The percentages of women working as directors and writers on independent films reached recent highs in 2019-2020, according to a report released Thursday.
Dr. Martha M. Lauzen, executive director of the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University, announced that the group’s Indie Women study found women comprised 38% of directors working on narrative features and documentaries, up from 33% in 2018-19 and 29% in 2017-18. Women accounted for 35% of writers, up from 32% in 2018-19 and 26% in 2017-18.
“We have now seen gains over the last two consecutive years for women working as directors, writers, and producers in independent film,” Lauzen said. “The percentage of women working as directors on narrative films has more than doubled over the last decade, rising from 15% in 2008-09 to 33% in 2019-20.”
However, men continue to outnumber women 66% to 34% when all behind-the-scenes roles are considered (directors, writers, producers, executive producers, editors, cinematographers). Documentaries offered more opportunities for women than narrative features as women comprised 40% of those working in key behind-the-scenes roles on documentaries but only 29% of those working on narrative features.
The study also found festivals selected and/or screened twice as many narrative features directed by men as by women. It also found that festivals selected and/or screened almost equal numbers of documentaries directed by men as by women.
“For years, documentaries have provided more opportunities for women than narrative features,” Lauzen said. “However, over the last couple of years, the employment gains made by women in the world of documentaries have outpaced the increases on narrative films. At 47% of producers on documentaries, women are approaching parity with their male counterparts. The same cannot be said on narrative features where women comprise a little more than one third of producers.”
The report was based on more than 88,000 credits on almost 9,000 films over the period of 2008 to 2020.
It also found that independent films with at least one woman director had substantially higher percentages of women writers, editors and cinematographers. On such titles, 73% of writers were women versus 12% on films directed exclusively by men; women accounted for 43% of editors versus 18% on films directed exclusively by men; and 27% of cinematographers versus 8% on films directed exclusively by men.
Women accounted for 42% of directors and 42% of writers working on documentaries in 2019- 2020, up from 35% in both categories in 2018-19; 44% of documentary executive producers, up from 40%; 47% of documentary producers, up from 43%; and 32% of documentary editors, up 1 percentage point; and 19% of documentary cinematographers, up 3 percentage points.