As the traditional filmmaking industry achingly attempts to accomplish gender parity and fair treatment for women, the independent film community is actively breaking down the inherent barriers that prevent female storytellers from competing with their male peers on a level playing field.

A strong part of that community exists in Canada, where the recently launched video platform Then She Said has begun its mission of leading the Great White North’s best undiscovered women filmmakers to success. Then She Said’s first series, the Toronto-filmed coming-of-age drama EASY V, has jump-started the career of its star/creator, Carly MacIsaac.

After EASY V’s debut, Then She Said’s co-founders Natalie Novak and Suzette McCanny began the second step in their search for Canada’s outstanding female auteurs: the Then She Said Pay It Forward Emerging Canadian Female Filmmaker Grant. Available only to Canadian participants, the final deadline to apply for the grant is October 16th. Grant details and application guidelines are outlined on Then She Said’s FilmFreeway page (additional links below).

The selected recipient will be awarded $3,000, including access to additional resources provided by Then She Said, to complete production of a short film or web series. All participants who submit their projects to the grant are required to have had women participate in any 3 of the following 5 production areas: director, screenwriter, producer, editor, and cinematographer.


Artwork by Julia Monson.

Entrants who’ve worked in one of those fields will have one of their first three projects backed by Then She Said. Submitted films and series can be in any phase of production to qualify for the grant, and the winning selection will eventually premiere on Then She Said’s YouTube platform.

After the grant winner is announced, Then She Said plans to solicit new content for submissions to its streaming service. Novak recently described to Snobby Robot how Then She Said’s new grant will equal success for both female filmmakers and the audiences they pursue.

How will web series creators and talent – both on and off-camera – benefit from submitting their shows for consideration for the grant?
Novak: Whether the project is selected or not, we hope (that) the steps in preparing the grant will progress the project forward in one way or another. We hope (that) the grant will stimulate team meetings and bring people together to get to their next checkpoint. I always find (that) getting the materials (in) one way or another propels the project forward.

“Emerging” is a tough category to crack because it’s difficult to get funding for a filmmaker that has little to no previous work. A lot of the (Canada Council For The Arts) grants, etc. require you to show previous work that has been exhibited outside of school. That can be a challenge when you’re new to the workforce and out of the support system of school. Our hope is that we can be part of building up new voices to get in the game.

Also, there is a lot of emphasis on gender parity by 2020 (as mandated by Telefilm, Canada’s government-backed film production initiative) but so many established female filmmakers that have been on the sidelines for too long will get those opportunities first. There is certainly still a demand for opportunities for filmmakers just starting out beyond that.

Are previously released shows eligible for the grant, or must they not have aired anywhere prior to submission?
Novak: Previously aired short films are not eligible for the grant. In order to apply with an episode of a digital series, you must have previously aired episodes. The recipient of the grant will release their project digitally on the Then She Said Channel after their festival run.

All genres are accepted for submission, as long as they fit the criteria established for grant consideration. The funds obtained for the grant are intended to be put towards activities involved with finishing (a short film or series), including, but exclusively: picture editing, music composition, sound design/mixing, VFX fixes, titles/credits, poster design, color correction, etc.


Artwork by Julia Monson.

If selected, when and where will the winning grant recipient’s project debut?
Novak: The selected project will premiere in 2019, depending on the stage of the project upon the time of submission. The series/or short film debut will depend on festival selections, but the digital debut will be on the Then She Said YouTube Channel after its festival run.

Talk about the overall production, distribution and social media support that Then She Said will provide show creators who are selected for the grant.
Novak: The creator/production team will participate in a meeting with the Then She Said team to strategize what support would be most useful to the team bespoke to the project and the team’s strengths. The project’s team is responsible for their own distribution strategy beyond the digital release window, though Then She Said is available to support with any progress in that department. Then She Said will promote the show via the Then She Said social channels, but the project’s team has full control of their own social media channels.

How will viewers benefit from seeing these shows be brought to Then She Said?
Novak: I have always dreamed of having my favorite female Canadian filmmakers all in one place online: from Ingrid Veninger, to Valerie Buhagiar, to Nadia Litz, (to) Hannah Cheesman and Molly McGlynn. There isn’t yet a central online hub for Canadian female filmmakers, and I’d spend so much time in the later years of University scouring the internet to find work created by these women, as well as info about how they came up.

It would feel like coming across a gold mine every time I’d discover a new female filmmaker that was Canadian. I suppose I was looking for myself in them because I had the hardest time in school answering the question of who I want to be like, etc. They were often men, often American and (I) hated saying “like the female…or…except female, so…not like…at all. Great.”

In total, how will Then She Said benefit from having the works of these filmmakers be added to the platform’s lineup?
Novak: We hope to grow Then She Said to a destination site for not just emerging female filmmakers to see who is out there but to people working in the industry in all roles and levels. Whether it’s writers or producers looking for new directors to collaborate with, or a Swedish blogger looking for ‘other Canadian female filmmakers that are not Sarah Polley’, we hope (that) Then She Said can feel somewhat comprehensive and yet always growing.

There is a mandate put forward by Telefilm for 50/50 gender parity for 2020, and I’m often hearing the question: so who do you know that’s not already working? My answer is: A LOT of women directors that are capable, experienced and hardworking exist. It’s just difficult to find them. They are disguised as script supervisors, producer’s assistants and story editors and set dressers in order to survive. With this growing hub of content, we hope to license more original work to not only point at what’s already out there but (to) make more (and) to nurture growth.

(NOTE: Novak says that Then She Said is preparing to close-caption and subtitle audio for its video content, although neither audio feature is available at this time.)

To apply for Then She Said’s Pay It Forward Emerging Canadian Female Filmmaker Grant, visit:

For more information on Then She Said, visit:



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