Studies Show Significant Increases in Female Presence behind the Camera over the Last Decade

Studies show significant increases in female presence behind the camera over the last decade

As a feminist film blog, FF2 is thrilled to report that some recent studies have shown significant strides in gender equality in the cinematic world. 

The USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative, run by Dr. Stacy L. Smith, has been running a study called the Inclusion in the Director’s Chair report for the past 12 years. The report tracks the percentage of female directors working on 1300 of the top-grossing films from 2007 to 2019, as well as the percentage of directors specifically from racial and ethnic minority groups. This year, they had good news to report. Of the directors working on the top 100 films of 2019, 10.6% were female, up from 4.5% in 2018 and a measly 2.7% when the study began in 2007. The results are less uplifting for minorities, however; women of color held less than 1% of directing roles of the entire 1300 films included in the study.

The Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University released the results of  its “Celluloid Ceiling” study soon after the Inclusion in the Director’s Chair report. This is another long-running study that tracks women’s employment as directors, but also as writers, producers, editors and cinematographers, for the top 100, 250 and 500 films of each year. The Celluloid Ceiling study found that, for the top 100 films, women made up 20% of people working in key behind-the-scenes roles, up from 16% in 2018. However, percentages of women working in key roles for the top 500 films remained stable. 

While the results from both these studies show an encouraging trend of increasing percentages of women behind the camera, they also show how much more work there is to be done. Women make up half the population, and women of color 20%, yet their prevalence in filmmaking is in no way proportional. Unsurprisingly, Hollywood remains far from perfect in terms of social justice and equity. However, all hope is not lost. There is another category of cinema that’s doing much better: independent film.  

The Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film has another long-running annual study called “Indie Women”, which tracks female employment in feature-length films selected for over 20 of the US’s most high-profile film festivals. The study found that last year, women reached record-setting levels of employment as directors, writers, producers and editors (about 30% in each category) for films screening at festivals. Dr. Lauzen states that “The percentage of women working as directors on narrative films has more than doubled over the last decade, rising from 15 percent in 2008-09 to 33 percent in 2019-20.” The study also found that the percentage of women who directed documentaries selected for the festival was a whopping 47%; though only in the specific category of documentaries at festivals, it is nice to know that women are close to cinematic parity somewhere.  

At FF2, we are working constantly to uplift female voices in film in order to increase the percentages you see above. These results provide encouragement for the efforts of people like us, but they are also a reminder that our work is not done, and that we must continue to fight for our female filmmakers until equity is achieved. 

© Julia Lasker (FF2 Media) 10/19/2020

Feature Photo: Ava Duvernay directing Selma. Credit to Atsushi Nishijima – © 2014 Paramount Pictures. All Rights Reserved.

Second Photo: Lulu Wang directing. Photo by Nils Konrad. 

Third Photo: Olivia Wilde directing Kaitlyn Dever in Booksmart. Credit to IMDB.

Tags: Female Directors, Julia Lasker, women in film

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As an associate for FF2 Media, Julia writes reviews and features for films made by women. She is currently a senior at Barnard College studying Psychology. Outside of FF2, her interests include acting, creative writing, thrift shopping, crafting, and making and eating baked goods. Julia has been at FF2 for almost 4 years, and loves the company and its mission dearly.
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