Study Finds Major Festivals Continue to Screen More Films Directed by Men

Zachary Armstrong/Netflix
Kitty Green's documentary 'Casting JonBenet' premiered at Sundance in January.

The status quo holds in San Diego State’s new Women in Independent Film study.

News flash: Women continue to be underrepresented on the film festival circuit.

There’s nothing surprising in the latest study on the status of female filmmakers, this one from San Diego State University’s Center for the Study of Women in Television & Film. Its annual "Women in Independent Film" report, released Wednesday, examines the gender of directors, writers, producers, executive producers, editors and cinematographers of every U.S. feature screened at 23 major festivals, including Sundance, SXSW, Telluride and Tribeca.

Among the 1,472 films from June 2016 through May 2017, 28 percent of people employed in the above positions were female. This is the highest turnout for women in recent years, but only slightly — female participation has hovered between 24 and 26 percent since 2008-09.

Female filmmakers tend to fare slightly better in documentary (33 percent of doc directors were women) than in narrative film (25 percent). On average, the festivals analyzed in SDSU's study screened three times more narratives and twice as many documentaries directed by men than by women.

The director’s gender also statistically correlates to the gender composition of the rest of the above-the-line roles. Movies with at least one female director were vastly more likely to have female writers (74 percent of female-helmed films, versus 7 percent helmed only by men), editors (36 percent versus 17 percent) and cinematographers (23 percent versus 6 percent).

"The marketplace capital these high-profile festivals bestow on filmmakers and their films cannot be overstated," Martha Lauzen, executive director of the SDSU center, said in a statement. "Inclusion in these festivals provides the vital first step in the public life cycle of films with limited marketing resources, and can boost the reputation of their directors."

comments powered by Disqus