Share of Female-Directed Films in Europe "Growing Slowly," Study Finds

Bridget Jones's Baby - SALLY PHILLIPS  - RENEE ZELLWEGER - Still - H - 2016
Giles Keyte/Universal Studios

The number of female directors reached 19 percent in 2017, the European Audiovisual Observatory finds, and notes "significant differences" in gender representation across Europe.

Female directors represented 21 percent of all directors of European films produced between 2003 and 2017, the European Audiovisual Observatory said Tuesday, highlighting that the share in Europe "is growing slowly."

The number of female directors reached 19 percent in 2017, the analysis found. "Although the number of European films by female directors has been growing, their share of the total number of films is progressing slowly, rising from 15 percent in 2003 to 19 percent in 2017," the organization reported in its analysis. "This share has been comparatively stable across the last five years for which data was available."

The study sample comprised a total of 21,054 European feature films produced between 2003 and 2017 and theatrically released between 2003 and 2018. That included 3,618 European films directed by women, or 17 percent, with 80 percent of the movies made by male directors and 3 percent groups of directors of both genders.

The prevalence of female directors is higher in the documentary field than in fiction and animation, according to a report summarizing the data. "Among films produced in the period 2013-2017, an average of 25 percent of documentary features were directed by women, compared to 15 percent for fiction films and 11 percent for animation," the organization found.

Women tend to direct fewer feature films than men, the report highlighted, pointing out that 49 percent of "all women directors included in our sample only directed one single feature since 2003," compared to 40 percent of men. "Only 30 percent of female directors worked on more than two films during the same time period, compared to 39 percent for male directors. On average, each female director shot 1.4 films between 2003 and 2017, compared to 1.6 for male directors."

The European Audiovisual Observatory also noted "significant differences" in gender representation across Europe. "While France is the country with the highest number of films directed by women, the share of female-directed films is higher in medium-sized production countries, led by the Netherlands and Sweden," the report found.

Between 2013 and 2017, the Netherlands (33 percent) and Sweden (31 percent) were the top production countries based on the share of films by female directors, it said. Germany, with 24 percent, was "the only country with high production capacity to rank among the top 10 countries."

Croatia and Norway are the production countries with the strongest growth both in terms of number of films and percentage share of films by female directors, according to the report.

Meanwhile, the share of cinema admissions for films directed by women "tends to be significantly lower than the share of films, regardless of the production capacity of the country of origin," the report found. "One likely explanation is that female directors are entrusted with film projects with lower budgets than their male counterparts."

In 2017, films by female directors generated 8 percent of total admissions, in line with a 15-year average, the report said, also pointing out: "In 2016, the unusually high share of admissions to films by female directors (15 percent) was the result of the box office success of the British comedy Bridget Jones’s Baby."