24 July 2024 The Irish Film & Television Network
“We could really be a Poster Girl for Change”; Dr. Susan Liddy on her appointment as president of Women in Film and Television International
25 Nov 2022 : Nathan Griffin
Dr. Susan Liddy
Following the announcement earlier this week, Dr. Susan Liddy took some time to speak with IFTN about her announcement as president of Women in Film and Television International.

A formidable force for change in the Irish cultural sphere and a powerful voice for women filmmakers in Ireland. Dr. Susan Liddy has been chair of Women in Film and Television Ireland (WIFT Ireland) since 2018.

A lecturer in the Department of Media and Communications studies in MIC, her research interests include Irish film and the Irish film industry, gender issues in script development and the production process, female screenwriters and directors, and a female ‘voice’ and representation of older women in screen narratives.

Dr. Liddy also serves on the boards of the Irish Film Institute, the Writers Guild of Ireland and Raising Films Ireland, and is the founder and director of Catalyst International Film Festival, Limerick – a festival that prioritises films from and about underrepresented groups.

Women in Film & Television International (WIFT International) is a coalition of Women In Film chapters, as well as other women’s media organisations around the world. There are more than 50 WIFT and WIFT-partner chapters on six continents, that all work towards the common goal of gender balance in the media industry.

Speaking to IFTN, Dr. Liddy shared her surprise at the appointment and the honour she feels about taking on the role.

Yeah, it was an honour. To be honest with you, when it was first put to me, by the by the executive, I literally nearly fell off the chair. I hadn't expected as I thought they were contacting me to ask my advice.”

Liddy expressed her surprise at the news about Helene Granqvist stepping down from the role. Granqvist is a prize-winning producer, who has worked with film and television for more than 30 years across a wide range of fiction, documentary, and TV-series production, as well as producing innovative development, financing, script consulting labs and new training concepts for both young talents and experienced filmmakers. Since 2013, Granqvist has been President of WIFT Sweden and since 2018 also President of Women in Film & Television Int.

I was so shocked to hear about Helene Granqvist stepping down because she's a force of nature and has built Women in Film & Television International to what it is today, which is an international organization with chapters up all over the world.  I assumed that I was being contacted as maybe to ask who an appropriate person would be to put forward for the presidency. I certainly never in a million years, thought anybody would be considering me. So I really did have to pick myself up off the floor.”

Liddy and Granqvist will work together as co-directors for the coming months, until Liddy assumes the helm in August 2023. This arrangement is something that Liddy is particularly looking forward to.

I’m delighted that we will work together for the next couple of months. In a way, it's a transitional period, she will take me through all the things that I need to know and support me. Bit by bit then, she will step back until I go it alone from next August. So I'm delighted with that, I have to say, it's great to work with somebody of her stature, side by side for a while, I think it's really useful.”

Dr. Liddy took the opportunity to pay tribute to her colleagues at WIFT Ireland for their support in the decision to take on the new role.

I really want to pay tribute to my colleagues on the Board of WIFT Ireland and the contribution and support of Gemma Creagh, who's our Executive Administrator. We're a really tight team there. When the presidency was mooted, as I said, by the International Executive, I was honoured, I was also daunted by the prospect of taking on such an important leadership role. But I have to say I received literally unwavering encouragement from WIFT Ireland to take the position. People were delighted, they were supportive. And I really feel that walking into this together as a team is quite important

In addition to providing a platform for her to expand her work in gender equality, diversity, and inclusion on the international stage, Dr. Liddy also sees the role of president as an opportunity to spotlight the incredible work Ireland is doing as a filmmaking nation.

I also really think that it is an important moment to say that I want to do what I can to promote Irish film and the Irish screen industry, generally, wherever possible. I certainly want to do everything I can to both nationally and internationally promote the Irish industry and, and Irish filmmakers generally. Because I think we're in a really good place and I feel very proud to be an Irish woman and to see our industry growing over the last few years. There's been a lot of work towards equality and I think we have a long way to go, there's no doubt, but I also think its a moment to acknowledge the work that's been done, and to acknowledge that there really is good will and commitment in the sector. I do think that's worth acknowledging at this time.”

On this point, IFTN asked where she felt Ireland sits globally in relation to representation of women in film currently. Dr. Liddy acknowledged that there is still work to be done but also praised how Ireland is “boxing above its weight” in terms of making vast improvements in a very short period of time.

Over the last few years, I think we have certainly stepped up, there's no doubt about it,  we know that there's many more opportunities for women coming into the sector. I think there's still some problems in terms of women coming in at an entry level, to get the breaks needed to forge a career, which I think needs some work. I think we've a lot done but a lot more to do.

If you look at other countries, you will see countries who are ahead of us and who maybe moved forward a bit more, you'll see countries that are already starting. But I think that is what’s great about the Irish industry, is that we have a small industry and we are punching above our weight, and I think that we've shown what you can do in a short space of time. You need bravery, you need people to stand up and say this needs to be done. You need goodwill, you need commitment amongst the funders, you need the commitment of the sector, and I think that has really come into place. There is a lot more to be done but generally, as a sector, I think we have stood up over the last few years. We are a beacon in this way, we have shown what you can achieve within a few years.

She paid particular reference to the fact that while we have made leaps and bounds as a filmmaking nation in terms of bringing more women into the fold across the “Holy Trinity” of writer, director, and producer, there is much more work to be done on the crew side of things and especially across roles that are still seen as traditionally male-oriented.

I think we have a ways to go with crew, for instance, there are still roles within that, that have traditionally been perceived as very male roles and I think there's a lot we need to do about that. My vice chair, Jar Waldeck is a DoP, and this is her passion, and we've started working together to raise awareness that screen industries here are a lot more than writers, directors, and producers.”

While improvements have been made and more work is to be done on a systematic level, Liddy is quick to point out the importance of determination and drive to make a difference, and that international collaboration is a huge part of that.

Sometimes the will to change is an important drive, you know that energy, when you have the will and you feel that sense of change is desired. You have to figure out how do you make that happen? How far back do you need to go to make it happen? What could you do right now? Finding allies in different places across the world, and then amplifying the voices, the concern, and also amplifying the possibility for solutions is very important. The more people who put their heads together, and say “how do we solve this problem?” the better.”

Ireland’s concrete achievements and improvements in a short period of time, coupled with the aforementioned drive to partner on a global scale to make changes, are some of the main reasons that this feels like an apt and exciting appointment. Dr. Liddy finished by stating that she sees this is an opportunity for Ireland to celebrate its development in this area and to inspire other countries to do the same.

We could really be a poster girl for change,” she says.

We can change in a relatively small, relatively short space of time. If you went back to 2014, early 2015, it was a completely different place. The notion of actually even discussing inequality, what one could do, was met with blank faces. But now you feel much more confident discussing these things. We're able to stand up and point out when we see something and there is that sense that you're talking to people who understand what you're saying and understand the value of what you're saying, even if they don't have the answer. And of course, always the voices raised, the people asking, pushing, and driving that's important and this is where organisations like WIFTI are just so important, you must stand up and ask for what is right, and what you believe is right.”

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