Women constitute half the population, and yet stories about women, for women, and told by women are few and far between. But change often starts with a conversation. That’s why Prime Video recently released the second session of Maitri: Female First Collective, an endeavor to build a discourse around balanced female representation through modern storytelling. It’s a community where women from various sections of the media and entertainment industry come together to discuss their experiences, challenges and successes besides offering their perspective on fostering more participation of women in creative roles.
Women in HOD roles
The topics of discussion ranged from making the industry more inclusive for women by creating more opportunities to recognizing their contribution and building a safer work environment. Moderated by the creator and curator of Maitri, Smriti Kiran, the participants comprised Aparna Purohit, Creator – Maitri & Head of India Originals, Prime Video; Indhu VS, Writer & Director; Ratheena Plathottathil, Writer, Director & Producer; Elahe Hiptoola, Creator & Producer; Parvathy Thiruvothu, Actor & Director; Rima Kallingal, Actor, Producer & Performing Artist; Shreya Dev Dube, Filmmaker & Cinematographer and Neha Parti Matiyani, Cinematographer. Remember, women hold just 10% of head of department (HOD) positions across key divisions (production design, writing, editing, direction and cinematography), according to a recent study led by Ormax Media and Film Companion, and supported by Prime Video.
Creating a safe space
Parvathy Thiruvothu, an actor & director who started out in her teenage years, said that she faced a number of instances of bias—including condescending personal comments—that eat into one’s confidence. “It took years of unlearning for me to get over that and that is why I feel Maitri is important. It's somewhere I can talk to people like me, and they will understand and share of their life lessons,” said Thiruvothu.
Shreya Dev Dube, Filmmaker & Cinematographer, believes it’s important to create a safe space where both men and women are allowed to be vulnerable, feel comfortable to talk, share their thoughts and be part of the entire creative process. “I feel that in the world of cinema it may still be a little easy, because we have women bosses to create a space for us women, but in a lot of other aspects of the art and the creative world it will not be easy to create the sense of safety for women,” said Dube.
Smriti Kiran, creator and curator, Maitri said, “Maitri is a space we all wanted but didn’t have. It has been created to connect women working across the vast and varied Indian film industry, have honest conversations about challenges we face, try and find solutions to those problems and build opportunities that lead to a seismic shift in representation. It is that first step one hopes will lead to giant leaps.”
Prime Video’s DEI commitment
Prime Video is deeply committed towards promoting Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) within its content and productions, as well as with its partners in the creative community. With Maitri: Female First Collective, Prime Video aims to raise awareness of the pivotal role women play within the entertainment industry.
Making an impactful change takes time. However, it is not unachievable.
“To hear things like ‘we have women writers in our writers’ rooms’, or ‘our women characters have agency’ and ‘our content will definitely pass the Bechdel test’, in conversations with creators, for me, is a major step in the right direction. At Prime Video, we remain deeply committed to DEI. As the next step, we want to strive to have at least 30% women HODs across all our productions,” added Purohit.