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Hollywoods definition of progress is unusual. For all of the industrys talk about becoming more diverse and inclusive, the movie business is actually backpedaling in hiring women.
A new report from San Diego States Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film found that female directors lost ground in 2021 compared to the previous year. While women directed a scant 16% of the top 100 films in 2020, they were at the helm of just 12% of last years most popular films (math nerds know thats a decrease of 25%).
(Courtesy San Diego States Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film )
Researchers for the Celluloid Ceiling study examined employment trends in an array of filmmaking professions and used box-office returns and home entertainment data to define the most popular movies. Even when the tally is expanded to the top 250 titles, female filmmakers still remain on the outside, looking in.
The report concluded that 94% of the top 250 films in 2021 had no female cinematographers, 92% didnt have a female composer, 82% were not directed by a woman and about three-quarters of those films lacked a female writer and editor.
(The Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film)
Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film
In the reports four-year history history, progress for women has moved at a (albeit pre-climate change) glacial rate. The total percentage of women working behind the scenes has gone up just eight percentage points, from 17% in 1998 to 25% in 2021.
Yes, that means three out of every four top filmmaking jobs goes to a man.
Some fields recorded one-step-forward, two-steps-back gains. More women worked as editors and writers on 2021 films than the previous year, but both professions trailed 2019 employment figures.
This years Academy Award nominations, due Feb. 8, will likely dramatize the gender imbalance: When women dont get hired, its obviously impossible for their work to be honored.
Only one woman Rachel Morrison for 2017s Mudbound ever has been nominated for the cinematography Oscar (she lost). And since 1934, when the composing Academy Award was founded, only three women have won that category.
It often takes a woman to hire a woman. The only woman likely to be nominated for cinematography this year, The Power of the Dogs Ari Wegner, worked for director Jane Campion.
Yet as long as female filmmakers like Campion are the exceptions to the rule, women working in movies will have to keep waiting.
What questions do you have about film, TV, music, or arts and entertainment?
John Horn covers the business of entertainment, examining what's next for Hollywood post pandemic.
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