Back in 2017, film, music video and commercial director Alma Har’el told us that “most of the female filmmakers I know never get the same opportunities to prove themselves as men do”. And when they do, she said, they have to be “more professional, more strategic, they usually get paid less and if they fail, they hardly [ever] get a second chance”. Rather than sit back and let that lie, she set out to change that imbalance by launching Free The Bid, a website that launched in September 2016 and asked agencies to pledge to include a female director every time they triple-bid (put three directors forward) for an ad.
Now, she’s gone one step further with the launch of Free The Work, a nonprofit organisation and free-to-use database of women and underrepresented creators. The idea is to increase the number of women, trans identifying, non-binary and underrepresented creators involved in all aspects of filmmaking. The platform will also provide a comprehensive resource for agents of change in the production industry, curated playlists, intelligent, customised discovery tools to find “untapped talent” and quantifiable results of diversity efforts through tracking tools.
Around 160 ad agencies from around the world have now signed up to Free The Bid across 20 countries, along with more than 180 brands. Some ad agencies have reported a rise of 35-400% in their bidding and hiring of women directors. “Free The Work intends to bring these unprecedented numbers to the TV, film and music industries,” says Har’el.
“We use services daily to discover new music, movies, and restaurants – it’s time we treat talent-discovery of underrepresented creators with the same level of urgency and innovation,” Har’el adds. “Given the right tools, I know we will open our eyes and reach a renaissance of creativity.”
The launch of the platform has been accompanied with a film created by Wieden + Kennedy Portland, directed by Amber Grace Johnson through production company Object & Animal, which aims to underscore the importance of recognising talent that for whatever reason, has been overlooked – both historically and contemporarily.
Free The Work has launched with Proctor & Gamble, AT&T, Facebook and Amazon Studios joining Har’el as founding partners; while Verizon has signed on as the inaugural guardian patron, and official ‘allies’ offering support are The Sundance Institute, The Unstereotype Alliance, and the ANA’s #SeeHer initiative.
“Equality is good for business, and the advertising business is about to get better,” says Fiona Carter, chief brand officer at AT&T. “Free The Work will drive equality through the advertising industry by helping create more opportunities on both sides of the camera.”
Marc Pritchard, chief brand officer of Procter & Gamble, says, “creativity loves diversity”; while Diego Scotti, chief marketing officer at Verizon’s statement adds, “Opportunities for diverse storytellers to share their perspectives will only benefit our industry.”
Alma Har’el is best known for her documentaries LoveTrue and Bombay Beach, which received Tribeca Film Festival and Film Independent Spirit Awards. She has also worked across commercial campaigns, including Love Over Bias, for Procter and Gamble. Her first scripted film Honey Boy, written by and starring Shia LaBeouf, won the Special Jury Award for Vision and Craft at Sundance 2019 and will start showing in theatres on November 8.
Alma Har’el will be speaking at Cannes Lions about the project in a talk entitled Reimagining Creativity through Free The Work on Tuesday 18 June; canneslions.com