There's Only 1 Female Film Director For Every 15.24 Male Ones, and Things Aren't Getting Any Better


Sundance Film Festival is underway, meaning lots of fresh, ground breaking indie narrative and documentary films — ones that might not normally get tons of buzz otherwise — are thrust into the spotlight. Along with the movie madness, a new study examining the gender disparity female directors face in the film industry was also released. Titled “Exploring the Barriers and Opportunities for Independent Women Filmmakers” and conducted by researchers at the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism at the University of Southern California, the study assessed 11,197 directors, writers, producers, cinematographers, and editors whose movies screened in Sundance from 2002-2012*.

According to IndieWire, the study is the most comprehensive look at the gender disparity women directors face to date. Let’s dive in.

– 29.8% of filmmakers (directors, writers, producers, cinematographers and editors) were female.
– Women are more likely to be producers, and as the roles become more high profile and money becomes a factor, the number of women goes down. So women are more likely to be associate producers than producers.
– Women support women. Films directed by women feature more women in all roles. There is a 21% increase in women working on a narrative film when there is a female director and a 24% of women working on documentaries.
– Females direct more documentaries than narrative films – 34.5% vs 16.9%.
– 23.9% of the films in this study were directed by women. Note: Women made up only 4.4% of directors in the top 100 box office films each year from 2002 to 2012.
– Sundance makes a difference – 41.5% of the female directors across 1,100 top-grossing movies of the past ten years have been supported by Sundance Institute. [Ed.: Women and men participate in the institute’s programs in almost equal numbers!]

TL;DR: Women are more likely to direct documentaries than narrative films, are more likely to be lower level producers, which, while difficult, are not the more coveted “above the line” creative jobs (think writer, director), and women only directed 4.4% of the top 100 box office films each year from 2002 to 2012. That’s all no bueno.

As far as some of the challenges women face:

Almost half the women interviewed (43.1%) said that MONEY was the biggest problem. It’s about taking women directors seriously, it’s about taking women’s visions seriously. It’s about trusting women’s visions and that is still a major problem.
– Almost 40% of the women said that “Male-dominated industry networking” is a barrier.
– Almost 20% (19.6%) say that balancing work and family is an issue.
– Getting stereotyped as a “women director” – 15.7%
– Not getting hired because they are women – 13.7%

Of course, you might be thinking, “BUT KATHRYN BIGELOW WON AN OSCAR!” and that’s all wonderful, but nothing has changed for women in the past ten years. That was a victory, and a great one, but the fact that women make up more than fifty percent of the population and have only won a single best director statue adds up to something stinking in tinsel town.

The most fucked up stat:

[I]n narrative film when looking at women directors over the last decade, only 41 women have made films in the top 100 released films every year across the decade, compared to 625 men. There are 15.24 male directors for each 1 female director. So that means many men make multiple films and few women make any films.

Oh, come the fuck on! We’ve got to do something about this, everyone from studio heads to agents and managers need to be actively seeking out women to represent. Successful women in the industry need to be vocal and be seen, this is what allows young girls to dream that big. The reason there are more men in this creative field has nothing to do with men being better at directing, and everything to do with the fact that historically women weren’t allowed into the club.

Things that help women succeed according to the research? Mentoring and encouraging women early in their career, improving access to financing, and raising awareness of the disparity. Which is what we’re doing right now. Come on, current female film professionals, future female filmmakers, and anyone who supports equality in the arts (that better be all of your asses), let’s spread these numbers like so much wind out of Michael Bay’s ass.

I’ll leave you with some good news: Half of the narrative films in this year’s Sundance festival were directed by women, and that’s fucking awesome — now it’s time for the rest of the industry to catch up.

*With the exception of world category, shorts, and movies that did not originate whole or in part in the US.


Image via xavier gallego morell / Shutterstock I know it’s goofy but look at that little girl! She’s the next Tamra Davis!

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Share Tweet Submit Pin