‘It’s a crazy business’: Canadian actress raising the bar for women in the screen industry

A Canadian actress and women’s rights advocate says things have shifted in the screen industry over the last several decades, and “the momentum needs to keep rolling.”

Ferne Downey was named the 2023 ACTRA (Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists) National Woman of the Year for her input in the institutional change for women in the industry. The actress dedicated over 20 years to counteracting sexual harassment and helping women gain leadership roles on the screen and in show business.

“The thing that I’m still most intrigued with, the impulse that got me into the union leadership world in the first place was women stepping up, with all the complexities, with all the challenges, with all the hopefulness that we have,’ Downey said in an interview with CTV Morning Live.

She believes that the industry is much safer today. It has HAVEN Helpline that deals with inquiries connected to harassment, racism and violence.

“We have staffing who knows how to support people in challenging situations. We’ve completely grown up with the knowledge that we have to do better to keep each other safe on sets. I mean, it’s a crazy business. You’re quite vulnerable alone. As a person, your strength is in your union.”

The advocates now focus on diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging.

“We’ve started everything, but the momentum has to keep rolling.”

Regarding the upcoming International Women’s Day, Downey wished to see more women in the leading roles all over the country and world. She advised to keep ourselves fresh and talk to people.

“Find out what other people are thinking about, how they perceive the world and how you can work together, creatively or politically. There’s a lot of energy to be released yet by all the women of the world.”


– With files from CTV’s Nicole Dubé

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