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The Screening Room

'Bird's' film festival puts women first

Actress Drew Barrymore's directorial debut "Whip It" is one of the films showing at the festival.
Actress Drew Barrymore's directorial debut "Whip It" is one of the films showing at the festival.
  • The Bird's Eye View Film Festival promotes women in film
  • London-based fest brings together directors from Europe to Africa
  • UK premiere of actress Drew Barrymore's directorial debut "Whip It"
  • Festival director: " ... We need to support the women in the industry"

(CNN) -- 2010 has, so far, been a great year for women in film.

From Kathryn Bigelow's record-breaking "The Hurt Locker" to Lone Sherfig's BAFTA-winning "An Education," women seem to be thriving behind the camera.

But, these success stories are very much the exception in a male-dominated global industry.

Amy Mole and Rachel Millward are two women trying to change that: They are, respectively, the managing director and founder of the Birds' Eye View Film Festival which celebrates and promotes female filmmakers.

Bird's Eye View brings together female directors from Europe to Africa to participate in screenings and workshops. Mole hopes to inspire more young women to try their hand at directing and screenwriting -- long considered to be men's work.

Movies being screened include Drew Barrymore's "Whip It," Mia Hansen-Love's Cannes winner "The Father of My Children" and "Lourdes" by Jessica Hausner, a 2009 Venice Golden Lion nominee.

Here Mole talks to CNN's The Screening Room about the particular challenges facing women looking for their big break and how the festival hopes to help.

The Screening Room: What is the aim of the Bird's Eye View Film Festival?

Amy Mole: The festival is there to promote and showcase the best of women across the world. We bring over women from lots of different countries ... this year we have film makers from Kenya and from Spain, and South Africa as well as lots of other places.

TSR: What is the situation of women in the film industry and does this vary from country to country? What are the specific challenges women face in, for example, East Africa?

Bringing up children whilst being in the role of director is the biggest challenge
--Bird's Eye View Festival director

AM: The interesting thing about the role of the director as a woman in film is that it doesn't really change depending on which county you're in. The restrictions that exist around that role and the problems for women in that role exist everywhere.

TSR: What kinds of challenges do women in the film industry face?

AM: Knowing that the role of the director is erratic and the schedule is all over the place and very demanding, knowing that, it means that child rearing actually becomes a massive issue and being on location -- quite often for long periods of time -- makes it really, really limiting and makes it really, really hard to actually be a mom.

TSR: What is the single biggest challenge for a woman who wants to enter the industry?

AM: I think that bringing up children whilst being in the role of director is the biggest challenge and I think it's something that needs to be recognized, so ideally the industry will respond to that. I think it is a real challenge, and I think since early cinema it has become a very male dominated industry and we've had, sadly, reports of sexism on set which is a real worry. Obviously, those reports aren't commonplace ... Everyone needs to know that that's the case and we need to support the women in the industry.

TSR: What is the festival doing to promote women in film?

AM: We're launching two training labs, which are held at Bird's Eye View throughout the year. One of them is a screenwriting program called "She Writes," which is for screenwriters who are emerging in the industry. They follow a year long mentoring program, specifically on scripts that they're working on.

We're also launching another lab, which is an animation lab called "Reanimates," which is in partnership with WARP Films. Now, that project is about brining together screenwriters and animators. The process it follows is the same as "She Writes," so it's a mentoring program ... the result will be that two or three projects will be taken on the development slate of WARP Films.

TSR: Do you have any statistics about women in the industry?

AM: We know that in 2007 only seven percent of directors in the UK were women. This spiked up slightly in 2008 to 12 percent, but since the recession hit, we've had reports that it's gone down as much as 20 percent. Screenwriters aren't much better off either. In 2007, it was 12 percent, and it went up to 18 percent in 2008. But again, that's dipped as we've gone into the recession.

TSR: What are the most popular roles for women in the industry?

AM:; There's a lot of female editors and there's a lot of producers. We had an interesting chat with someone the other day, about women editors in early cinema and how editing was likened to sewing, which is why it was more permissible in the female domain. So, there's more female actresses and producers, but directors and screenwriters is where the real problem is.