Film Forward

There’s Still Not Enough Women In Behind-The-Camera Jobs In Hollywood — But There's Hope

The solution isn't that difficult.

The ways we watch TV and movies have evolved, and it's time for the talent in front of and behind the camera to do the same. Film Forward speaks on the initiatives to diversify the film industry and the stories it tells. New articles premiere every second Thursday of — and throughout — the month.

Patty Jenkins. Dee Rees. Greta Gerwig. You've probably heard a lot about these three female directors — and their big 2017 works: Wonder Woman, Mudbound, and Lady Bird, respectively — but therein lies the problem. They're probably the only three women in behind-the-camera roles from the past year that you can name. 

This is one of the systemic problems the #TimesUp movement is attempting to address.

According to the annual "Celluloid Ceiling" report from the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University, the number of women in important behind-the-scenes roles in Hollywood improved ever so slightly over 2016 — by just one percentage point from 17 percent to 18 percent — in terms of the 250 highest-grossing movies. (On a smaller scale, it looked at the top 100 and on a larger scale the top 500.)

Saoirse Ronan and Greta Gerwig on the set of Lady Bird.
Saoirse Ronan and Greta Gerwig on the set of Lady Bird. Courtesy: A24

Worse yet? The same rings true if you compare 2017 to 1998 — the first year the study was conducted. This means the numbers virtually haven't budged in about two decades.

For those top 250 films, the data breaks down as such for women in these jobs, in descending order: 25 percent of producers, 19 percent of executive producers, 16 percent of editors, 11 percent of directors, 11 percent of writers, and a only 4 percent of cinematographers.

Dee Rees and Mary J. Blige on the set of Mudbound.
Dee Rees and Mary J. Blige on the set of Mudbound. Courtesy: Netflix

Martha M. Lauzen, a researcher who conducted the study, says this underrepresentation of women in these key behind-the-scenes roles is linked to the recent wave of #MeToo tales emerging from Hollywood. This, according to Lauzen, illustrates the uneven power dynamics at play in the movie industry — as well as pretty much every other industry out there, too.

"The film industry has utterly failed to address the continuing under-employment of women behind the scenes," Lauzen said in a statement, via HuffPost. "This negligence has produced a toxic culture that supported the recent sexual harassment scandals and truncates so many women's careers."

Gal Gadot, Patty Jenkins, and Chris Pine on the set of Wonder Woman.
Gal Gadot, Patty Jenkins, and Chris Pine on the set of Wonder Woman. Courtesy: Warner Bros.

The fix here, Lauzen points out, is quite easy: hire more female directors. The data backs it up, too, as movies with at least one female director tended to have more women in higher-up positions behind the camera, leading to a more diverse — in terms of gender, at least — set. Films with men solely in the director's chair? The opposite, of course.

Doing this could lead to more women being honored during awards season across all categories, not just for directing. For example: Rachel Morrison, the cinematographer for Mudbound (directed by Rees), was just nominated by the American Society of Cinematographers — the first female to have that distinction. Should she also snag an Oscar nomination, that would make her the first woman in the Academy in the Best Cinematography category — yes, we mean ever.

These numbers may seem bleak but, as Oprah Winfrey said in that powerful speech at the Golden Globes, there is a "new day on the horizon." With the work that Time's Up is doing and the dialogue #MeToo has given way to, change is hopefully right around the corner.


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