By Paula Bernstein | Indiewire January 21, 2014 at 2:22PM
Director Rory Kennedy had some harsh words about sexism in Hollywood at the Sundance Film Festival's annual "Women in Film" panel.
"We live in a sexist world and Hollywood is at the heart of it," said Kennedy. Fellow panelist Valerie Veatch, the director/producer of "Love Child," said "The financing structure of Hollywood films is also part of the problem. Women not playing nine rounds of golf stops us from having access to the money, to the hedge funds and the other financing."
Sadly, Kennedy and Veatch have more evidence of the barriers facing female filmmakers -- at least when it comes to Hollywood films, according to a new study commissioned by the Sundance Institute and Women in Film Los Angeles. There is some bright news, though. Women continue to fare better in the indie world, specifically the documentary world, but there has been no overall change in the number of female directors and producers at the Sundance Film Festival over the past decade.
More than 40% of the documentary directors and producers with films screening at last year's Sundance Film Festival were women, but once all festival films are included, the number falls to 30%. "Examining female participation at the Festival as directors and producers from 2002 to 2013 revealed no meaningful change over time," the study found.
Keri Putnam, Executive Director, Sundance Institute, and Cathy Schulman, President, Women In Film Los Angeles, announced the findings of the the latest report at a gathering at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival. The study was conducted by Stacy L. Smith, Ph.D., Katherine Pieper, Ph.D. and Marc Choueiti at Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, University of Southern California.
"Our collaborative initiative has furthered the dialogue around the importance of women behind the camera. We are grateful to the researchers and allied organizations in lending their analysis and expertise to help us identify the most productive next steps to address existing challenges," said Putnam.
Schulman said of the results, “In terms of our committed course of change for women, this year's study is another invaluable tool in understanding how Sundance and Women In Film can help guide the industry to institutionalize permanent progress through our programs and collective influence."
The research documented the gender distribution of filmmakers participating in Sundance Institute Feature Film Program (FFP) and Documentary Film Program (DFP) Labs between 2002 and 2013 to determine how many emerging female writers, directors and producers receive critical artistic support as part of their filmmaking background, and how this may affect their careers and the pipeline overall. It also updated last year’s inaugural study by quantitatively examining the gender of 1,163 content creators (directors, writers, producers, cinematographers, and editors) across 82 U.S. films selected and screened at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival. Lastly, the research delved deeper into the original qualitative interviews to further explore obstructions facing female directors and producers in the narrative space.
One encouraging sign: female filmmakers who participated in the Sundance Institute's feature and documentary development labs succeeded in equal numbers to men. The study concluded that gender had no impact on the likelihood of a film's completion (about 41% of all lab projects by male and female filmmakers are finished, and 80% of those go on to play at major film festivals).
This latest study is a follow-up on last year's study of women directors "Exploring the Barriers and Opportunities for Independent Women Filmmakers."
As Melissa Silverstein at Women and Hollywood wrote, "The first thing to say is how important this work is. Having longitudinal research on women filmmakers not just based on box office performance is really important to a deeper understanding of the large scale cultural issues that hold women back."
Some key findings of the study are below -- you can read the full report here.
Key findings include:
ARTIST SUPPORT THROUGH SUNDANCE INSTITUTE LABS
• Sundance Institute Lab projects helmed by women succeed at just shy of equal rates as male-helmed projects in production and top festival exhibition. The percentage of FFP lab projects completed did not vary by gender; roughly 41% of male-helmed and female-helmed projects were finished. 81.3% of all finished FFP films went on to play at the top 10 festivals worldwide, and of these, no gender differences emerged.
• Putting female directors on studio lists is limited by stereotypes. A group of 12 individuals working in the narrative realm were asked specifically about hiring directors into top commercial jobs. Two-thirds (66.7%) indicated that there is a smaller pool of qualified female directors. Half mentioned that stereotypically male films (i.e., action, horror) may not appeal as job opportunities to female directors. These findings illustrate how a reliance on stereotypes creates decision-making biases that weaken women’s opportunities.