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Research

Our Latest Study

Indie Women: Behind-the-Scenes Employment of Women in Independent Film, 2017-18

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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, SXSW Film Festival, and Tribeca Film Festival.  In 2017-18, the festivals considered screened almost three times as many narrative features directed by men as by women.  The fests screened an average of 16 narrative films directed by men, compared with an average of 6 films directed by at least one woman.  The festivals screened an average of 13 documentaries directed by men versus an average of 8 documentaries directed by at least one woman.  Overall, the films employed more than twice as many men as women (71% vs. 29%) as directors, writers, executive producers, producers, editors, and cinematographers.  This represents an increase of one percentage point from 2016-17 when women accounted for 28% of individuals in these roles.

It’s a Man’s (Celluloid) World: Portrayals of Female Characters in the 100 Top Films of 2017

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In 2017, females comprised 24% of protagonists in top grossing films.  This represents a decline of 5 percentage points from 2016.  Females accounted for 37% of major characters, even with the figure from 2016, and 34% of speaking (major and minor) characters, an increase of 2 percentage points from 32% in 2016.  Male characters continue to dominate on the big screen.  While only 32% of films featured 10 or more female characters in speaking roles last year, 79% had 10 or more male characters.  Regarding race and ethnicity, the percentages of female characters of color increased in 2017.  The percentage of Black females increased from 14% in 2016 to 16% in 2017.  The percentage of Latinas more than doubled from 3% in 2016 to 7% in 2017, and the percentage of Asian females increased from 6% in 2016 to 7% in 2017.

The Celluloid Ceiling: Behind-the-Scenes Employment of Women on the Top 100, 250, and 500 Films of 2017

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In 2017, women comprised 18% of directors, writers, producers, executive producers, editors, and cinematographers working on the top 250 grossing films.  This represents an increase of 1 percentage point from 17% in 2016 and is virtually even with the number achieved in 1998.
Last year, 1% of top grossing films employed 10 or more women in key behind-the-scenes roles, while 70% of films employed 10 or more men.
By role, women accounted for 11%, of directors, 11% of writers, 19% of executive producers, 25% of producers, 16% of editors, and 4% of cinematographers.
The study also found that only 3% of composers working on the top 250 films were women.

Boxed In 2016-17: Women On Screen and Behind the Scenes in Television

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In 2016-17, women made modest but pervasive gains on screen and behind the scenes in television.  The percentages of female characters increased slightly on broadcast network, cable, and streaming programs, and the percentages of women working in powerful behind-the-scenes roles increased slightly on cable and streaming programs.  Overall, females comprised 42% of all speaking characters on television, an increase of 3 percentage points from 2015-16.  Behind the scenes, women accounted for 28% 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 an increase of 2 percentage points from 2015-16.

Thumbs Down 2016: Top Film Critics and Gender

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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

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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

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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

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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.