(Left to right) Arash Labaf, Behrouz Vossoughi and Monica Bellucci in Rhino Season, 2012.
The Co-production Effect: How Diverse Teams Can Make Better Films
by Mariam Habib, Kaveh Daneshmand
One of FCC’s main goals is to foster co-productions between Farsi filmmakers and industry leaders around the world. This allows us to integrate Farsi cinema within international markets and carve a space for Farsi films and filmmakers in the global indie film community. But beyond industry integration, co-productions have a distinct advantage in the way they tell stories. The diverse interaction of culture and language fosters a higher level of creativity, which can translate into more interesting content. In short, diverse teams can make better films.
This unique advantage is recognized by Western filmmakers and film companies as well. Given the emergence of discourse on diversity and representation in the North American film industry, some organizations have made deliberate efforts to improve inclusion and increase representation in their teams. This year, female-directed films accounted for 40% of the films at Sundance. Of the 112 films, 36% were directed by a person of color, and 13% by a member of LGBTQ community.
Forough Farrokhzad during the shooting of The House is Black (Khane Syah Ast, 1962)
Women have had a strong presence in Farsi cinema since the industry came to international recognition. The region has also made stable advancements in ethnic diversity, transforming from a monopoly of artists from main cities, to one that amplifies the voices of minorities. In recent years, several significant names began to emerge from the Kurdish, Turkish and other minorities residing in Iran. Filmmakers like Bahman Ghobadi brought international attention to the Farsi cinema, securing a stable position in the Farsi film industry and diversifying the market in the last decade. Still, there is much room for improvements to be made in diversity in indie films both in the Farsi film industry and around the world.
“Rhino Season” Press Conference – 2012 Toronto International Film Festival.
Source: Ghetty images (Jemal Countess)
Part of the problem comes down to the bare numbers. In North America for example, there are considerably more white men working in the film industry than people of other genders and ethnicities. This translates into more white men being hired to work on paid film sets. Moreover, applicants with representation are largely white and male as well, which means producers who hire through agencies do not have access to a diverse roster of candidates. This creates an additional barrier, as fewer people of color and female professionals have agency support to connect them to jobs.
The problem is exacerbated when it comes to indie filmmaking. Limited budgets mean that filmmakers must find talented people for a lower fee. This further shrinks the pool of applicants. While larger productions have the option of hiring crew of equal levels of talent but diverse identities, the same diversity simply isn’t an option when the pool of applicants is so limited.
How have filmmakers overcome this challenge?
The endeavor to promote diversity begins with a deliberate decision to make diversity a priority in one’s project. Indie filmmakers dedicate the time and effort to look for the diverse talent that do not have immediate access to popular recruitment channels. One approach to hiring a diverse crew is to ensure that representation is prioritized in the recruitment of department heads. Having department heads from diverse backgrounds puts more decision-making power in the hands of those that are likely more attuned to finding diverse talent who may otherwise be overlooked or unseen.
Tehran: A City of Love, 2019. Co-production between Iran, Netherlands and UK
Do Diverse Teams Make Better Films?
Diversity and inclusion are important end goals for moral and ethical reasons. However, for filmmakers the issue raises another interesting question: how can diverse teams make better films? Building diverse teams is not the final outcome in consideration here. Co-productions already have the benefit of being made by a diverse group of people. We are more interested in how this value can be leveraged to create better quality films.
One important observation is that while diverse teams are better at generating more creative ideas, they are not necessarily better at implementing them. Co-productions can facilitate better implementation of ideas through strong leadership and cohesion. This ensures that the creative ideas that are born out of the interaction of different viewpoints are successfully integrated and implemented. At FCC, we recognize that supporting Farsi cinema must extend beyond connecting film professionals around the world to one another. We aim to provide resources and learning opportunities to emerging Farsi filmmakers through educational workshops, seminars and panel discussions where minority filmmakers not only connect to industry professionals, but also develop the skills and understanding to successfully turn the benefits of diversified teams into creative ingenuity.