Actress Jodie Whittaker is lending her star power to a new fund for women and nonbinary film directors. (Credit: Gage Skidmore, Wikimedia Commons)

A new fund has been launched to uplift fresh talent.

The Empower fund, based in the U.K., is a collaborative designed to create opportunities for marginalized directors – in particular, women and nonbinary individuals. It was first announced earlier this month at the Cannes film market, a networking event that coincides with the festival bearing the same name.

Filmmaker teams will apply to the fund with their short-film ideas – either live-action or animated – to win a grant amounting to at least £10,000, or $12,430 USD. Actress Jodie Whittaker, who is perhaps best-known for her historic turn as the first female Doctor Who, will select – then star in – the ultimate winning film.

“Being a part of this exciting journey and having the opportunity to work with talented new voices and creatives is an absolute joy,” she told Variety.

The fund is backed by Primetime, a networking group for non-male directors launched by actress Victoria Emslie, who portrayed Audrey on “Downton Abbey,” and the investment arm of England’s Bournemouth Film School, called Funding Futures.

“Community-driven change is one of the single most powerful and actionable ways to shake up traditional funding pipelines and the projects that receive finance,” Emslie said of the fund in a comment to Variety. 

Improving representation for marginalized filmmakers continues to be a pressing matter – especially as recent studies show a regression in this regard. The 2022 Celluloid Ceiling report from The Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University found that, of the 111 directors who worked on the United States’ 100 biggest films last year, only 10 were women – and just three were women of color.

“Five years after #MeToo exploded and two years following the murder of George Floyd, Hollywood has evidenced little change for women and underrepresented directors – particularly women of color,” center director Dr. Martha Lauzen said in a statement when the report was first published. 

She added, “We’d like to see not only the tradition change, but also the hiring practices that continue to marginalize women and people of color as directors.”

Which is what the individuals behind the Empower fund hope to accomplish – by directly funding and promoting marginalized makers’ projects. Noted Emslie to Variety: “By paying in for each other with this focused intentionality, the rise to the top is navigated together as a collective.”