Female filmmakers had a banner year in 2019, “reaching recent historic highs,” according to the latest “Celluloid Ceiling” report out of San Diego State University. The annual study, now in its 22nd year, found that women comprised 20% of all directors, writers, producers, executive producers, editors, and cinematographers working on the top 100 domestic grossing films released last year – up from 16% in 2018. Women accounted for 21% of those jobs on the top 250 films last year, up slightly from 20% in 2018, and held steady at 23% of these roles on the top 500 films.
“While the numbers moved in a positive direction this year, men continue to outnumber women 4 to 1 in key behind-the-scenes roles. It’s odd to talk about reaching historic highs when women remain so far from parity,” said the study’s author, Dr. Martha Lauzen, executive director of the school’s Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film.
See the full report titled “The Celluloid Ceiling: Behind-the-Scenes Employment of Women on the Top 100, 250, and 500 Films of 2019” here.
Women accounted for 12% of directors working on the top 100 grossing films released in 2019 – a recent historic high that was up from 4% in 2018, and 8% in 2017. Women directed 13% of the top 250 films last year – another recent historic high that was up from 8% in 2018, and up two percentage points from the previous high of 11% in 2017. The percentage of women directors of the top 500 films declined slightly, however, from 15% in 2018 to 14% last year.
Women comprised 20% of writers working on the top 100 films of 2019 – an increase of 5 percentage points from 15% in 2018, and another recent historic high.
“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,” Lauzen said. “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.”
According to the report, women accounted for 27% of producers, 23% of editors, 23% of production designers, 21% of executive producers, and 19% of writers working on the top 250 films, but only 9% of the supervising sound editors; 6% of the composers; 6% of the visual effects supervisors; 5% of cinematographers, and just 4% of special effects supervisors and 4% of sound designers. Women came closest to parity with men as music supervisors (40%) and art directors (31%).
The report also found that films with female directors are far more likely to employ women in key roles than are films directed exclusively by men. Of the 500 top grossing films last year, 59% of those directed by women employed female writers, while on films with exclusively male directors, women accounted for only 13% of their writers. On films with at least one female director, women comprised 43% of editors, but on films with exclusively male directors, women accounted for only 19% of editors. On films with at least one female director, women accounted for 21% of cinematographers, while on those with exclusively male directors, women accounted for only 2% of cinematographers. And on films with at least one female director, women made up 16% of composers, but only 6% on films with exclusively male directors.
The report also found that of the top 250 grossing films last year, 85% had no women directors; 73% had no women writers; 44% had no women executive producers; 31% had no women producers; 71% had no women editors, and 95% had no women cinematographers, with 31% having no women or only one woman working in any of those roles.
The Celluloid Ceiling has tracked women’s employment on top grossing films since 1998, monitoring more than 6,700 credits this year.
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