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Vimeo initiative to support women in film

The transactional VOD has partnered with Sundance Film Festival to invest in at least five projects by female creators this year.
January 21, 2016

Transactional VOD platform Vimeo has unveiled its new “Share the Screen” program, a new initiative aimed at promoting gender equality in Hollywood. Vimeo announced the program at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival Jan. 21.

As part of the initiative, Vimeo will invest in at least five original projects by female filmmakers in 2016, though it has not stated the exact amount of funding that it will invest.

What is clear, according to Sam Toles, VP of content acquisition and business development for the platform, told StreamDaily, is that creator community is heavily dominated by men.

“There are so many women trying to break into the space right now, and we want to help those projects reach an audience,” said Toles.

The news comes as Vimeo moves deeper into financing original productions. The company invested in three original video projects last year — a comedy special starring drag performer Roy Haylock (aka Bianca Del Rio), short film Darby Forever starring Saturday Night Live alumna Aidy Bryant (pictured) and a new season of the digital series The Outs.

Darby Forever is set to premiere Feb. 18, though it is available for pre-order on Vimeo now. Toles said Vimeo will use the premiere of the short to promote the 2016 initiative.

Through a partnership with Sundance Institute, a nonprofit dedicated to advancing the work of filmmakers, Vimeo will also provide educational seminars throughout the year at various Sundance workshops.

The discussion around the gender pay gap has been gaining traction in Hollywood aftter Academy Award-winning actor Jennifer Lawrence went public with her frustrations over being paid less than her male counterparts. Lawrence’s appearance in blockbusters such as The Hunger Games helped her become Hollywood’s second-highest paid actor (both male and female) last year (Lawrence earned $52 million to Robert Downey, Jr.’s $80 million). But, on a film-by-film basis, even the highest-profile women in Hollywood have been shown to take home less than men. The top 10 highest-earning male actors in Hollywood earned $431 million all together last year, while the top-10 women earned a total of $218 million.

It’s a trend that has been dubbed “the celluloid ceiling” in a recent report by San Diego State University.

The same study also found that female creators and showrunners are essential to establishing gender equality in Hollywood writing rooms. The study showed that television shows with at least one female creator had a writing staff of about 50% women, while shows without a female creator had less than 15% women on the writing staff.

It also found that last year, women accounted for only 42% of speaking roles on television, and 27% of behind-the-scenes roles.

Toles said VOD platforms have so much access to data and metrics that they should be aware of these struggles, since they have a better idea of who is uploading content and what content ultimately gets seen. Toles noted that Vimeo’s audience is essentially equally male and female, so the company needs to do a better job of promoting female-created content.

“You can see who’s uploading, and you can see who’s watching,” Toles said. “It’s about time we start to invest in content that reflects who our viewers are.”

The program also brings more quality films, and filmmakers, to Vimeo.

“Quite simply, the more creators we attract, the

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more content is created and consumed, (and) that benefits us,” said Toles. “It’s just a positive move all around.”

Darby Forever from Darby Forever on Vimeo.

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