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Feature Film Director Diversity Remains Low, Directors Guild Reports

Diversity among feature film directors remained disappointingly low in 2017, the Directors Guild of America has reported in a new study.

The results, released Thursday, show the difficulty faced in achieving gains in increasing the numbers of female directors — in spite of the strong box office of Patty Jenkins’ “Wonder Woman” and the awards recognition for Dee Rees on “Mudbound” and Greta Gerwig on “Lady Bird.”

The DGA said it examined an expanded data set for the 651 feature films that were released theatrically in the U.S. last year, including those that earned less than $250,000 at the box office. It noted that even though the data included hundreds of micro-budget projects with limited releases, women only accounted for 16% of directors. Of those features with a box office total of at least $250,000, only 12% of the directors were women and 10% were people of color

“It’s outrageous that we’re once again seeing such a lack of opportunity for women and people of color to direct feature films,” said DGA president Thomas Schlamme. “Our new study shows that discriminatory practices are still rampant across every corner of the feature film business. These numbers hit home how the chips are stacked against women and people of color.”

Schlamme said that DGA researchers were attempting to isolate areas that were bright spots or especially problematic.

“But as we kept going, it became clear that no matter how you slice the 2017 numbers, the outcome is virtually the same,” he added. “There is a misconception that things are better in the smaller, indie film world, but that’s simply not the case. From financing and hiring, to distribution and agent representation — every aspect of the entire system disadvantages women and people of color.”

The numbers for women directors increased in 2017 from 13 to 22 for the 175 films with box office over $250,000. But the number of minority directors for the 145 DGA signatory films last year with box office over $250,000 slid from 21 to 14.

“Change is long overdue,” continued Schlamme. “Inclusion is a fight we’ve been fighting with the industry for four decades now, and it’s been an uphill battle to get them to change their hiring practices. In our two most recent negotiations, we pushed for the industry to adopt the Rooney Rule into their hiring practices, but they wouldn’t budge on the issue. Neither will we — we are committed to keeping at this for as long as it takes.”

The “Rooney Rule” is part of the National Football League’s policies and requires teams to interview minority candidates for head coach and other senior jobs.

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