Anastasiya Jogal

Women in Film and Television (WIFT) is an organization that originally started as a grassroots project to help women break through in the industry of film and television.

“20-some-odd years ago there weren’t a lot of women in this industry,” says Sue Sheridan, the executive director of the WIFT Toronto Chapter. 

“There weren’t a lot of women as senior executives or even middle management. The majority of it is men in top positions.”

Sheridan says her goal is to promote women where its appropriate, allowing them to run major TV networks if they’re suited.

Operated by only five people, WIFT Toronto is part of WIFT International - with 47 non-profit chapters, many of which are located in United States.

“WIFT was formally incorporated in 1987. So this is our 20th year, but we were around for years before that as a grassroots organization,” says Sheridan.

Today, the goals of the organization have expanded. Sheridan says the focus is now on employing all visible minorities – first time Canadians, people with disabilities, as well as women.

Sponsored by organizations like Kodak, FIJI Water, RBC Royal Bank, CTV Warner Bros. Pictures, WIFT employs various techniques to help its members through conducting seminars, programming, work shops and annual summits.

For the first time, the upcoming summit will be held in Toronto, from July 16-19.

“Our main focus is programming and learning skills development,” says Wendy Jacinto, WIFT manager of special events and administration.  

The organization also studies women in various roles in the film and television industries. to explore the areas where they are lacking, for example in new media.

"It's called Framework Employment and Screen Based Media a National Profile,” says Jacinto. “What we did was we looked not only at women but also people of visible minority and people with disability working in the industry, we looked at those three groups of people.

Jacinto says she looks at a wide variety of women in film and telelvision, from everything technical, to production to creative roles. 

A recent study by WIFT revealed that women lack the business skills they need to succeed in the industry. As a result, many hours of programming was created in order to solve this problem.

Gabrielle Sopocy, a new immigrant and WIFT member says the organization has been invaluable.

“Everyone I've spoken to who is involved in the administration of WIFT has been overwhelmingly polite and helpful with advice and suggestions,” she says.

“I've contacted many other members of WIFT in the past two years with questions and concerns regarding how I should be getting my feet wet in the Toronto industry as a newcomer. 

Without fail, each one has been incredibly generous and kind with their time."

Despite the tremendous progress, Sopocy says females in film and television still have a long way to go. She says women often turn against one another because of the competition.

“Some women seem more concerned with furthering their own careers than supporting and assisting fellow female coworkers,"says Sopocy.

"I sometimes wonder if they had taken the parts of feminism that appealed to them - such as aggressive career planning - and discarded the parts that had anything to do with solidarity or respect."