Mixed results of a new study on the representation of women in independent films | Information Center

The number of female directors, screenwriters and others is higher than ever, but a gender gap remains.

A new study from San Diego State University shows that 2018-2019 was a banner year for women in key behind-the-scenes positions at independent films.
According to a report published by Martha M. Lauzen, executive director of the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at SDSU, the percentages of women working as independent film directors, writers, producers, executive producers and editors hit recent all-time highs in 2018-19.

Specifically, last year, 33% of independent film directors were women, up from 29% in 2017-18. Thirty-two percent of “independent film” makers were women, up 6 percentage points from 2017-18. Women made up 37% of independent film producers in 2018-19, up from 36% the previous year. Additionally, this year, women made up 32% of independent executive producers and 29% of film editors. Both of these figures represent increases over the previous year.

“After many years of following stubbornly flat numbers, this year women made healthy gains in a number of key behind-the-scenes roles,” Lauzen said. “Despite these increases, it’s important to note that women remain dramatically underrepresented, with independent films employing more than twice as many men as women in these roles.”
The study specifically examines the employment of women in nationally produced and independent feature films screened at more than 20 top US festivals, including AFI Fest, SXSW Film Festival and Tribeca Film Festival. Overall, men made up 68% of these roles and women 32% compared to last year.

The research also found that films with at least one female director also employed significantly higher percentages of female writers, editors and filmmakers. For example, on films with at least one female director, women represented 72% of screenwriters compared to 11% on films directed exclusively by men. On films with at least one female director, women represented 45% of editors compared to 21% of films directed exclusively by men.

“These differences are dramatic and demonstrate that when women direct films, they disrupt traditional hiring patterns, installing women as writers, editors and filmmakers,” Lauzen said. “This trend goes against the widespread and seemingly intractable bias that has favored male networks.”
Indie Women is the most comprehensive and lengthy study available on the employment of women behind the scenes in independent films. This year’s report looked at over 10,700 credits across more than 970 films in 2018-2019 and over 80,000 credits across nearly 8,000 films over the period 2008-2019.
For more than two decades, Lauzen has conducted groundbreaking research on the representation and employment of women onscreen and behind the scenes in film and television. His studies, including the annual Celluloid Ceiling study, have laid the groundwork for growing dialogue and activism on this issue. A nationally and internationally recognized expert on women in media, she is the founder and executive director of the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University. The Center houses the oldest and most comprehensive studies of women working in the entertainment industries. The most recent reports can be viewed on the Centre’s website.