Don’t let Hollywood directors like Clint Eastwood, Steven Spielberg and Martin Scorcese making movies seemingly throughout their lives deceive.
They’re unicorns, as age impacts the careers of movie directors and their opportunities to continue behind the camera, says a January 2021 study from associate professor Shu Han and finance professor S. Abraham Ravid, both from the Yeshiva University in New York. For an entertainment industry hooked on spotting young talent and seizing on the Next Big Thing, the careers of film directors do not improve with age.
“We find that age matters and although directors start directing on average around age 40, there is evidence of age discrimination even for directors under 50,” their study, “Do Age And Gender Affect Professional Success? Evidence From The Careers Of Movie Directors,” concludes.
That movie directors face age bias often from when their careers start has a particular impact on women directors for whom ‘one and done’ too often describes their careers. “We present a strong case showing that age discrimination starts almost immediately as a director enters the profession, and that people do not just retire, but seem to be unable to find another directing job,” the study finds.
The Yeshiva University researchers insist their study has implications for the rest of the economy as the careers of movie directors are played out in the public eye, and it’s assumed their opportunities to direct big budget films is based on their box office track record and other market factors.
Based on that prevailing view, age, gender and race should not matter in whether directors landing a new project. But those factors do influence which directors get hired, especially when it comes to women. “It seems that very few women enter the directing profession in the first place, which may correlate with the path they take and their career decisions,” Han and Ravid find.
But those women directors that do stay the course in Hollywood can go on to match and even exceed the box office and critical success of their male counterparts. “Once they enter, there are subtle barriers, but experienced female directors seem to be as successful or more so than men,” the study found as it factored in data on the film projects of Hollywood directors from the time they entered the profession, and their earlier backgrounds.