Our Latest Study
Women in Independent Film, 2016-17
This study provides employment figures for women working in key behind-the-scenes roles on independently and domestically produced feature-length documentaries and narrative films screening at 23 high profile film festivals in the United States including AFI Fest, Sundance Film Festival, and SXSW Film Festival. In 2016-17, the festivals considered screened three times as many narrative films, and almost twice as many documentaries, directed by men as by women. Overall, the films employed more than twice as many men as women (72% vs. 28%) as directors, writers, producers, executive producers, editors, and cinematographers. This represents an increase of 4 percentage points from 2008-09 when women accounted for 24% of individuals in these roles.
It’s a Man’s (Celluloid) World: Portrayals of Female Characters in the Top 100 Films of 2016
In 2016, females comprised 29% of protagonists. This represents an increase of 7 percentage points from 2015 and a recent historical high. Females accounted for 37% of major characters, an increase of 3 percentage points from 2015, and also a recent historical high. However, the percentage of female characters in speaking roles (major and minor) was 32%, down 1 percentage point from 2015. Overall, these results indicate that while audiences were more than twice as likely to see male characters as female characters on screen, females fared better as protagonists and major characters last year. The findings for female characters of color were a mixed bag. The percentage of Asian female characters doubled from 3% in 2015 to 6% in 2016, and the percentage of Black female characters increased slightly from 13% in 2015 to 14% in 2016. However, the percentage of Latina characters declined slightly from 4% in 2015 to 3% in 2016. Films with at least one woman director and/or writer featured higher percentages of female protagonists, major female characters, and females in speaking roles than films with exclusively male directors and/or writers.
The Celluloid Ceiling: Behind-the-Scenes Employment of Women on the Top 100, 250, and 500 Films of 2016
In 2016, women comprised 17% of all directors, writers, producers, executive producers, editors, and cinematographers working on the top 250 domestic grossing films. This represents a decline of 2 percentage points from last year and is even with the percentage achieved in 1998.
Women accounted for 7% of directors, down 2 percentage points from 9% in 2015 and 1998. Last year, 92% of films had no female directors. In other roles, women comprised 13% of writers, 17% of executive producers, 24% of producers, 17% of editors, and 5% of cinematographers.
This year’s study also found that only 3% of composers working on the top 250 films were women.
Video by Yahoo! Movies summarizing the findings: Study Shows Decline of Female Employment in Entertainment Industry
Boxed In 2015-16: Women On Screen and Behind the Scenes in Television
In 2015-16, 79% of the broadcast, cable, and streaming programs considered featured casts with more male than female characters. 5% offered ensembles with equal numbers of female and male characters, and 16% had casts with more female than male characters. Behind the scenes, women comprised 26% of creators, directors, writers, producers, executive producers, editors, and directors of photography working on the programs considered. Programs with at least one woman executive producer or creator featured higher percentages of female characters overall, more females as major characters, and more women writers and directors than programs with exclusively male executive producers or creators.
Thumbs Down 2016: Top Film Critics and Gender
This study considers 5,776 reviews written by 247 “top critics” on the popular film review aggregator site Rotten Tomatoes during spring 2016. Findings indicate that women comprised 27% and men 73% of the top critics. Women wrote 24% and men 76% of the reviews during the study period. Men outnumbered women in every job title category considered, including as film critics, staff writers, and freelancers. Reviews written by men also outnumbered those written by women in every type of publication considered, and in every film genre. The top critics reviewed higher proportions of films featuring protagonists of their own sex. As a result, films with male protagonists receive greater visibility than films with female protagonists. However, on average, male and female reviewers did not differ in the quantitative ratings (e.g., stars, reels, grades) they awarded films featuring female protagonists.
It’s a Man’s (Celluloid) World: Portrayals of Female Characters in the Top 100 Films of 2015
In 2015, females comprised 22% of protagonists, 18% of antagonists, 34% of major characters, and 33% of all speaking characters in the top 100 domestic grossing films. The percentages of female characters of color were largely unchanged, with a slight increase in Black female characters (from 11% in 2014 to 13% in 2015), no change in the percentage of Latina characters (4% in 2014 and 2015), and a slight decrease in the percentage of Asian female characters (from 4% in 2014 to 3% in 2015). Further, female characters of color were less likely than White females to be major characters. 27% of Black, Latina, Asian, and females of other races/ethnicities were major characters, whereas 38% of White females were major characters.
Women and the Big Picture: Behind-the-Scenes Employment on the Top 700 Films of 2014
Women comprised 20% of those working in key behind-the-scenes roles on the top 700 theatrically released films in 2014 (foreign films omitted). This figure is slightly higher than the 17% working on the top 250 films. By role, women accounted for 27% of producers, 21% of executive producers, 18% of editors, 13% of writers, 13% of directors, and 9% of cinematographers. Films with women directors employed substantially higher percentages of women in other key behind-the-scenes roles than films with exclusively male directors. The study found similar results when women comprised at least one-third of executive producers and producers.
The Celluloid Ceiling II: Production Design, Production Management, Sound Design, Key Grips, and Gaffers
For over a decade, The Celluloid Ceiling study has tracked women’s representation as directors, writers, producers, executive producers, editors, and cinematographers on the top 250 domestic grossing films. In an effort to assess the larger picture of women’s employment in film, this study monitored their representation as production designers (20%), production managers/production supervisors (25%/44%), sound designers/supervising sound editors (5%/5%), key grips (1%), and gaffers (1%).
The study analyzed behind-the-scenes employment of 1,318 individuals working on the top 250 domestic grossing films of 2008 with combined box office grosses of approximately $9.4 billion.
Women @ the Box Office
This study asked two basic questions: how do films with at least one woman working in a key behind-the-scenes role fare at the box office when compared to those employing only men in the same roles, and how do films featuring female protagonists fare at the box office when compared to those featuring males.
Examining the top 100 worldwide grossing films of 2007, the study found that when women and men filmmakers have similar budgets for their films, the resulting box office grosses are also similar. In other words, the sex of filmmakers does not determine box office grosses.
In addition, when the size of the budget is held constant, films with female protagonists or prominent females in an ensemble cast earn similar box office grosses (domestic, international, opening weekend) and DVD sales as films with male protagonists. Because films featuring male protagonists have larger budgets, they earn larger box office grosses. However, the differences in box office grosses are not caused by the sex of the protagonist but by the size of the budget. Films with larger budgets generate larger grosses, regardless of the sex of the protagonist.