We Do It Together : Juliette Binoche, Patricia Riggen, Marianne Slot et Chiara Tilesi

Creating reel equality

A new female-led production company

We Do It Together has an all-star advisory panel which boasts Jessica Chastain, Juliette Binoche, Zhang Ziyi and Freida Pinto. Their mission is to make films and TV programmes that empower women. But as founder Chiara Tilesi tells K, this is just the start of creating equal opportunities for women in all walks of life.

Chiara Tilesi - We Do It Together

There simply aren't enough films about women – Hollywood won't invest in them. In 2015, only 22% of lead characters and 9% of directors were female (Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film survey of top 100 films of 2015).

That’s why producer Chiara Tilesi decided to create a non-profit. Along with seven notable figures from film and TV, she formed We Do It Together, which will finance productions with money from donations, grants, foundations and governments.

It seems hard to believe now, but there was a time when women had a lot of power in the world's most influential film industry. During the early days of cinema, Mary Pickford, Lois Weber and Alice Guy-Blaché ran their own studios. By the 1920s it was clear this new form of entertainment had huge money-making potential; businesses swept in, creating a hierarchical system where women were forced to take the back seat.

Feminism in Hollywood is currently particularly PC and trending.

This imbalance continues today, hence We Do It Together's purpose to focus their first projects on female directors. But Tilesi stresses the importance of working together with men.  When answering questions, she says "the reason why I always respond "we" is that this is really a together project".

Hollywood decides what the public want to watch: men are the heroes, while women are sex objects or weak supporting characters. But this is far removed from women in real life, so why can't they be given the same strong roles as men? "We want to see women on a complete level," Tilesi says. "Not just the girlfriend, the wife, the mother. We want to see more, because we are more".

Haifaa AlMansour - We Do It Together

Joined-up writing

Their A-list board has already got them a lot of attention. But there's more to them than movie stars – the board has female and male directors from all over the world, including Catherine Hardwicke of Twilight fame, City Of God director Katia Lund, Palestinian Oscar-nominee Hany Abu-Assad, and Saudi Arabia's first female director Haifaa Al Mansour. Producers, talent agents and historians such as Henry Louis Gates are involved too.

"We contacted the people we thought were the right people and who were on the same page," Tilesi says. "So not only very high level professional people, but [those] who had the same dream, to empower women through  movies and through storytelling. So each of us knocked on doors, like a movement, and asked, would you like to join us?"

Jessica Chastain - We Do It Together

Tilesi has devoted her career to humanitarian issues. Her first feature film, All the Invisible Children, was produced for UNICEF and the World Food Programme. Split into seven segments, it tells of the hardships faced by children in different countries as viewed by Spike Lee, Ridley Scott, John Woo and Emir Kusturica among others. She is also the founder of Globunity, an arts enterprise that mentors young people, and was vice chair of Richard Branson's Rock the Kasbah fundraiser.

In the last few years many celebrities have launched female-driven film companies – Natalie Portman, Reese Witherspoon, Rose Byrne and Jessica Chastain to name a few. Meanwhile the topic of sexism in cinema continues to fill column space. "Feminism in Hollywood is currently particularly PC and trending," says Jennifer Merin, president of the Alliance of Women Film Journalists.  "Celebrities have embraced the cause, and media has embraced celebrities who've embraced the cause."

Majority rights

And with the current American Civil Liberties Union investigation into the alleged discriminatory hiring practices of the big studios, Merin believes there will be necessary changes in the industry.

We are the biggest minority at almost 52% of the population.

Tilesi is also positive this is a permanent move. "We are the biggest minority at almost 52% of the population, how can [the press] forget about this? I think now is the time of awakening; all of us around the world are doing different things.  I'm sure at times it won't be easy but it doesn't matter. Change might take longer and might take more effort but it will happen if we keep pushing. That's why we're stressing the fact of [doing it] together. If we're together they won't forget."

The inequitable way the film industry operates is a reflection of all industries. "Focus on the grave disparity in Hollywood must lead to the acknowledgement that gender disparity in job opportunities and pay scale is rampant in all work environments, in both the public and private sectors," says Merin.  "Hell, women's rights are not even guaranteed by the US constitution, the bible of our democracy. Women will be second class citizens in the US until some fundamental, irrevocable changes are made."

We Do It Together : Juliette Binoche, Patricia Riggen, Marianne Slot et Chiara Tilesi

We Do It Together isn't limiting its reach to Hollywood. The goal is to open chapters around the world, to change the cultural perception of women everywhere. "This is not about women, this is about human beings," she says. "Right now there is a big momentum, and I'm 100% sure that we'll shift the social paradigm of how women are portrayed in media, and that will have a ripple effect on how women are perceived in society."