Female filmmakers hit ‘historic highs’ in 2019 but still are ‘so far from parity’

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“Captain Marvel” co-director Anna Boden, left, talks with star Brie Larson behind the scenes of the hit Marvel movie. [Marvel photo]

2019 was a huge year for female filmmakers, but the movie business continues to be dominated by male moviemakers, according to the latest “Celluloid Ceiling” report.

In its 22nd year, the annual San Diego State University study found that women comprised 20% of all directors, writers, producers, executive producers, editors, and cinematographers working on the top 100 domestic grossing films released last year, according to Deadline. That was up from 16% in 2018.

Women accounted for 21% of those jobs on the top 250 films last year, up slightly from 20% in 2018. The numbers held steady at 23% of these roles on the top 500 films.

“While the numbers moved in a positive direction this year, men continue to outnumber women 4 to 1 in key behind-the-scenes roles. It’s odd to talk about reaching historic highs when women remain so far from parity,” said Martha Lauzen, the author of the study as well as the executive director of the university’s Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film.

Women accounted for 12% of directors working on the top 100 grossing films released in 2019 – a recent historic high watermark – up from 4% in 2018 and 8% in 2017.

Look at the top 250 films last year, women directed 13% of the titles. That was another recent historic high that was up from 8% in 2018 and up two percentage points from the previous high of 11% in 2017.

But percentage of women directors of the top 500 films declined slightly from 15% in 2018 to 14% in 2019.

“It will be tempting to look at the increase of women directing top 100 and top 250 films and conclude that 2019 was a major turning point for women’s employment,” Lauzen said. “That may be true, but we won’t know if 2019 was a single good year or the beginning of an upward trend until we see the numbers for 2020 and 2021.”

Women made up 20% of writers working on the top 100 films of 2019. That marked a boost of 5 percentage points from 15% in 2018, which was yet another recent historic high.

In addition, 27% of the producers, 23% of the editors, 23% of the production designers, 21% of the executive producers and 19% of the writers working on the top 250 films were women, according to the report.

But women comprised only 9% of the supervising sound editors, 6% of the composers, 6% of the visual effects supervisors, 5% of cinematographers, 4% of special effects supervisors and 4% of sound designers.

According to the “Celluloid Ceiling,” women came closest to parity with men as music supervisors at 40% and art directors at 31%.

While the improvements are exciting, turn the numbers around, and they’re much less impressive: The report noted that of the top 250 grossing films last year, 85% didn’t have women directors, 73% had no women writers, 44% boasted no women executive producers, 31% lacked women producers, 71% had no women editors, and 95% didn’t have women cinematographers. Among the top 250 grossing films of 2019, 31% had no women or only one token female working in any of those roles, noted Deadline.

The study also indicated why the hiring of women is so important, especially when it comes to reaching any semblance of parity: Films with female directors are much more likely to hire women in key roles than films directed just by men. Of the 500 top grossing movies last year, 59% of those directed by women employed female writers, while on films with exclusively male directors, women were only 13% of their writers.

Women made up 43% of editors on films with at least one female director, but on movies with only male directors, women accounted for only 19% of editors. On films with at least one female director, women accounted for 21% of cinematographers, while on those with exclusively male directors, women were only 2% of cinematographers.

On movies with at least one female director, women made up 16% of composers, but only 6% on films with just male directors.

To read the full “The Celluloid Ceiling: Behind-the-Scenes Employment of Women on the Top 100, 250, and 500 Films of 2019” report, click here.





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