2018 was a watershed moment for diversity in Hollywood. High-profile studio films directed by filmmakers of color made history: Ava DuVernay became the first black woman to direct a film that grossed over $100 million with “A Wrinkle in Time”; “Crazy Rich Asians” was a huge hit, grossing over $238 million worldwide, making it the highest-grossing romantic comedy in a decade; and “Black Panther,” the most expensive Marvel movie led by a black superhero, grossed over $1.3 billion worldwide, shattering the belief that black films don’t sell overseas.
2019, however, yielded less promising results. According to IndieWire’s own research, out of the top 100 movies of 2019, the number directed by filmmakers of color fell from 26 percent in 2018 to 18 percent in 2019. White men still account for over 80 percent of film directors at the studio level, even though they make up only a third of the U.S. population. Of the 1,200 highest-grossing films of the last decade, 96 percent were directed by men, according to a January 2019 report from the University of Southern California’s Annenberg Inclusion Initiative.
That’s an alarming figure, one that is ultimately a reflection of the lack of diversity that still exists among senior executive positions at Hollywood studios. In a May 2019 Variety evaluation of top leadership at the major studios and talent agencies, the publication determined that the decision-makers within the country’s most powerful media organizations continue to be largely white men. Needless to say, if any lasting change is to take place, it’s imperative that these institutions strive to make core leadership positions reflect the diversity within the country.
And an industry under tremendous pressure means studio output over the next several years will continue to face close scrutiny.
Kyle Kaplan; © 2019 CTMG, Inc.
Looking ahead, IndieWire has taken an early snapshot of racial and ethnic diversity “in the director’s chair” at the studio level, as it pertains to the next two years. As of this writing, that picture doesn’t suggest any marked improvement over 2019, with about 35 out of approximately 165 studio films set for release in 2020 and 2021 directed by filmmakers of color.
Of course, both figures could change, as studios shift release dates, pick up festival premieres, announce and fast-track new projects, replace directors, and so on. Nevertheless, it’s unlikely that any changes will have a drastic effect on the current numbers.
It is also worth mentioning is that there are several “Untitled” projects that have been dated, but remain mysteries, because the studios behind them have kept specifics about each (notably crew and cast) under wraps. So it’s possible that a number of the “Untitled” projects will be assigned to directors of color. However, given the lack of information at this time, those projects were not considered for this snapshot.
A few noteworthy items:
- Of the 35 films listed, just eight of them, or less than 23 percent, are directed by women. The gap between men and women directors remains, even among filmmakers of color. (IndieWire will have a closer look at the upcoming slate of female-directed films later this week.)
- Once again, Universal leads the field, boasting as many as nine films over the two-year period directed by filmmakers of color. It continues to assert itself as a studio that’s “friendly” to directors of color. Warner Bros. isn’t far behind with seven.
- Meanwhile, Disney, which was entirely absent from 2019’s list, counts four titles over 2020 and 2021. Certainly an improvement, but for the most dominant studio today, the first in history to surpass $10 billion in worldwide grosses, there’s room for improvement.
- Finally, the majority of the films on the list feature leads who are also of color, continuing a trend highlighted by the USC Annenberg’s annual report. This inclination to hire directors of color primarily for films with leads of color can limit how often these filmmakers work.
Following is the list of 35 studio films directed by filmmakers of color set for release in 2020 and 2021, as of this writing.
“Soul,” co-directed by Kemp Powers, set to be released June 19, 2020
“Eternals,” directed by Chloé Zhao, set to be released November 6, 2020
“Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings,” directed by Destin Daniel Cretton, set to be released February 12, 2021
“Thor: Love and Thunder,” directed by Taika Waititi, set to be released November 5, 2021
“Run,” directed by Aneesh Chaganty, set to be released January 24, 2020
“Antebellum,” co-directed by Gerard Bush, set to be released April 24, 2020
“Fatale,” directed by Deon Taylor, set to be released October 9, 2020
“No Time to Die,” directed by Cary Fukunaga, set to be released April 8, 2020
“Bad Trip,” directed by Kitao Sakurai, set to be released April 24, 2020
“Legally Blonde 3,” directed by Jamie Suk, set to be released May 8, 2020
“Respect,” directed by Liesl Tommy, set to be released October 9, 2020
“Like a Boss,” directed by Miguel Arteta, set to be released January 10, 2020
“Infinite,” directed by Antoine Fuqua, set to be released August 7, 2020
“Spell,” directed by Mark Tonderai, set to be released August 28, 2020
“Body Cam,” directed by Malik Vitthal, TBD 2020/2021
“Bad Boys for Life” (Columbia), directed by Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah, set to be released January 17, 2020
“Charm City Kings,” directed by Angel Manuel Soto, set to be released April 10, 2020
“Rise,” directed by Kevin Rodney Sullivan, set to be released April 10, 2020
“Morbius,” directed by Daniel Espinosa, set to be released July 31, 2020
“The Photograph,” directed by Stella Meghie, set to be released February 14, 2020
“Covers,” directed by Nisha Ganatra, set to be released May 8, 2020
“Fast & Furious 9,” directed by Justin Lin, set to be released May 22, 2020
“Candyman,” directed by Nia DaCosta, set to be released June 12, 2020
“Untitled ‘Purge’ Sequel,” directed by Everardo Gout, set to be released July 10, 2020
“Praise This,” directed by Tina Gordon, set to be released September 25, 2020
“BIOS,” directed by Miguel Sapochnik, set to be released October 2, 2020
“Untitled M. Night Shyamalan Universal Project,” directed by M. Night Shyamalan, set to be released February 26, 2021
“Fast & Furious 10,” directed by Justin Lin, set to be released April 2, 2021
“Just Mercy,” directed by Destin Daniel Cretton, set to be released January 17, 2020 (Wide)
“Birds of Prey,” directed by Cathy Yan, set to be released February 7, 2020
“In the Heights,” directed by Jon M. Chu, set to be released June 26, 2020
“Malignant,” directed by James Wan, set to be released August 14, 2020
“Untitled Fred Hampton project,” directed by Shaka King, set to be released August 21, 2020
“Tom and Jerry,” directed by Tim Story, set to be released December 23, 2020
“Space Jam 2,” directed by Malcolm D. Lee, set to be released July 16, 2021