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Indie Women Study: Behind the Scenes Employment of Women in Independent Film, 2017 - 2018

The Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University released the new report, Indie Women: Behind the Scenes Employment of Women in Independent Film. Indie Women is the most comprehensive study of women’s behind-the-scenes employment on independent films available. 

Key findings include studies of film festivals and the percentages of female-directed and female-driven narratives showcased:

  • In 2017 - 2018, U.S. festivals screened almost three times as many narrative features directed by men as by women. Overall, independent films screening at high profile film festivals in the U.S. employed more than twice as many men as women in key behind-the-scenes roles in 2017 - 2018. 71% of those working in these roles (directors, writers, executive producers, editors, cinematographers) were males and 29% were females. This represents an increase of one percentage point from 28% in 2016-17.
  • 85% of the independent films screening at the festivals had no women cinematographers, 77% had no women writers, 73% had no women editors, 67% had no women executive producers, 66% had no women directors, and 33% had no women producers.

Some other key findings showed improvements in the independent film world for women:

  • Women continue to enjoy higher employment on documentaries than on narrative features. Women accounted for 34% of those working in key behind-the-scenes roles on documentaries versus 26% of those working on narrative features.
  • The percentages of women working as editors and cinematographers reached historic highs in 2017-18. Women comprised 27% of editors, topping a previous high of 25% achieved in 2011-12. Women accounted for 17% of cinematographers, topping a previous high of 13% achieved in 2011-12.
  • Films with at least one woman director also had substantially higher percentages of women writers, editors, and cinematographers. On films with at least one female director, women comprised 71% of writers versus 8% on films directed exclusively by men. On films with at least one female director, women accounted for 47% of editors versus 17% on films directed exclusively by men. On films with at least one female director, women comprised 34% of cinematographers versus 7% on films directed exclusively by men.
  • Festivals with at least one woman who functions as the head of programming screen higher percentages of films with female directors (33%) and writers (30%) than festivals with exclusively male heads of programming. At these festivals, women comprise 24% of directors and 22% of writers.  

The findings of the study are divided into four major sections. The first section reports the overall figures for women working on independently and domestically produced films. The second section provides the numbers for women working on documentaries only, and the third section reports the figures for women working on narrative features only. The fourth section discusses important relationships between women directors and the sex of those working in other key behind-the-scenes roles.

Highlights and Conclusions:

Last year, the major U.S. festivals screened almost three times as many narrative features directed by men as by women. The 23 fests screened an average of 16 films directed by men, compared with an average of 6 films directed by at least one woman. Women fared better with documentaries as the festivals screened an average of 13 documentaries directed by men versus an average of 8 by women.

Another way of looking at the numbers is to consider the roles in which women are largely absent. 85% of the films screened at festivals had no women cinematographers, 77% had no women writers, 73% had no women editors, and 66% had no women directors.

The findings seem especially relevant at this time of year as Cannes and Thierry Fremaux continue to feign interest in the issue of women's employment, while taking little real action to include more films by women directors in the festival's prestigious main competition.

Read the full article

About the Center

The Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University is home to the longest running and most comprehensive studies of women’s behind-the-scenes employment and on-screen portrayals in film and television. Dedicated to producing the most current research available on women in film and television, studies generated by the Center provide the foundation for a realistic discussion of women’s employment and representation. For more information, visit the Center’s website, http://womenintvfilm.sdsu.edu

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NYWIFT programs, screenings and events are supported, in part, by grants from New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council, and New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature.

New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council, and New York State Council on the Arts
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