4% Challenge to work with female director within 18 months gains momentum after launching at Sundance

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Tessa Thompson is slaying the 4% Challenge like she slayed as Valkyrie in “Thor: Ragnarok.”

PARK CITY, Utah – During the “Making the (In)visible: Radical Transparency in the Data-Driven Age” panel at the Sundance Film Festival, Dr. Stacy L. Smith from the USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative announced the “4% Challenge,” which urges filmmakers to make a commitment work with a female director — especially a female director of color — within 18 months.

According to Deadline Hollywood, Smith revealed during the panel Friday that Nina Jacobson, Angela Robinson, Paul Feig, Amy Schumer, and Franklin Leonard had agreed to the challenge.

Her prediction that more would take the challenge came true almost immediately, with Tessa Thompson and Kerry Washington quickly joining via Twitter, followed by dozens of other actors and filmmakers.

From 2007-20018, 4 percent of the directors of 1,200 top-grossing films were women, Smith said, and that awful statistic prompted the Inclusion Initiative along with Time’s Up to introduce the 4% Challenge to dramatically move the needle.

Smith said she initially reached out to Jacobson, Robinson, and Leonard, who were also on the panel, for the challenge, and they answered with an enthusiastic “hell yes!” Smith called Feig and Schumer and they immediately followed suit, she said.

The official Annenberg Inclusion Initiative Twitter account announced Friday that Thompson had accepted the challenge, and Washington quickly took to Twitter to join her. The initiative spread rapidly on the social media site, with the dozens of filmmakers and actors accepting the 4% Challenge.

According to the running list Time’s Up has been keeping, those who have publicly signed on include Amber Tamblyn, Amy Pascal, Armie Hammer, Arianne Phillips, Brie Larson, Bryce Dallas Howard, Caitriona Balfe, Cassian Elwes, Constance Wu, Eva Longoria, Gloria Calderón Kellett, Heather Matarazzo, J.J. Abrams and Bad Robot, Janet Mock, Jenno Topping, Jess and Keith Calder, Joe Pokaski, and John Legend, Ty Stiklorius and Mike Jackson

Also, Jordan Horowitz, Jordan Peele, Josh Gad, Judah Friedlander, Jurnee Smollett, Jussie Smollett, Kumail Nanjiani, Lena Waithe, Liz Hannah, Liza Chasin, Lucy Fisher and Doug Wick, Lynette Howell, Matthew Cherry, Misha Green, Olivia Wilde, Rachel Brosnahan, Rashida Jones, Reese Witherspoon, Rosie Perez, Sarah Ann Masse, Steven Canals, Teri Weinberg, Tracee Ellis Ross and Zazie Beetz

The panel, which discussed a recent study released by the Sundance Institute and the USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative about race and gender when it comes to submissions to the Sundance Film Festival was moderated by the “Black List’s” Leonard. The panel included Smith from the USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative, filmmaker Robinson (“Professor Marston and the Wonder Women”), producer Jacobson (“Crazy Rich Asians”), and Sundance Institute’s Karim Ahmad as they discussed the data released in the study, according to Deadline.

The Sundance Film Festival continues through Sunday.


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