The fact that female filmmakers have limited opportunities when compared to their male contemporaries is unfortunately nothing new, though a new study conducted by online film-financing hub Slated and published on The Hollywood Reporter this morning is putting some frustrating facts and statistics into perspective.
First the the good news: The company spent six months analyzing 1,591 feature films released theatrically in the U.S. between 2010 and 2015 and found that movies produced by, written by and/or starring women had a greater average return on investment than those made by men. For female-directed films with budgets exceeding $25 million (like Sam Taylor-Johnson’s “Fifty Shades of Grey” or Ava DuVernay’s “Selma”), the movies nearly quadrupled their investment.
However, the same success could not be found in low-budget films directed by women. “Why are woman directors performing so low in low-budget films compared to everybody else?” asked Slated CEO Stephen Paternot, and it’s the question that sent his team to find a truly damaging statistic: low-budget, female-directed movies are released on only a third as many screens that male-directed movies are released on. For every 242 screens a female-led movie gets, for example, the male-directed one gets 646 screens.
What’s especially damaging about this distribution gap is how it only further stacks the odds of success against female directors. Not only is it a struggle for women just to secure financing and complete production (women are given 25 percent smaller production budgets than men on average), but those who successfully do so must face another roadblock with the distribution gap.
“This is the institutional bias, that you’ve somehow been taught as you’ve risen the ranks in the studio, that it’s a safer bet to go with a man,” Paternot adds. “That’s the trust gap. The women have given you better financial results, yet your gut’s still telling you to give them less money to work with. And the indie distributors are choosing not to take a risk on women’s movies.”
Given that female-directed films have a higher return on investment on larger-budget movies only makes these numbers more frustrating. Concludes Paternot, “Everybody thinks if you bet on women, you lose. But the data is saying, if you’re really in this just to make a return on your capital, you should be betting on women.”
For more stats and detailed graphs, head over to The Hollywood Reporter.