?

I started Doris Film in 1999 as a network of female filmmakers. I was really tired of the way in which women were being portrayed in films and on tv. It was as though their characters had no development and no opinions! Our network met once a month to go deeper into the question. The main aim was to create a supportive environment where we could exchange information, just like those spaces where there were networks of men, especially in the film industry.

We set down one rule at the start of the meetings – no complaining or criticizing. We also then defined the Doris Manifesto, which I’ll describe later.

Do you feel happy with the progress made in Sweden?

Yes. There has been so much progress in Sweden, which we couldn’t have foreseen. We never dreamt that the situation would become so good! In the Swedish Film Institute there is now 50/50 representation of male/female producers, directors and writers. In 1993 women only accounted for 10-15% directors and we’re now delighted that that has changed so quickly.

What is the Doris manifesto and how does it work?

While we were brainstorming about why women had so little support in the industry, why they weren’t applying for funding etc. we wondered what we could do to bring about change. Then we attended an event at the Göteborg Film Festival where men were explaining the Danish Dogma manifesto. We wondered why there weren’t more women on stage saying what they thought, hence the birth of the idea behind the Doris Manifesto.

The manifesto is as follows:
- all scripts to be written by women;
- all scripts to have a female leading character;
- all primary decision-making positions must be held by women;
- all original film music to be composed by women.

This manifesto really inspired other filmmakers and a public radio satatio adopted it. A competition was then launched and over 3 years we received over 700 scripts.

How important are power structures in gender equality imbalance?

The lack of gender equality in society is about the structure we all live in and are a part of. We need to get used to different ways of communicating. It is important that women realize the power structure relations in which they live and it is up to women to train themselves on these power structures. Negotiating in the film industry this is a vital aspect.

Tell me about your “Genius” award, how does it work?

Doris has generated short films and a feature following the criteria of its manifesto, but we noticed that women could sometimes hold each other down, which is not such a flattering insight. They aren’t trained in complementing each other. So we decided that one way of continuing the Doris mindset would be to award a yearly Doris award to congratulate one woman for being a genius. We have been running this project for 5 years and it is going really well…

What tips does Doris give for combating gender inequality in the industry?

Networking is the best way. There will always be those people who don’t want to share. It is important that women open up and work together. Nor is networking just about making friends, but finding people with similar interest groups. This is how male networks have naturally been organized.

For more information on Doris Film see:

EWA is looking forward to developing more joint initiatives with this important network.