Women Directors Make Unprecedented Progress

Posted on October 9, 2019 at 4:08 pm

Variety notes the significant and unprecedented progress made by women directors this year. The #metoo and #timesup initiatives have made a difference, for the first time resulting in systemic changes.

In January, Stacy L. Smith — the founder of USC’s Annenberg Inclusion Initiative, which tracks representation in front of and behind the camera — published a report about female film directors. Her findings could not have been more bleak. Of the 112 directors behind the 100 top-grossing movies of 2018, only 3.6% were women. Even worse, that number was down from the year before, when women represented 7.3% of the top 100. To emphasize the blighted landscape, Smith and her research team put their key finding in bold: “The percentage of female directors has not changed over time.”

Ten months later, based on the year’s releases so far and what’s still to come, Smith is making a wholly different declaration. “It looks for 2019 like at least 12 movies — which is an all-time high — will be directed by women across the top 100 films,” Smith says. That number could go as high as 14, she adds….Yes, there has been progress, with movies like “Captain Marvel” (co-directed by Anna Boden) and “Hustlers” (Lorene Scafaria) leading the charge at the box office. Still to come this year are “Frozen 2” (directed by Jennifer Lee) — sure to be a blockbuster — Elizabeth Banks’ “Charlie’s Angels” reboot and prestige films that may also be hits, such as Kasi Lemmons’ “Harriet,” Marielle Heller’s “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood,” Gerwig’s “Little Women” and — for once — quite a few more.

Given that the percentage of women directors has fluctuated year to year, it may be too soon to declare a sea change. But Smith maintains that in looking ahead to 2020, this year’s numbers aren’t just a blip. “2019 won’t be a one-off,” she says. “We’re moving — finally — in the right direction, toward more inclusion behind the camera.”

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Directors Gender and Diversity

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