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Indie Women: Behind-the-Scenes Employment of Women in Independent Film 2019-2020


The percentages of women working as directors and writers on independent films continue to climb, reaching recent historic highs in 2019-2020.  Women comprised 38% of directors working on narrative features and documentaries, up from 33% in 2018-19 and 29% in 2017-18.  Women accounted for 35% of writers, up from 32% in 2018-19 and 26% in 2017-18.   Overall, men accounted for 66% and women 34% of all directors, writers, producers, executive producers, editors, and cinematographers working on films selected and/or screened at the festivals in 2019-2020.  Documentaries continue to offer more opportunities for women than narrative features.  Women comprised 40% of those working in key behind-the-scenes roles on documentaries but only 29% of those working on narrative features.  In addition, whereas the festivals selected and/or screened twice as many narrative features directed by men as by women, they selected and/or screened almost equal numbers of documentaries directed by men as by women.  The study provides employment figures for domestically and independently produced feature-length documentaries and narrative films selected and/or screening from July 2019 through June 2020 at more than 20 high-profile festivals in the U.S., including SXSW, AFI, and the New York Film Festival.  Indie Women is the most comprehensive and longest running study of women working in independent film available and has tracked over 88,000 credits on almost 9,000 films over the period of 2008 to 2020.

Boxed In 2019-20: Women On Screen and Behind the Scenes in Television


In 2019-20, original programs appearing on streaming services featured substantially more female protagonists than programs on cable channels or broadcast networks.  By platform, 42% of streaming programs had clearly identifiable sole female protagonists, 27% of cable programs and 24% of broadcast programs featured female protagonists.  Women also reached historic highs as creators, directors, writers, executive producers, producers, editors, and directors of photography on streaming programs.  The gains made by women working as directors and directors of photography on streaming programs were particularly impressive.  The percentage of women working as directors soared from 15% in 2018-19 to 32% in 2019-20.  The percentage of women working as directors of photography rose from 3% in 2018-19 to 17% in 2019-20.  Regarding race and ethnicity, across platforms the percentage of Black female characters increased slightly (from 17% in 2018-19 to 20% in 2019-20), the percentage of Asian females increased slightly (from 7% in 2018-19 to 8% in 2019-20), and the percentage of Latinas decreased slightly (from 6% in 2018-19 to 5% in 2019-20).

Thumbs Down 2020: Film Critics and Gender, and Why It Matters


First conducted in 2007, 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 the U.S. during January through March 2020.   This year’s study finds that men continue to outnumber women as film reviewers by almost 2 to 1.  Men comprised 65% and women 35% of reviewers.  Further, male reviewers outnumber females in every job title category and nearly every type of media outlet.  In turn, the data shows that female-driven films and films directed by women make up a smaller proportion of men’s reviews than women’s reviews.  The study also found that female and male reviewers of color remain dramatically underrepresented.  70% of female reviewers are white, 23% are women of color, and 7% have an unknown racial/ethnic identity.  73% of male reviewers are white, 18% are men of color, and 9% have an unknown racial/ethnic identity.

It’s a Man’s (Celluloid) World:  Portrayals of Female Characters in the Top Grossing Films of 2019

The 2019 It’s a Man’s (Celluloid) World Report


The percentage of top grossing films featuring female protagonists rose from 31% in 2018 to 40% in 2019, reaching a recent historic high.  43% of films featured male protagonists, and 17% had ensembles or a combination of male and female protagonists.  The percentages of females appearing as major characters and speaking characters remained relatively stable.  In 2019, females accounted for 37% of major characters, up just 1 percentage point from 36% in 2018, and 34% of all speaking characters, down 1 percentage point from 35% in 2018.  Regarding race and ethnicity, the percentage of Black females in speaking roles declined slightly from 21% in 2018 to 20% in 2019.  The percentage of Latinas increased slightly from 4% in 2018 to 5% in 2019.  7% of all female characters were Asian, down 3 percentage points from 10% in 2018, but even with the percentage achieved in 2017.  Female characters were more likely than male characters to have a known marital status (46% vs. 34%).  A larger proportion of male than female characters had an identifiable occupation (73% vs. 61%), and male characters were more likely than female characters to be seen in their work setting, actually working (59% vs. 43%).  Females comprised 26% of leaders and were most likely to be leaders in professional jobs and social groups.  Films with at least one woman director and/or writer were more likely than films with no women in these roles to feature higher percentages of females as protagonists, in major roles, and as speaking characters.

The Celluloid Ceiling: Behind-the-Scenes Employment of Women on the Top 100, 250, and 500 Films of 2019


In 2019, the percentages of behind-the-scenes women working on the top 100 and 250 (domestic) grossing films increased, reaching recent historic highs, while women’s employment on the top 500 films remained stagnant.  Women comprised 20% of all directors, writers, producers, executive producers, editors, and cinematographers working on the top 100 grossing films in 2019, up from 16% in 2018.  Women working in these roles on the top 250 grossing films experienced a slight increase from 20% in 2018 to 21% in 2019.  The percentage of women working on the top 500 films remained steady at 23%.  Women accounted for 12% of directors working on the top 100 grossing films in 2019, up from 4% in 2018 and 8% in 2017.  Women comprised 13% of directors working on the top 250 films in 2019, up from 8% in 2018, and up 2 percentage points from the previous high of 11% in 2017.  The percentages of women directing top 100 and top 250 films reached recent historic highs in 2019.  In contrast, women made up 14% of directors working on the top 500 films, down 1 percentage point from 15% in 2018.  By role (on the top 250 films), women comprised 19% of writers, 21% of executive producers, 27% of producers, 23% of editors, 5% of cinematographers, 6% of composers, 40% of music supervisors, 9% of supervising sound editors, 4% of sound designers, 23% of production designers, 31% of art directors, 4% of special effects supervisors, and 6% of visual effects supervisors.

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.