Report Indicates Only 7% of 2014’s Top 250 Films Were Directed by Women
If you’ve read a newspaper or spent more than four minutes on the internet or pressed your ear to the ground in an open, misty field, then you may have heard a little something about America’s crisis of gender disparity in the workplace. The hot topic as of late has been the shameful gap in pay between men and women performing comparable services, with celebrities such as Jennifer Lawrence and Jessica Chastain making their voices heard on the issue. But the wage inconsistencies are symptomatic of a much larger and troubling landscape for women in Hollywood, where even those who are able to get a foot in the door are constantly marginalized, minimized, or outright ignored.
But don’t take it from us: a new study from San Diego State University’s Center for the Study of Women and Television in Film has presented some startling statistics about the difficulty women have finding employment at all in the entertainment industry. (Figures via Variety.) Dr. Martha Lauzen published the study that finds women to be severely, disproportionately underemployed in Hollywood, with a shocking 85% of the films released in 2014 having no female director. 80% had no women in the writer’s bungalow, 78% had none in the editing suite, and a brutal 92% had no women behind the camera as cinematographer. Curiously enough, however, only 33% of films had had no women producers on the scene. That last bit naturally poses the question as to why this one specific facet of filmmaking has been so much friendlier to women (and at that, why all these female producers haven’t been able to bring more women into the field). Megan Ellison’s busy, but not that busy. Dr. Lauzen’s study also specifically reexamined these metrics under women-directed productions, and found that the numbers shifted to 52% of writers being women, 35% of editors, and 26% of cinematographers.
The study also tabulated the difference between women’s employment in the highest-earning 250 films of 2014 against the top 700, a much wider cross-section of filmmaking culture that accounts for pretty much every theatrical release. The numbers suggest that women enjoy higher rates of work in low-budget independent productions than major studio releases. Only 7% of the top 250 movies of 2014 were directed by women including Unbroken (Angelina Jolie) and Laggies (Lynn Shelton). Dr. Lauzen added additional commentary:
On independently produced films there is the perception of there being lower risk. I think there is a notion that women are not being hired as directors on big films because they are somehow riskier hires. The problem is that’s not how Hollywood works. There’s a growing list of male directors who are relative newbies and are placed at the helm of $100 million-plus films with little feature experience.
This report comes out annually, and every year, it’s a sad reminder of how far Hollywood has to go in repairing decades of ingrained gender bias in the biz. With more celebrities speaking out now than ever, perhaps next year’s will look a little brighter.