How Netflix empowers underrepresented filmmakers across Asia Pacific
For one girl, “independence” was a word seen in graffiti on the walls of her hometown in Southern Thailand, but she got into trouble in school for writing it in her notebook. For another filmmaker in Vietnam, funeral rites become complicated for a family when the only son is transitioning to a woman.
These stories would have remained untold if left to the usual model of filmmaking where funding tends to be monopolised by bigger players.
“Because these good stories don't have the benefit of financial support, industry support and resources, they don't get the chance to become great stories,” says Sydney-based queer writer Miranda Aguilar.
To support more inclusive and diverse storytelling, Netflix created the Netflix Fund for Creative Equity last year. In the first 12 months, the streamer worked with 25 organisations globally.
The programmes in Asia Pacific helped to create new opportunities for underrepresented filmmakers who might not normally get the chance to take part in short film camps, script writing workshops or film competitions. They include:
• A short film workshop in Thailand in December 2021 that welcomed young, aspiring filmmakers from all over the country;
• Take Ten, an ongoing program in India that aims to celebrate diversity in storytelling and ensure that the projects have a predominantly women-led cast and crew;
• Cinema Beauty in Vietnam, a film competition where shortlisted winners include stories that represented ethnic minorities and the LGBTQ+ community;
• A program with Co-Curious in Australia that takes place this year and supports new writers from diverse and underrepresented backgrounds to further develop their writing skills.
“The way that you make a difference is to have different perspectives and different ways of presenting, and the only way you do that is when you have a diversity of filmmakers and creatives behind the scenes,” adds Aguilar, who is participating in the Co-Curious programme.
While building up diversity both in front of and behind the camera takes time and sustained effort, it can sometimes start by gathering a group of young people across socio-economic status to learn together. When Purin Pictures organised the short film camp in Thailand, it aimed to level the playing field by selecting filmmakers from outside Bangkok.
“You don't build a filmmaker in 10 days, but you can inspire a filmmaker in 10 days,” said Aditya Assarat, co-director, Purin Pictures. “What we really saw (at the camp) was the spark in people's eyes. Everybody really felt empowered, and everybody felt equal to each other.”