Swiss film industry faces multiple hurdles post-pandemic 

Swiss Federal Councillor Alain Berset poses at the Piazza Grande on the 74th Locarno International Film Festival in Locarno, Switzerland. Keystone / Urs Flueeler

Bruised by the pandemic, the Swiss film industry is making a comeback at the annual Locarno Film Festival. But hurdles remain in terms of achieving gender equality and commercial success. 

This content was published on August 5, 2021 - 14:22

The findings were unveiled on Thursday at the festival by Interior Minister Alain Berset along with Isabelle Chassot, the director of the Federal Office of Culture (FOC).

Women can now get funding for their films as easily as men, which was not the case in 2014, according to a study on gender equality commissioned in 2020 by the FOC. But Swiss women in the film industry still earn less than their male colleagues in multiple job categories.  

Female participation in the film industry is a mixed bag. The two sexes enjoy almost equal attendance at Swiss film schools (48% women). Women hold 53% of editing roles and 35% of production positions. They are less visible as screen writers (34%), directors (29%) or camera operators (13%).   

The study suggests a number measures to promote equality including more focused and overt efforts to make women in the industry visible. Others have already been implemented, such as incorporating the cost of childcare into production budgets and ensuring equal pay between the sexes for government funded projects.  

There are twice as many leading roles for men over 40 than for women in the same age group, according to the same study. It attributes the difference to gender stereotypes, uneven access to support networks and inadequate working conditions.  

Recovering from pandemic 

The pandemic took a heavy toll on the cultural sector in Switzerland. The road to recovery won’t be easy, according to an interior ministry statement. Swiss films will face strong international competition in theaters as the release of many films had to be postponed. Digitization, which has been accelerated by the pandemic, is disrupting the entire industry. 

To support the Swiss film sector, the FOC is supporting ten Swiss movies for release in cinemas and on-demand platforms. It is is also co-financing a "Back to the Cinema" campaign. Some CHF360 million ($398 million) have been paid out of government and cantonal programmes to offset the costs of pandemic-related delays and health protection plans. 

The Swiss government would like to oblige online broadcasting platforms to invest in national production, which is already a requirement for regional broadcasters, according to the Keystone-SDA news agency. The introduction of this obligation would provide Switzerland with instruments comparable to those of neighboring countries. 

Failed deal with EU 

Another challenge for the film industry will be to be able to continue developing international collaborations. Switzerland's participation in the European Union's MEDIA programme remains an objective, despite the failure of the framework agreement with Brussels. 

With the compensatory measures, Switzerland has had a functioning support system since 2014. It will also continue its international strategy based on bilateral co-production agreements, with an agreement with Canada in the process of being signed. 

In addition, in 2019 Switzerland ratified the Council of Europe's new European co-production agreement, which simplifies co-productions and makes it easier for the Swiss government to implement its co-production policy. 

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