In 1974, the National Film Board (NFB) established Studio D, the first publicly funded “production unit dedicated to making films by and for women.” Kathleen Shannon and Anne Claire Poirier led the fight for more resources for women’s filmmaking within the NF, and following the Royal Commission on the Status of Women, a growing movement added to the pressure on government to act on women’s equality, especially within government agencies themselves.
At first, Studio D operated as a tiny studio of staff filmmakers, technicians, and support staff, along with a network of freelancers across the country, all of whom were women. Even with a relatively small budget, Studio D produced dozens of films centred on women’s lived experience and dealing with the complex social issues faced by women. At Studio D, women worked in all areas of film: editing, sound, sets, directing, producing, etc. The studio grew more inclusive in 1991 with the New Initiatives in Film program, which provided film training to women of colour and Indigenous women.
Studio D produced many innovative films, including three films that won Oscars and a number of other awards. The Oscar winners include Beverly Shaffer’s I’ll Find a Way (1977), Terre Nash’s If You Love This Planet (1982), and Cynthia Scott’s Flamenco at 5:15 (1984). Other notable films include Not a Love Story, Wisecracks, Forbidden Love: The Unashamed Stories of Lesbian Lives, Sisters in the Struggle, Towards Intimacy, and the series 5 Feminist Minutes.
In 1989, despite protests from many women’s groups, funding for Studio D was drastically reduced, resulting in the Studio having to let all staff filmmakers go, to be replaced by freelancers. These cuts were part of a swathe of larger cuts to the NFB and other social programs and programming related to women. After years of reduced budgets, Studio D finally closed its doors in 1996.
Studio D: The Women’s Film Studio (National Film Board) Documents
|Abortion – Stories from North and South||1984||National (all of Canada)|