Study: Male Indie Filmmakers Outnumber Women 2 to 1 at Major US Film Festivals

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The overall number of films directed by women screened at major U.S. film festivals is roughly half that of male directors.

A new study, released today by the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film, found that festivals featured an average of 14 films — narrative features and documentaries — directed by at least one woman, compared with an average of 29 films directed exclusively by men.

When looking only at narrative feature films, the disparity was even worse. U.S. festivals screened an average of 6 narrative features directed by at least one woman, compared with an average of 16 narrative features directed by men.

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The study examined 23 high-profile film festivals in the U.S., including AFI Fest, SXSW, Sundance, and Tribeca Film Festival.

“The findings indicate that the celluloid ceiling endures in independent film for behind-the-scenes women, despite the heightened public and industry attention regarding their under-employment,” said Dr. Martha M. Lauzen, executive director of the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film, in a statement. “The numbers have yet to reflect any sea change or seismic shift for women working on independent films.”

The study comes in the midst of the TimesUp movement and #MeToo, which have forced Hollywood and other industries to contend with the treatment of women in the workplace, pay disparity and the opportunities open to women.

Women accounted for 29 percent of directors, writers, producers, executive producers, editors, and cinematographers working on indie films shown at festivals in 2017-18 — an increase of just one percentage point from the year before.

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And that’s despite the record high percentage of women in independent film working behind the camera as editors and cinematographers.

According to the study, 85 percent of the films screening at festivals had no women cinematographers, 77 percent had no women writers, 73 percent had no women editors, and 66 percent had no women directors.

Likely unsurprising, films that had at least one female director also had higher percentages of women writers, editors, and cinematographers than films with exclusively male directors.

Films with at least one woman director, were made up of 71 percent female writers, while on films with male directors, women accounted for only 8 percent of the writers.

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