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Indie Women: Behind-the-Scenes Employment of Women in Independent Film, 2018-19

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The percentages of women working as directors, writers, producers, executive producers, and editors on independent films reached historic highs in 2018-19.  Women comprised 33% of directors, up 4 percentage points from 29% in 2017-18, and 32% of writers, up 6 percentage points from 26% in 2017-18.  Women accounted for 37% of producers, up 1 percentage point from 36% in 2017-18, and 32% of executive producers, up 6 percentage points from 26% in 2017-18.  Women made up 29% of editors, up 2 percentage points from 27% in 2017-18.  Despite these gains, it is important to note that independent films employed more than twice as many men as women (68% vs. 32%) in key behind-the-scenes roles.  The study provides employment figures for domestically and independently produced feature-length documentaries and narrative films screening from July 2019 through June 2019 at more than 20 high-profile U.S. festivals, including SXSW, AFI, and Tribeca.  Indie Women is the most comprehensive and longest running study of women working in independent film available and has tracked over 80,000 credits on almost 8,000 films over the period from 2008 to 2019.

Thumbs Down 2019: Film Critics and Gender, and Why It Matters

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Thumbs Down is the most comprehensive and longest-running study of women’s representation and impact as film reviewers available.  The report considers individuals working for print, broadcast, and online outlets in spring 2019 whose work also appears on the Rotten Tomatoes website.  This year’s study found that women comprise 34% and men 66% of all film reviewers.  This represents an increase of 2 percentage points from 32% in 2018.  Men outnumber women in every job title category and type of media outlet considered.  A larger proportion of films reviewed by women than by men feature female protagonists and have women directors.  When reviewing films directed by women, female critics are more likely than their male counterparts to mention the name of the woman directing the film and to mention/discuss her filmography in a positive manner.

It’s a Man’s (Celluloid) World:  Portrayals of Female Characters in the Top Grossing Films of 2018

Male characters continued to dominate on the big screen in 2018.  While only 35% of films featured 10 or more female characters in speaking roles, 82% had 10 or more male characters in speaking roles.  Females comprised 35% of all speaking characters, an increase of 1 percentage point from 34% in 2017.  Females comprised 36% of major characters.  This represents a decline of 1 percentage point from 37% in 2017.  The percentage of top grossing films featuring female protagonists increased to 31% in 2018, rebounding from 24% in 2017, and slightly besting the 29% achieved in 2016.  Regarding race and ethnicity, the percentage of Black females increased from 16% in 2017 to 21% in 2018.  The percentage of Latinas decreased from 7% in 2017 to 4% in 2018.  The percentage of Asian females increased from 7% in 2017 to 10% in 2018.  However, this increase is due largely to one film, Crazy Rich Asians.  When this film is excluded from the analysis, Asians accounted for 8% of all female characters, only 1 percentage point above the 7% achieved in 2017.

The Celluloid Ceiling: Behind-the-Scenes Employment of Women on the Top 100, 250, and 500 Films of 2018

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In 2018, women comprised 20% of all directors, writers, producers, executive producers, editors, and cinematographers working on the top 250 domestic grossing films.  This represents an increase of 2 percentage points from 18% in 2017.  Last year, only 1% of films employed 10 or more women in the above roles.  In contrast, 74% of films employed 10 or more men.  Women accounted for 8% of directors, down 3 percentage points from 11% in 2017.  This is 1 percentage point below the 9% achieved in 1998.  By role, women comprised 16% of writers, 21% of executive producers, 26% of producers, 21% of editors, and 4% of cinematographers.  The study also found that women accounted for 6% of composers, 6% of sound designers, and 10% of supervising sound editors.

Boxed In 2017-18:  Women On Screen and Behind the Scenes in Television

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In 2017-18, the percentages of female characters on screen and women working in key roles behind the scenes declined on television.  Overall, females comprised 40% of all speaking characters on television programs appearing on the broadcast networks, cable, and streaming services, a decline of 2 percentage points from 42% in 2016-17.  Behind the scenes, women accounted for 27% of all creators, directors, writers, executive producers, producers, editors, and directors of photography working on programs delivered via the various platforms last year.  This represents a decline of 1 percentage point from 2016-17.  Overall, programs employed behind-the-scenes women in relatively small numbers.  For example 69% of programs employed 5 or fewer women in the roles considered.  In contrast, only 13% of programs employed 5 or fewer men.

The Celluloid Ceiling II: Production Design, Production Management, Sound Design, Key Grips, and Gaffers

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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

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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.