U.K. Films With Female Directors, Writers Perform Well at Box Office, Report Finds

Screenwriter Jane Goldman

The BFI study analyzing movies released between 2010 and 2012 says employing women makes business sense, but female filmmakers still are underrepresented.

LONDON – Employing more women in writing and directing roles makes sound business sense for the film industry, according to new research from the British Film Institute.

Analysis of the performance of U.K. films released between 2010 and 2012 indicates that a "high percentage" of the most successful and profitable independent British films had a female screenwriter and/or director.

But women remain underrepresented in writing and directing roles. For all U.K. independent films released during the period analyzed, just 11.4 percent of the directors and 16.1 percent of the writers were female.

However, in a sign of their financial success, out of the top 20 U.K. independent films at the box office over the same period, 18.2 percent had a female director, and 37 percent had a female writer.

And according to the BFI report entitled "Succes de plume? Female Screenwriters and Directors of U.K. Films 2010-2012," profitable U.K. indie releases had female writers in 30 percent of all cases.

Over the two-year period, women contributing to the success included Sarah Smith (Arthur Christmas), Susanna White and Emma Thompson (Nanny McPhee and the Big Bang), Jane Goldman (X-Men: First Class) and Lone Scherfig (One Day). Names such as Phyllida Lloyd and Abi Morgan (The Iron Lady), Debbie Isitt (Nativity 2) and Dania Pasquini and Jane English (StreetDance 3D and StreetDance 2 3D) also got mentions as contributing to the female golden touch.

U.K. culture minister and minister for women and equalities Maria Miller said: "The creative industries underpin this country’s economic growth and are increasingly front and center in representing Britain on the world stage. Of course, there is still a long way to go to address under-representation across the sector in general, but with the number of women being employed within the creative industries growing year by year, I know we can look forward to a future for film where the talent of women can shine.”

BFI CEO Amanda Nevill said that while women are creating stories and characters that "resonate with audiences in the U.K. and around the world," there is still frustration that "overall the numbers of women in writing and directing roles remains low and there is still much work to do to ensure female voices can come through."

A key figure in the research report is the number of successful female writers and directors attached to more than one project over the period, with a notable number of the directors also having directing credits in other media, including television and theater.

The report also shows that films with female writers or directors were more likely to have female producers or executive producers and have received financial support through BFI Lottery and BBC Films or Film4.