Only 36% of accredited film buyers at this year’s Cannes Marché were women, a new study on the sales and acquisitions sector has revealed.
The study, commissioned by UK gender equality campaign group Birds’ Eye View, claims that women only accounted for 32% of “high status” professionals (or “key decision-makers” with buyers badges) accredited at the Cannes, Berlin and AFM markets between 2009 to 2018.
High-status employees are defined in the report as having roles such as CEOs and company directors. The report defines mid-status jobs as heads of departments and managers, and low-status jobs as interns, assistant and coordinators. Women accounted for 64 percent of low-status employees and 51 percent of mid-status employees over the 10-year period.
Of the UK professionals with “high status” jobs who attended film markets over the past 10 years, 70% were male. Of the other countries monitored: the Russian and Chinese film sales industries have an almost equal number of men and women in “high-status” jobs (49% and 47% were women, respectively) while Germany and India sit at the opposite end of the spectrum (27% and 24%).
There has been some progress over time, however. Ten years ago, women accounted for 35% of people attending major film markets, whereas so far in 2018 the figure has risen to 44%. Ten years ago, 28% of high-status roles in sales and distribution were taken by women, and so far this year it has moved up to 35%. At that rate, the report predicts it will take until around the year 2040 to reach parity.
Sadly, it is well known that the industry’s executive ranks are predominantly male, and in the report, Birds Eye View reasonably raises concerns that the gender imbalance in senior distribution ranks may skew taste against female-led or oriented productions, thus narrowing film diversity.
Mia Bays, distribution consultant and director-at-large of charity Birds’ Eye View said, “Time after time, through our work in distribution and exhibition, we see a lack of market confidence in films by women – even after they win awards, get strong critical responses out of festivals, generate buzz. By the time the dust settles, they either don’t get distribution at all or if they do, the release is small and the lack of faith shows in the campaigns or the support from cinemas. And it all starts with the acquisitions part of the pipeline.
“This is neither good business nor good practice, and means large parts of the audience are underserved by film because buyers are not reflective of them, and do not value different types of films and filmmaking in the round. The same dominant themes and styles are privileged over others.”
Alison Thompson, Co-President of sales outfit Cornerstone Films and a Birds’ Eye View board member, added: “This is a vital piece of research in the gender parity debate. As we strive for richer, more distinctive, successful story-telling through film, it’s imperative to have greater gender diversity amongst decision-makers in all fields, including those in acquisitions, marketing and distribution.”
The research was completed for Birds’ Eye Film by independent UK film researcher Stephen Follows and was collated from the thousands of professionals who attended the European Film Market (2009-18), Marché du Film (2009-18) and the American Film Market (2009-2017). Principal sources were Cinando and the official market guides while secondary information came from company websites, Google images and Microsoft’s Azure’s facial recognition engine.
Follows commented, “The sales and distribution sectors are relatively small but wield a lot of power over what movie audiences are able to choose to watch. While it seems unlikely that many people are consciously choosing to ignore possible profitable films from and about women, it does appear that the unconscious bias which has been proven in other elements of the film industry is at play here too.”