While this analysis of women’s behind-the-scenes employment on domestically and independently produced features draws some disappointing conclusions, there are silver linings.
Just as television has increasingly emerged as a more inviting platform for female directors, women fare better in documentary and independent narrative feature filmmaking than Hollywood’s estimations would lead us to believe.
In 2015-2015, women comprised 29% of documentary directors, and 18% working on narrative features. These figures stand starkly in contrast to the reported read-it-and-weep 7% of women listed among directors in the year’s top-grossing films. (Though at this year’s end, that number may look different when Sam Taylor-Johnson’s "Fifty Shades of Grey" lands among the year’s high grossers.)
Overall, women accounted for 26% of all directors, writers, executive producers, producers, editors, and cinematographers. This represents no change from last year. By role (for both documentaries and narrative features), women comprised 33% of producers, 27% of executive producers, 23% of directors, 23% of writers, 22% of editors, and 12% of cinematographers.
While not all performed well at the box office, there were many strong indies directed by women even if they didn’t even crack the top 100 grossers list. Gina Prince-Bythewood’s "Beyond the Lights," Amma Asante’s "Belle," Gillian Robespierre’s "Obvious Child," Laura Poitras’ Oscar winner "Citizenfour," Ava DuVernay’s "Selma," Lynn Shelton’s "Laggies," Jennifer Kent’s "The Babadook" and Gia Coppola’s "Palo Alto" all earned considerable attention in limited release.
Hollywood, take note of these women. If you need a little help, here’s one practical solution: The Director List has launched a new website devoted to increasing accessibility to women directors and their work. The site offers a database of over 850 female directors from the US and around the world. Every woman on the list has either directed a feature-length film (narrative or documentary), television episodes, or is a seasoned commercial or music video directors. Search functions allow users to do a keyword search or filter by medium, genre or region.
Meanwhile, you can read the Independent Women report in full here. The Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film considered 23 festivals for the survey, including Sundance, SXSW, Telluride, Tribeca, AFI Fest, Los Angeles, Seattle and the New York Film Fest.