Number of major female film directors has fallen over 17 years, study finds
Despite the success of female-led films such as Hunger Games, only seven per cent of directors on the top 250 grossing films are women
Despite the recent directing achievements of Angelina Jolie and Golden Globe nominee Ava DuVernay, research shows that women are less represented in the film industry than ever before.
Jolie's film Unbroken, a biopic about the athlete and prisoner of war Louis Zamperini, was a box office Christmas hit in the US, while DuVernay is the first black woman director to be nominated for a Golden Globe, for Selma, a drama about Martin Luther King Jr and the lead-up to the Voting Rights Act.
Variety reports that a new study by the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University found that only 7 per cent of directors on the top 250 grossing films are female, a two per cent drop in the last 17 years.
“It’s remarkable that we’re still at 1998 levels,” said Dr Martha Lauzen, who organised the employment analysis of 2822 people for the study. “Whatever is being done to address this problem is not working and we need to look for industry-wide solutions.”
Current major female filmmakers also include Fifty Shades of Grey director Sam Taylor-Wood, and Jennifer Lee, the writer-director of the biggest animated film of all time, Disney's Frozen.
Warner Bros recently gave the job of directing their Wonder Woman film to the Game of Thrones director Michelle MacLaren, but according to the study, the picture remains bleak for many women in film.
Thirty eight per cent of films employed no women, or only one woman, in major production roles. Women accounted for just one per cent of all composers, and five per cent of all sound designers and supervising sound designers.
The study found that there are more female executive producers and cinematographers working today than in 1998, but fewer female writers, editors and producers.
The role of producer has the highest female make-up (23 per cent), followed by executive producer (19 per cent). Editors are 18 per cent female, writers 11 per cent, with cinematographers at just five per cent.
There is a clear disparity between production roles for women, and appetite for films starring them. The news comes in the wake of a strong year for female-led films, with The Hunger Games, The Fault in Our Stars and Jolie's own vehicle, Maleficent, all performing well in 2014.
The results weren't to do with a lack of interest, Dr Lauzen said: female film students make up between a third and half of all students at major film schools.
She added that, after Kathryn Bigelow became the first woman to win the Best Director Oscar in 2010 for The Hurt Locker, it was hoped that a 'Bigelow' effect might provide a boost.
"Everyone started talking about a ‘Bigelow effect’ that might radiate out and lift the careers of other women directors," she said. "I don’t think we ever actually saw that happen."
It has been suggested that female directors are left "in movie jail" for a longer time than their male counterparts if they direct a film that turns out to be a failure.
Mimi Leder, who directed the 1998 hit Deep Impact and is now directing episodes of the TV show The Leftovers, said that her career suffered after she took a break to have children before directing the 2000 flop, Pay It Forward.
In a New York Times feature about the dearth of women in Hollywood, reporter Manohla Dargis told Leder how Sony Pictures producer Amy Pascal had said that she tried to hire more female directors for her films.
"Well, Amy Pascal has never asked me to make a film," was Leder's reply.