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This New Program From Cate Blanchett Aims to Change Filmmaking for Women, Trans, and Nonbinary Students

Cate Blanchett
Matteo Chinellato / Shutterstock

Cate Blanchett is launching a new program through USC to provide women filmmakers with money, mentorship, and exposure.

Cate Blanchett wants to uplift women artists in film, and she's not just using her platform — she's building a new one.

The actor has partnered with the University of Southern California in Los Angeles to create the Proof of Concept Accelerator Program, which aims to support women, transgender, and nonbinary filmmakers by removing the barriers that plague the industry, such as money, mentorship, and exposure.

Blanchett, who runs the independent film company Dirty Films with her husband Andrew Upton and co-founder Coco Francini, worked with Francini and USC Media Diversity Director Stacy L. Smith to curate the program, supported by Netflix’s Fund for Creative Equity.

Proof of Concept will provide eight filmmakers with one-on-one mentorship, as well as $50,000 to create a short film, which can serve as a "proof of concept" for a feature film or television series.

“Providing tangible financial and career support for filmmakers who often get overlooked will not only give them a fantastic launchpad to success, it will also expand the future of film and television,” Blanchett said in a press release. “Dirty Films is thrilled to be a leading partner for Proof of Concept, a groundbreaking program inspired by the profound work of Dr. Stacy L. Smith and the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative in leveling the playing field. Giving genuine cause for hope is the commitment of the Netflix Fund for Creative Equity for their help in establishing this pipeline to discover and nourish the creativity and success of new voices with compelling stories.”

"We've talked a lot about money, and that's something that women aren't often encouraged to talk about," Blanchett told People. "When it comes to frequently marginalized voices, people feel that they don't know how to advocate for themselves financially."

Blanchett said that industry leaders often get "risk-averse" around stories about transgender and nonbinary people, and will avoid taking them on. She hopes that Proof of Concept will force studios to look at the talent of marginalized voices and ensure they are not written off.

"We want to arm them with the tools to say: 'This is not a risk. This is going to add value to you as a company and to audiences who haven't seen something like this before,'" she said. "We're missing an enormous creative opportunity by not diversifying. We deplore creative laziness, we deplore financial laziness, and so we should therefore deplore a lack of inclusivity."

In the press release, Smith said, “I have long wanted to see the numbers move and this accelerator will help us to find and support the next Greta Gerwig, Ava DuVernay, Chloe Zhao, Melina Matsoukas, or Lulu Wang. Led by the creative excellence of the team behind Dirty Films, I have no doubt that the Proof of Concept Accelerator is a key solution in the push toward greater inclusion in film.”

Just 6 percent of the 1,600 top-grossing movies between 2007 and 2022 were directed by women, according to a recent report from Smith and her colleagues. Less than one-third of all speaking characters in those movies were women, trans, or nonbinary. In 2022 alone, less than half top 100 films had a woman as a lead or co-lead.

"Homogeneity in any industry is the death of progress and innovation. That's certainly the case for the creative industries," Blanchett continued. "When you walk onto a set that is homogenous, you can sort of taste the outcome. The things that breakthrough that are fresh, that have influence for the next decade, always start because someone took a risk on them."

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Ryan Adamczeski

Ryan is a staff writer at The Advocate, and a graduate of New York University Tisch's Department of Dramatic Writing, with a focus in television writing and comedy. She first became a published author at the age of 15 with her YA novel "Someone Else's Stars," and is now a member of GALECA, the LGBTQ+ society of entertainment critics. In her free time, Ryan likes watching New York Rangers hockey, listening to the Beach Boys, and practicing witchcraft.
Ryan is a staff writer at The Advocate, and a graduate of New York University Tisch's Department of Dramatic Writing, with a focus in television writing and comedy. She first became a published author at the age of 15 with her YA novel "Someone Else's Stars," and is now a member of GALECA, the LGBTQ+ society of entertainment critics. In her free time, Ryan likes watching New York Rangers hockey, listening to the Beach Boys, and practicing witchcraft.