As an Indian woman growing up in the US, I didn’t see anyone on screen that looked like me until Parminder Nagra joined ER in 2003. But when I started reading scripts as a young TV executive, I didn’t let that precedent get in my way: in my mind, the hero of the story was always a brown girl, with hopes and aspirations, strengths and talents just like her white counterparts. Years later I would finally make that dream a reality with Mindy Kaling in The Mindy Project – and in doing so, I suspect millions of Indian girls got to see someone like themselves on screen for the first time.
Today, I’m proud to work at a company that has brought many female firsts to life in front of and behind the camera: the first Indigenous Mexican Academy Award actress nominee; the first Korean female stand-up special; the first Black woman to direct a superhero movie; and the first transgender woman to ink an overall deal with a studio. But we’re still only just getting started. It’s why I am more determined than ever to ensure that the next generation of female storytellers has more opportunities than the women who came before them.
Last week we announced a new Netflix Fund for Creative Equity, which will invest $20 million a year for the next five years in building more inclusive pipelines behind the camera. Today, I am excited to announce that the first $5 million will go towards programs that help identify, train and provide work placements for up-and-coming women talent around the world. We will do so through partnerships with third parties and bespoke Netflix programs to support a range of initiatives – from workshops to train aspiring women writers and producers on how best to pitch their creative vision, to shadowing opportunities on productions which enable women to gain valuable first hand experience with a literal seat at the table.
Some of the initial programs for women we will be supporting around the world include:
- Collectif 50/50, a year-long, national mentorship program for aspiring women creatives of various ages and backgrounds in France, including a series of masterclasses from 30 industry leaders.
- Into the Wild, a one-year mentorship program for young female filmmakers from film schools across Germany, including a script writing camp and a final pitch at well-known German festivals including Filmfestival Munich and the Max Ophüls-Festival.
- Women in Post, a new eight-month program that builds on the Netflix and Canadian Academy Directors Program for Women, will provide mentorship and training within post-production to women creatives from across Canada.
- Narrative Short Film Incubator for Women of Color, an incubator program by the National Association of Latino Independent Producers for Latinx women and women of color to produce short film projects through dedicated funding, production support and mentorship.
As we look ahead to more exciting firsts thanks to our Netflix Fund for Creative Equity, we also want to celebrate some of the many women who paved the way in entertainment this International Women’s Day:
Experience has taught me that great stories are universal: they can come from anywhere, be created by anyone, and be loved by everyone – what matters is that they are told authentically. Now we need to ensure that traditionally disadvantaged voices – in this case women – get the same chances to be heard in our industry as men have been for generations.