×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Percentage of Female Directors Unchanged Despite ‘Fifty Shades of Grey,’ ‘Pitch Perfect 2’ (Study)

Female directors such as “Pitch Perfect 2’s” Elizabeth Banks and “Fifty Shades of Grey’s” Sam Taylor-Johnson scored at the box office last year, but their popular success is an anomaly in an industry that remains dominated by men.

Women comprised 9% of directors on the top 250 domestic grossing films and 12% of directors on the top 500 domestic grossing films, according to a new report by the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University. That’s a slight, 2% improvement over the previous year, but the same representation women enjoyed in 1998, a sign of the durability of this particular celluloid ceiling.

“It takes a long time for big industries to change their behavior,” said Dr. Martha Lauzen, the center’s executive director and the study’s author. “It would be unrealistic to expect that attitudes about women as directors to change over night, but nothing in this data suggests that change is on the horizon.”

Since the center began conducting its research 17 years ago, the high-water mark has been in 2000 when female directors made 11% of the top 250 films.

The latest findings come as the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is investigating hiring practices at major Hollywood studios because of the lack of representation by female directors on major films. It also emerges in the wake of a larger debate about the gender pay gap — a discussion that was sparked after “Hunger Games” star Jennifer Lawrence wrote an opinion piece last October recounting her anger over being paid less than her male co-stars on “American Hustle.”

“There’s a lot more dialogue around the issue, but building on that conversation has been incremental and slow,” said Lauzen.

Women didn’t fare much better in professions other than directing. They comprised 11% of writers, 20% of executive producers, 26% of producers, 22% of editors, and 6% of cinematographers. Each area of employment saw gains, however. The percentage of women working in those four fields increased between one and four percentage points from 2014.

The type of film being made also had an impact on the gender breakdown. Documentaries and comedies tend to employ more women, with females making up 36% and 34% of individuals working on these films, respectively. But women are less likely to be tapped for action and horror movies, making up 9% and 11% of of the work force on projects in these genres.

Having woman in a key position appears to have an impact on creating more diversity among film crews. Features with female directors employed higher percentages of women than those overseen by male filmmakers. Women made up 53% of writers, 32% of editors, and 12% of cinematographers on films directed by other women. When men were behind the camera, the numbers fell substantially — 10% of writers were female, 19% of editors, and 10% of cinematographers.

Although the warm commercial reception that “Pitch Perfect 2,” “Fifty Shades of Grey,” and other female-driven projects such as Nancy Meyers’ “The Intern” received demonstrate that betting on women directors can be profitable, Lauzen cautions that their success can allow the entertainment industry to put on blinders.

“Every time a film directed by a woman does well that’s positive,” she said. “But there can be a negative aspect. Heads of studios will use a few high profile cases to say we’re doing our part or to say that there is a problem of under-employment, just not at their studio. It’s a double-edged sword.”

More Film

  • MGM logo

    MGM Hires Robert Marick to Expand Consumer Products

    Metro Goldwyn Mayer has hired industry veteran Robert Marick as executive VP of global consumer products and experiences. In his new role, Marick is responsible for overseeing the expansion of MGM’s traditional merchandise, interactive and consumer products business. He’s also developing a global strategy with a focus on core consumer products licensing, digital and gaming, [...]

  • Robert Iger and Rupert Murdochcredit: Disney

    Wall Street Applauds as Disney Nears Finish Line on Fox Acquisition

    Wall Street is rooting for Disney as the media giant reaches the finish line this week in its 15-month quest to acquire most of Rupert Murdoch’s film and TV empire. Fox shareholders, on the other hand, are being a little more cautious. Disney is poised to close the $71.3 billion deal that took many twists [...]

  • Personal Tales From Hong Kong, China

    Personal Tales From Hong Kong and China Among the Asia Film Financing Forum Projects

    A brace of personal tales from China and Hong Kong are among the 23 projects vying for attention at the 17th Hong Kong Asia Film Financing Forum. Liu Miaomiao is a rare female ethnic Hui Muslim filmmaker. She came to international prominence with 1993’s “Chatterbox” that won the President of the Italian Senate’s Gold Medal [...]

  • Josie Ho Makes 2019 the Year

    Josie Ho Makes 2019 the Year She Takes Risks in Her Film Choices

    Josie Ho vows to master the art of calculated risk in the year 2019. As an actress and film producer, she is conscious of the choices of projects she makes: appearing in the new film by Japanese hotshot director Shinichiro Ueda, producing a new documentary feature while developing some 10 titles in the pipeline of [...]

  • FilMart: Big Data, Content Key to

    FilMart: Big Data, Content Key to iQIYI's Online Ambitions

    Tech and data play a huge role for iQIYI, China’s second-largest streaming platform, as a way to innovate and step out ahead of its competitors, iQIYI founder and CEO Yu Gong explained in a keynote speech Monday at FilMart. “We don’t see a lot of innovation-driven entertainment companies yet. We want to be the one,” [...]

  • Ted Sarandos and Thierry Fremaux'Okja' photocall,

    Despite Ongoing Peace Talks, Netflix Won't Have Any Movies at Cannes 2019 (EXCLUSIVE)

    Although Netflix and the Cannes Film Festival continue quietly to negotiate a potential settlement to their differences, the streaming giant will be absent from the Croisette again this year with no film in or out of competition, Variety has learned. The ongoing talks between the two sides have been friendly, including a dinner in Los [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content