Sundance: Despite Strong Showing This Year, Women Still Behind Men In Indie Film, Study Says

Women have made up 29.8% of all the filmmakers at the Sundance Film Festival over the last decade, a new study released today reveals. The report, Exploring the Barriers and Opportunities For Independent Women Filmmakers, comes in a year that sees for the first time female-helmed films making up half of the titles in the festival’s U.S. Dramatic competition. The Sundance Institute and Women in Film Los Angeles commissioned the study and looked at the gender of 11,197 producers, directors, writers, editors and cinematographers in 820 American movies programmed for Sundance from 2002-2012. While the Sundance data remains mostly flat, the report shows a stark contrast for women in the indie world and the studio world: The study finds female filmmakers made up 23.9% of directors in all categories at Sundance from 2002-2012, but just 4.4% among the top 100 box office movies over the same time frame. The study says that “gendered financial barriers” and “male-dominated industry networking” are seen as the two top reasons why women’s growth in the industry is stunted.

The Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism at USC conducted the research.

Behind the camera, women are most likely to be producers of indie films, the study says, though they are losing traction there. “As the prestige of the producing post increased, the percentage of female participation decreased. This trend was observed in both narrative and documentary filmmaking. Fewer than one third of all narrative producers but just over 40% of associate producers were female. In documentaries, 42.5% of producers and 59.5% of associate producers were female,” the report read. In documentary filmmaking, women made up 34.5% of the directors in the competition category between 2002-2012, Exploring the Barriers says; female filmmakers directed or co-directed eight of the 16 films in this year’s U.S. Documentary competition lineup.

Comments (8)

  • It sucks, but a big part of the problem is the kind of films that do well generally skew male. Try to sell a rom com these days, it’s easier to pass gun control.

    Comment by Billy — Monday January 21, 2013 @ 2:53pm PST  
  • Billy’s comment shows exactly what the problem is: no one thinks a woman can make anything commercial that’s not a Rom Com.

    When we’re talking about TV, male showrunners get really snippy at the idea that men can’t write female-skewed shows. But when it’s features, well, “naturally you want men for male-skewing movies.” So men win both ways, and women lose out.

    I read a how-to-be-a-producer book recently by one of the top women producers in the country. She acknowledged that it’s just easier to get funding if the director is a man. Then I read a screenwriting book by a pair of top commercial screenwriters, and every other sentence was about how the “rewards” of screenwriting are getting babes in bikinis to date you; clearly, it never occurred to the authors that women might be commercial screenwriters.

    When I was at a top-4 film school, women were routinely taken aside and told that our talents lay in documentaries or children’s TV. I didn’t realize until years later that this wasn’t advice given to me personally — it was all of us. I’m sure our professors meant well. After all, how many rom coms can get made every year, and what else besides that could women possibly make?

    Comment by L — Monday January 21, 2013 @ 4:49pm PST  
    • thank you L, and Billy – you’re an idiot

      the point is, gender should have nothing to do with it. Every director has different strengths which usually has less to do with their genitals and more to do with who they are as people and as artists.

      You wouldn’t commission Kathyrn Bigelow to do a rom-com and you wouldn’t commission Wes Anderson to direct Spiderman 7.

      Comment by idiocy — Wednesday January 23, 2013 @ 3:42pm PST  
  • I wish this story was cross referenced with CAA’s Vegas review/pole dancing Sundance party. The business isn’t a level playing field, and by that I mean plenty of guys would rather watch women strip at their parties than work along side them, let alone for them. The guys who wise up to the fact that the population is 50/50, tastes are 50/50, and there’s a ton of female talent out there who can deliver fresh, viable material tomorrow — those guys will be coming out on top in the future. The CAA mentality is so “dirty old man.” You just want to look away. It’s embarrassing. Who wants to be represented by a sexist grandpa?

    Comment by E — Monday January 21, 2013 @ 9:09pm PST  
    • Very good point about many men in the industry preferring women to strip for them than work with them. I’m appalled by many of the comments accompanying the article about the CAA dildo party. It appears that many people (and many men) think there’s nothing wrong with conducting business like that. It clearly doesn’t occur to them that some of the women who are CAA clients or who wanted to sign a deal with CAA really don’t want to see strippers and burlesque acts. After all it is a business party not a college party, but clearly it’s a business party FOR MEN!

      Comment by A B — Tuesday January 22, 2013 @ 4:31am PST  
  • Spot on.

    Comment by CE — Monday January 21, 2013 @ 11:54pm PST  
  • Yes. I was invited to a prodco’s holiday party last year where there were pole dancers. At least one of them was a cute guy. :-)

    Comment by L — Tuesday January 22, 2013 @ 11:25am PST  
  • In case readers would like to familiarize themselves with the many talented women directors out there, here’s 515 of them: http://www.thedirectorlist.com More to come…

    Comment by Destri — Tuesday January 22, 2013 @ 2:21pm PST  
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