Why Documentary?

Documentaries enable us to share experiences, question our world and imagine alternatives.

Unlike news reportage and social media, long-form documentary takes the time to explore its subject matter and immerse the audience fully in the situation of others. In the current political climate, the production of great documentaries is essential.

The world of documentary is also alive and resurgent right now. Significant investment from online channels has brought documentary to a whole new audience, and what is being made is more vibrant, exciting and more relevant than ever.

Why Women?

Since the first film was shown, stories have been presented to us through a male lens.

Our perception of the world around us has been set in the context of the male mind. Currently in Scotland, 30% of creative documentaries* are directed by women. With a gender balance in documentary filmmaking, women will be more visible and their voices amplified through film.  We also widen our definition of what it means to be a woman, stimulate informed debate and remember the women who have gone before us. Our understanding of ourselves and our society is enriched by this new perspective.

*Our definition of creative documentaries is director-led/authored, standalone documentaries, 59+ minutes in length, directed or co-directed by a woman. Observational or hybrid creative documentaries rather than constructed, factual entertainment, news, social experiments, live theatre, music or sport, or presenter-led programmes.

Why SDI?

The term ‘documentary’ was first coined in the 1920’s by a Scot – John Grierson. He and his sisters, Ruby and Marion Grierson, went on to create ground-breaking films and practices which defined the genre. Scotland therefore has a rich history of documentary filmmaking.

Scottish Documentary Institute, established in 2004, is Scotland’s only dedicated documentary talent development organisation. We specialise in documentary training, production and distribution and are ideally placed to deliver this Campaign.

SDI‘s mission is to connect Scotland’s documentary filmmakers to the international industry scene and to develop and grow an inclusive community of filmmakers who reflect the diversity of people living and working in Scotland. It has been very successful in both respects, but women continue to experience specific barriers to progression in the industry, which require a special focus and a tailored approach from organisations like SDI. We launched the 50/50+ Women Direct campaign in 2019, to help women overcome these barriers.

Learn more about SDI

How will we achieve our aim?

We are going to prioritise our efforts in three key areas. We are fundraising for these with a view to launching them in 2020, and we need your help.

  • We have some amazing talent that can take the next step and we’re going to do our best to help them. Because women support and champion other women, our first priority was to establish a new mentoring and development programme where some of Scotland’s best female filmmakers could pass on their knowledge to emerging talent. We’re thrilled to announce that this programme, called New Voices, launched in July 2020 and is very successful in building the confidence, contacts and industry knowledge of our female documentary filmmakers.  Some of the outcomes for the first group of nine New Voices participants include: 

    • 10 meetings lined up with commissioners and funders
    • 5 successful funding proposals
    • 5 new TV commissions
    • 4 participants accepted onto other training courses
    • 4 participants were working on new feature-length documentaries
    • And being on New Voices either ‘improved’ or ‘substantially improved’ the films they were working on

    We also launched the Women Direct(ory) as a means of raising the visibility of the women in our industry and connecting them with paid work opportunities.  

    Access to funding is also key for women. Unpredictable income and low film budgets stop women training, meeting caring costs and getting their films made. Our next priority is to establish a new grant fund for women making documentaries.  

  • We know young women are voracious producers and consumers of media. Through a wider outreach programme – community workshops, careers fairs and talks – we will attract double the amount of women, especially from marginalised backgrounds, to join us to learn about the art and business of documentary and to make stories that need to be told.

  • Through a targeted and co-ordinated PR and marketing campaign we’ll work with the industry to address its bias, and we will raise the profile of Scottish Documentary makers across the world. It’s time to be proud of the great work we do and the causes we bring to life.

    This work will get us to 50% of Scottish docs directed by women by 2025. Charitable donations will make the difference and our ambition is to raise £1m to fund our 5 year programme to change this industry.

Why is the campaign called 50|50+ and who is included in this campaign?

Scottish Documentary Institute is committed to, and champions, inclusion and diversity.

The Campaign is called 50|50+ Women Direct because the ‘50+’ that we want to achieve includes cis women, trans women, genderqueer, femme/feminine-identifying, and non-binary filmmakers.