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by Paula Bernstein
May 6, 2014 12:30 PM
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Memo to Hollywood: Hire More Women Directors

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?"


  • Yvette Edery | May 8, 2014 3:25 AMReply

    I applaud Paula Bernstein for writing this factually and statistic based article which briefly and clearly states the importance of equality in commercial storytelling. I myself am an award winning female director currently launching an Indiegogo for my film and so I can use and appreciate this article although it seems redundant to others it is important to me.

  • Carrie | May 8, 2014 1:01 AMReply

    Dan, Ric, Cory, Chris, Toosubmissive, all the other dummies out there,

    When was the last time you met a Hollywood professional at a networking event (film festival, panel discussion, etc.) and all they wanted to know was whether or not they could take you on a on a date? Makes it kind of hard to bro down and form those relationships that lead to jobs. As a director, that happens to be female, I know I have to work twice, three, four times as hard for the same opportunities. And you know what...I say bring it. These challenges push me to be better, stronger, faster, and smarter. So...check yourself.

  • Dan | May 7, 2014 5:28 PMReply

    Its an Art's job, you don't hire an artist based on gender, ethnicity, or sexual preference. You hire them on talent and dedication. If you apply quota's to art's fields you just ruin art. You're not making movies better, your making feminism worse.

  • Ric | May 7, 2014 3:37 PMReply

    Nothing says equality more louder then pleading with studios to plz hire women with a disregard for skill and talent.

  • Alicia | May 7, 2014 2:56 AMReply

    Hire more women directors???? mmm.... interesting... not just about that. Hiring, like that is how it sets up jobs in Hollywood... What about investing money in women directors... jobs as a director happen on well stablished TV-series.... only there really. Not on any other project were marketing people in the industry, other investors, agents or producers invest bid a damn dime for them... which is all projects that exist in hollywood. Women nowadays just can make documentaries because that's the lone ranger genre.... unfortunately, and shorts. Features?? Yes, if they come from a decently rich family and people want to work with them for the family or gear or any other asset... PEACE!

  • Jon | May 7, 2014 12:41 AMReply

    It's about business convention. People in the business resist change. They see women as risks. There's no track record of lots of women money making directors. Women see the odds against them and tend to shy away. But the few that break through are examples to follow. Follow them.

  • Carol | May 6, 2014 9:32 PMReply

    We need quotas. Nothing will change until studios are forced to change.

  • Cory. | May 7, 2014 5:34 PM

    Quotas are sexist. It undermines everything when a quota is in place, your gender shouldn't matter even it comes to hiring someone. Forcing a studio to hire someone based on gender alone is pushing inequality. Hollywood is very tough to get into already and quotas will ultimately make it even harder.

  • More good films | May 6, 2014 5:17 PMReply

    We need more women directors making good movies. More Claire Denis and Kelly Reichart. Who cares if we get more women directors making brainless studio pap? It's not like those movies have a voice anyway.

  • Chris | May 6, 2014 5:17 PMReply

    As a woman in film school, I have no intention of waiting around for change to happen. For intersectionality's sake, I am also black. Statistics-wise, I would have no chance in making it. Do I give a rat's ass? Nope. If the system doesn't want to make it happen for me, then I'll make it happen for myself. I always see so many think pieces, but where's the action? What would help would be having more female PRODUCERS, yeah know, since that's a pretty important role. Anyway, rant over. Complaining only gets you so far. Make it happen.

  • Haz | May 7, 2014 3:59 PM

    I agree with this. Any directors have to make work happen for themselves before anyone will give them jobs. It's all about pushing your own career forward, regardless of the statistics.

  • Meryl Streep | May 6, 2014 3:00 PMReply

    Well, you're not going to change Hollywood's mind if you just sit around and complain. Quit being a bunch of couch potato activists, and actually try to make a difference, face Hollywood up front if you have such a big problem with it. We get it. Women can't make movies because of big ol dumb men in the industry. For the love of all that is holy, stop.

  • TooSubmissive | May 6, 2014 2:05 PMReply

    Women sitting around waiting to get permission to direct a studio film are too submissive...they are waiting for a man to make their dream come true...the women who go out and make their own documentaries and indie films are more assertive and they're making films which actually say something instead of pandering to fanboys

  • WE GET IT | May 6, 2014 1:29 PMReply

    We get it already, can you write about something else?

  • Truthsayer | May 8, 2014 7:41 PM

    Thank you.Even if there is a change,they'll just hire white woman who will direct stuff about white women having problems.

  • CrazyxCrazy | May 6, 2014 12:48 PMReply

    "Memo to Hollywood: Hire More Women Directors"

    Shouldn't this just be the tag line under the Indiewire logo by now?