Starting From … Now! reached an important milestone during the fortnight since my last blog. The series surpassed 2 million views on its Seasons 1 and 2 episodes. Given that Episode 1 of Season 1 was released in March this year, the milestone was reached faster than a number of other independent online series. We posted it on our Facebook page and tweeted about it, proud of our achievement.
Around the same time, Filmink, an Australian film magazine posted an article entitled: ‘5 Australian Web Series to Watch’ (http://www.filmink.com.au/news/5-australian-web-series-to-watch/). We weren’t one of those 5. Congratulations to the 5 that were included. It takes a considerable amount of hard work, time and money to make a web series. I am in no way trying to detract from the series that were included. What I did find interesting about the article, however, was that all 5 of the web series were made by, and about, men. If you read this article and were otherwise unaware, you’d assume that the only people making web series in Australia were men. Or, if not that, the only ones made in this country worth watching, were those made by, and about, men.
I know for a fact that neither of those statements is correct. I also know that not all of those series have achieved the audience reach and viewership that Starting From … Now! has. I know audience numbers aren’t the sole measure of success but when it comes to compiling a list of the 5 Australian web series “well worth your time”, surely this is a valid consideration. When statistics and viewership numbers are available, which they certainly are when it comes to web series, a professional publication has the opportunity to work with some quantifiable data in order to temper any inevitable subjectivity.
Since releasing Season 1 Episode 1 in March of this year, we’ve continually reached out to a number of Australian media outlets, Filmink included. We’ve had no response, until August 26 when Filmink retweeted a SFN tweet: “There are Australian web series that aren’t just by, or about, men. “Starting From Now!” has just reached 2 million views @filmink”. Does the fact that they retweeted it suggest they agree with me, or do they automatically retweet anything they are tagged in? I can’t quite work it out.
I have no doubt some of you will choose to dismiss this blog post as nothing more than sour grapes, a knee jerk reaction to not being included in the article. I thought long and hard about writing this blog. If this were a one-off I would have read the article and not thought of it again. However, this is anything but a one-off. The Filmink article was the catalyst for this blog post, but they’re not alone. They are not the only publication, media outlet or organisation in this country related to the film industry that shows a bias towards male creators and content. This is indicative of the way women are treated in the film industry in Australia. All you need to do is browse through any professional film publication or website and the gender bias is obvious.
Starting From … Now! isn’t perfect, but it doesn't deserve to be ignored. I can’t help but wonder how different the reception would be if Starting From … Now! was made by men and about men. If I were a graduate of the premier film school in this country, had produced a web series that surpassed 2 million views in only 5 months, had done so on a minuscule budget, and it was only one of two Australian web series listed in indiewire.com’s “33 exciting dramas upstaging TV with their diversity” (http://www.indiewire.com/article/east-los-high-and-32-other-web-dramas-upstaging-tv-with-their-diversity-20140731), and I was a man, how differently might this be playing out?
As a woman in this industry I feel ignored, undervalued and invisible. It’s 2014. I can’t believe this is still happening. What will it take for women’s stories and women’s success to be recognised, represented and celebrated in the way that men’s are?
By Julie Kalceff