New database compiles and connects women of colour content creators

To coincide with Women’s History Month, Canadian non-profit CineFAM launched a networking database where women of colour in the media industry can connect and promote themselves. Dilshad Burman reports.

By Dilshad Burman

Women of colour (WOC) tend to be among the most underrepresented groups in the media industry, both on and off the screen and a Canadian nonprofit has been working to change that landscape since 2016.

CineFAM, founded by award-winning filmmaker Frances-Anne Solomon, champions women and non-binary people of colour in media through various initiatives, including an annual film festival, a short film challenge and a feature film incubator.

At the beginning of Women’s History Month on March 1, the organization added a much-needed resource to their roster of programs — the Women of Colour Content Creators Database. Funded by a grant from The Canada Council for the Arts, it is a networking platform for women of colour creatives to connect with each other as well as showcase their talents to potential clients or employers.

“We’re an underrepresented group and we wanted to make sure that we made our representation known,” said project manager Courtney Panchan. “We also know that in this current climate in the world, there’s a need for filmmakers of color and to bring a highlight to these Canadian women who might not have had the vehicle to do this for themselves.”

Panchan explains that the idea took shape while the group was looking for programming for their annual film festival and found it difficult to connect or reconnect with WOC creatives.

“It has been challenging to continue the communication and each year bring the same women back or find out about their projects or follow up with them,” she said. “So we thought to ourselves, while we were looking for all these filmmakers and these creators, why not put them all in one place and connect them with the world?”

How does the WOC Content Creators Database work?

Panchan worked alongside project coordinator Norah Kim from Ryerson University to build the platform. She says the concept is simple — they’re compiling an easily searchable and categorized list of WOC creatives so that those looking to assemble a film crew or hire a photographer and so on have a readily available pool of talent to choose from.

Each member creates a free profile that can include demo reels, samples, past work as well as a resume. The profile is a living document and can be updated with new work and other details on a continuous basis.

“The way that we created each profile is to give the women the opportunity to give us what they want to promote themselves with,” explained Panchan.

If a potential client, employer or collaborator wants to connect with someone in the database, CineFam will facilitate the request or they can connect directly through any contact information listed in the profile.

Panchan says there are no set criteria to join apart from having examples of your work and a desire to connect with other WOC creatives and promote yourself.

So far, the database has about 45 members. Panchan hopes the numbers will climb into the hundreds soon, saying that all creatives are welcome.

“We know there’s a lot of creators out there. We want to call out to not just filmmakers, but graphic designers, animators, et. al. We just want women who feel like they are underrepresented in the film industry to step forward and do this for themselves. And we really think that this will help them connect to their own community and with the rest of the film industry,” she said.

No more excuses to exclude WOC

Among the first batch of members is celebrated filmmaker and president of Hungry Eyes Media, Jennifer Holness.

Holness is the first Black women to win a Canadian Screen Award for writing and considered an elder and trailblazer in the industry.


Jennifer Holness, filmmaker and president of Hungry Eyes Media. Courtesy: Hungry Eyes Media.


She hopes this new resource will leave no excuse to overlook, ignore or exclude WOC in the business.

“One of the things that I think that people have said in the past is like, ‘oh, we don’t know where to find them. We would hire, but we don’t know who they are, where are they?'” she said. “Well this takes the mystery out of that for executives or … people looking for talent. It provides a conduit for this kind of support.”

A supportive space

Holness says she is thrilled to see and be a part of a long overdue hub dedicated to lifting up creative women of colour, who are among the least funded and supported in the industry.

“This database makes me really proud,” she said. “It’s signifies that there is a place, there’s [finally] a space where you can find women like myself, where we can get hired.”

She says community of this kind hasn’t historically been supported or funded in Canadian society in a way that brings people together.

“I believe part of the reason why Canada, which is known for diversity, but hasn’t actually delivered on the promise for the lived lives of most people that are diverse … is because it’s been more of a divide and conquer [policy],” she opines. “It’s one little person in their own community trying to do a little thing here or another person, off in their little community trying to do something there and not a cohesive coming together.”

She feels the fact that the database is seeking to bring community together means “we’re going to scaffold each other” as opposed to people working or struggling in isolation, often against each other.

“That is what we have to move away from. That’s historically how diverse people have actually not progressed to the heights that they are capable of,” she said.

A resource for hard numbers

Holness says not only will the database serve as a community building tool, but it will eventually serve to generate statistics about WOC working in the industry.

“Down the road, we will have the numbers. We could say, [for example] these 300 Black women or these 400 Asian women are working in this space. And last year 50 per cent of them were able to get work in these places,” she explained.

Those concrete numbers can then be put towards accountability in the industry as a whole and move the needle further toward inclusion and diversity.

“When we don’t have the resources [or data], you can’t actually help people. You can’t do the work that you want to do,” she said. “This database is a place and a space for funders to find us, for executives to find us, for us to find us and to work together. And the fact that I’m able to help usher that in, in any way, is terrific. It’s what’s been missing.”

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