Interview by Libby Gandhi.
In the second part of CTL’s interview with director Jasmin Tarasin, we discuss her role as head of Free The Bid Australia and advice for budding filmmakers.
As well as directing, last year you became head of Free The Bid Australia. Could you talk about what Free The Bid does, and how you became involved in it?
Yes, well I did a job in the US with Philips and they contacted me asking me to be on their Free The Bid database, but I’d never heard of them or what they were doing. So they showed me, and I was like ‘ah, great’. They explained that in America 7% of all television content is made by women, but in Australia it’s 10%, which is slightly better but still so ridiculous… just awful.
I’d already started mentoring a few young female directors and told Philips that I’d like to represent Free The Bid here in Australia and make it a resource. What I liked about Free The Bid is that it’s not a protest, it’s not a campaign, it’s just a really useful tool that people can use on a day-to-day basis.
This Thursday we’re launching the women directors searchable database for Producers and Creatives to use, which lists 150 Australian female directors. Whether it be visual effects, comedy, whatever you want you get a selection of those female directors. Because everyone’s like ‘oh yeah, I don’t know them, I don’t know how to find them’ and this makes that really easy. I think that Free The Bid is going to be a transition. Until we get a percentage of female directors that is common sense we need something like this to make the change really easy and really day-to-day.
So, how does it work?
Free The Bid gets Producers to pledge that they will put one female director up to pitch for every job that they do. Some people worry ‘what if they’re not right for the job’ but we’re not saying give a person the job if they’re not right. That’s not what it is. Free the Bid is basically saying have a look – out of 150 directors I’m sure that there is one who has a skill base that could do the job at hand. Give them a chance because that’s how you go from being an emerging director to a top director.
I’ve had experiences where I’ve known that I’m at the bottom of the list on the pitch and I’ve just put all of my heart into the treatment and won it. Getting the opportunity to give your impression and to quote on the job makes a big difference to getting a foot in the door. And eventually there will be more women with bigger scopes of work on their reel and who will be able to catch up.
When I came back to the industry after having my son my peers who I’d been working with, DOPs and directors, were all leagues ahead. And that’s a natural progression because women have to bail out and have children, that’s natural. But there’s also a way to support women who have to do that. We grow up as equals, we go to University as equals then all of a sudden you reach a point in this industry and you’re not. And it’s no one’s fault, there’s no one group, it’s just a bit of a weird situation that we find ourselves in and I think we need to fix it up then move on.
So I don’t feel like I need to run around throwing flags saying ‘Choose Women!’ It’s more just like ‘ah, come on, it’s not cool’. Let’s just work it out then we can all be fine.
And how have you found the Australian reception to Free The Bid?
I think that a lot of people don’t understand it yet. I’ve had a lot of support from Production companies, but a lot of agencies don’t understand how Free The Bid works exactly. I had big launch last Thursday at M&C Saatchi to talk about it. I think once they have the database in front of them and it’s so easy then things will naturally start to change.
As long as people are hearing about it and learning more …
Exactly, well that’s it there’s nothing more to it! It’s fantastic that it’s a simple, useful step forwards.
Finally, if you could offer one piece of advice to a young, budding filmmaker what that would be?
The thing that I’ve always done is to look at the type of work that I’ve wanted to do and go and make something on my own that is where I want to head to. I’ve done it my whole career. I’ll go and do a personal piece on the type of work that I want to make like commercial or whatever. So I’ll show that I can do it, rather than just say that I can do it. You just need to show that you can do it.
If you want to do more action sequences or whatever you just have to do it. Every few years I’ve looked at my reel like ‘yuck’, I want to do more of something else, so I make a personal piece that’s more like the stuff that I want to do and it just keeps on turning. That’s been the biggest thing for me.
Jasmin is represented by Photoplay.
Find out more about Free The Bid here.