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Memo to Hollywood: Hire More Women Directors

Photo of Paula Bernstein By Paula Bernstein | Indiewire May 6, 2014 at 12:30PM

Yet another study finds that women lag far behind men when it comes to directing, writing and producing big-budget Hollywood films. Not surprisingly, female directors fare better when it comes to documentaries and independent and festival films (the ones with the smaller paychecks).
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Director Naomi Kawase

Yet another study finds that women lag far behind men when it comes to directing, writing and producing big-budget Hollywood films. Not surprisingly, female directors fare better when it comes to documentaries and independent and festival films (the ones with the smaller paychecks).


The latest report, Independent Women, found that the percentage of women occupying key behind-the-scenes filmmaking roles is greater in independent films compared to big-budget movies. This study, the most comprehensive one which analyzes women's behind-the-scenes employment on independent films, is sponsored by the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film, San Diego State University.

"Considering that only one woman directed a studio film this summer (Lana Wachowski was a director of 'Jupiter Ascending')," Martha M. Lauzen, the center’s executive director, said in a statement, "the opportunities provided by independent films are crucial for women filmmakers and their careers.”

Women accounted for 26% of directors, writers and producers of feature-length American independent films that screened at festivals in the last year, the same as the previous study in 2011-12. But women comprised just 16% of the key behind-the-scenes roles in 2013's top-grossing domestic films.

According to the study's findings, women made up 28% of documentary directors and 18% directors working on independent narrative features, compared to a mere 6% of last year's top-grossing films.

The study drew its findings from films that screened at 23 major domestic film festivals -- including Sundance, Telluride, SXSW and Tribeca -- that took place between May 2013 and April 2014.


Last weekend, The New York Times critics Manola Dargis and A.O. Scott called Hollywood out on the major discrepancy, writing: "So ... what’s up with not hiring women to direct movies? Is there something about double-X chromosomes that makes you squeamish? Are women biologically incapable of directing movies, especially the franchises that prop up the big studios year after year? It's not like women can't blow stuff up (see Kathryn Bigelow) and that every man can shoot action (see "Divergent," etc.). It’s great when the industry takes a chance on a new talent, but how about mixing it up?"

This article is related to: Women, Women's issues, Women Directors, Women Writers, Martha Lauzen