Women Made Up 20 Percent of Key Behind-the-Scenes Roles in Top-Grossing Films in 2019: Study

Olivia Wilde Booksmart BTS - Photofest - H 2020
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A new "Celluloid Ceiling" report from San Diego State University finds that women accounted for 21 percent of all directors, writers, producers, executive producers, editors and cinematographers working on the top 250 films, which is a slight improvement over the 20 percent number of 2018.

Women are slowly securing more jobs in key behind-the-scenes roles on films.

The percentage of women working as directors, writers, producers, executive producers, editors and cinematographers on the top 100 and 250 grossing films increased in 2019 and reached recent historic highs, though the number of women working in such occupations on the top 500 films remained stable.

The findings were recorded in the 22nd annual "Celluloid Ceiling" report. The study was released Thursday by Dr. Martha Lauzen, who serves as the executive director of the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University.

In 2019, women made up 20 percent of all directors, writers, producers, executive producers, editors and cinematographers working on the top 100 grossing films. Last year's number is up from the 16 percent in 2018. Women accounted for 21 percent of individuals in the key roles on the top 250 films, which is a slight improvement over the 20 percent in 2018. Additionally, 23 percent or women held key behind-the-scenes roles on the top 500 films.

While the numbers moved in a positive direction in 2019, men continue to outnumber women 4-to-1 in key behind-the-scenes roles.

Female directors helmed 12 percent of the top 100 grossing films in 2019, which is drastically up from 4 percent in 2018 and 8 percent in 2017. Women directed 13 percent of the top 250 films, which is up from 8 percent in 2018.

Greta Gerwig's Little Women, Lorene Scafaria's Hustlers, Olivia Wilde's Booksmart, Lulu Wang's The Farewell and Melina Matsoukas' Queen and Slim are among the top movies by female filmmakers to be released in 2019.

While these figures represent recent historic highs, the number of female directors working on the top 500 films declined from 15 percent in 2018 to 14 percent in 2019.

Women accounted for 19 percent of writers, 21 percent of executive producers, 27 percent of producers, 23 percent of editors and 5 percent of cinematographers in the top 250 films in 2019.

Meanwhile, women made up 40 percent of music supervisors, 23 percent of production designers, 21 percent of art directors, 4 percent of special effects supervisors and 6 percent of visual effects supervisors on the top 250 grossing films.

"It will be tempting to look at the increase of women directing top 100 and top 250 films and conclude that 2019 was a major turning point for women's employment," said Lauzen. "That may be true but we won't know if 2019 was a single good year or the beginning of an upward trend until we see the numbers for 2020 and 2021."

The analysis of the top 500 films also found that movies directed by women employed significantly more female workers in key behind-the-scenes jobs. For instance, pics directed by women 59 percent of the time had a female writer, while only 13 percent of male-helmed movies had female writers.