Behind-the-arctic-scenes of The Leadership with producer Greer Simpkin
The world is crying out for a new model of leadership, but what is it? We go behind the scenes of Bunya Productions’ new feature documentary, The Leadership, with Producer Greer Simpkin, to find out.
Over the years you’ve had several films at the Sydney Film Festival. How does it feel to have The Leadership available to a broader audience and what do you hope they will take from the film?
We love the Sydney Film Festival and it is always a highlight of the year. Bunya has been fortunate to have had two opening night films, with Mystery Road, and Goldstone. I have also been to many incredible screenings over the years. In particular, I remember the premiere of Rachel Perkins’ Mabo from Blackfella Films. That was very special..
The Sydney Film Festival team have thought laterally – and fast – to enable a digital event this year. It’s terrific that The Leadership is part of this. We tend to make a lot of content set in regional Australia, so it’s nice knowing that this year our regional audiences can be part of the World Premiere for The Leadership, which will take them across five continents, from Argentina to Antarctica, Indonesia, China, France, the United States, and of course Australia.
The Leadership delves into the profoundly troubling systemic obstacles to women’s advancement in science and beyond. What needs to change to make the world more equal for female leaders in the filmmaking space and beyond?
That is a big question! And one I don’t think I can answer in a few sentences. What I can say, in relation to the film-making world, is that I would love there to come a day where women can fail just as much as men do. What I mean by that is that, for example, in the past female directors were often given one chance to direct a film, and if it not was a certified hit, then that was the end of their directing career. Whereas many male directors were given second and third chances – or more. The stats on this are really quite shocking.
I think the situation is changing rapidly and I am excited to see the terrific work that is being created by women around the world. To affect change, we all must walk-the-walk in relation to diversity in hiring of key creatives, crew and cast. And we should also create interesting characters that best reflect the world we live in. The adage ‘you can’t be what you can’t see’ applies across the board.
One of the subjects of the film is Australian CEO and ‘dreamer’ Fabian Dattner, who wanted to transform an international group of 76 female leaders into the leaders of their field – but during the film her own style and philosophy is severely tested. Has she seen The Leadership, and what does she think?
Fabian has told me that she and her fellow Co-Founders of the Homeward Bound initiative are proud of the film.
She says the film allowed her to re-visit the valuable experiences and learnings, from both the highs and some of the challenges, of the first Homeward Bound journey.
How do you even start planning for a documentary to be filmed in Antarctica!? Can you tell us a bit about what you had to do as a producer?
It is very expensive to film in a remote location like Antarctica, because you have to plan for all sorts of events happening – like camera equipment failures (and no camera hire house just down the road!), extreme weather, working in almost continuous daylight which is tough for everyone.
Getting permission to fly a drone in Antarctica was not easy, and we had to take great care when filming in such pristine wilderness (quite rightly!). The footage we were able to get from our terrific team is just spectacular and all the logistical planning was worth it in the end.
After screening for the Sydney Film Festival what plans do you have for the film?
The film was created for cinemas – seeing the magnificence of Antarctica on the big screen, truly is a sight to behold. We are in discussions about a theatrical release later in the year.
Do you have any words of advice for any emerging female practitioners just getting started in documentary filmmaking?
Find a mentor!
Directed by Ili Baré 2020 Australia 97 minutes
In 2016, a collection of international women scientists set sail for Antarctica under the guidance of Australian leadership expert Fabian Dattner; what transpired is both inspiring and revelatory.
Watch the trailer now.
Image: The Leadership. Photo by Pieter de Vries, courtesy Bunya Productions.