Will 2019 be a Better Year for Women in Film and Television?
With the dawn of a new year, industry folks bundle up and head to the mountains for the Sundance Film Festival, setting the tone for the year to come. At Sundance this year, women directors broke records, making up 41% of feature film and episodic content, and 52% of shorts. Does this represent a turn of the tide in the film industry? Will 2019 be the year that women begin to flood the positions behind the camera?
It is no secret that film crews are dominated by straight white men, particularly in camera, lighting and directorial departments.
The Celluloid Ceiling Report is a prominent study conducted by the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University, which has come out every year since 2007. Their 2018 study reports that the numbers of women behind the camera in the 250 top grossing films of the year dropped from 2017 and in some departments fell to numbers lower than the 1990s. The #Me Too and TIME’S UP movement unveiled the dark underbelly of the film world and the perils facing women on set. As a result, entertainment power players appear to have responded with misplaced caution when hiring women for their sets. Could this be partly to blame for the dip in female representation on set?
Already 2019 is witnessing a breakthrough of female film and television leaders. From the first female to be nominated for cinematography at the Academy Awards, Rachel Morrison, to female-led Studio Level collaborating with Glass Elevator to invest in employment for women, to Netflix creating a new diversity-focused executive position, and even CAA launching a Showrunner mentorship program, female leaders are making moves for equality behind the scenes. Meanwhile, Universal Studios just accepted the #4PercentChallenge to hire women for at least 4% of their director roles.
One of the major hurdles for women in the entertainment industry who want to advance from the indie world to the big screen is access to unionization. The already arduous process is made much harder for those already under-represented. The ever dynamic Women in Media has taken on this cause with fervor, which will tangibly shift the paradigm of gender inequity in hiring and compensating women behind the camera. Other organizations that support women in the film and television industry include the national Women in Film and local organizations such as the Bay Area Women in Film and Media and Camp Reel Stories. At a panel at the Sundance, prominent actors, producers and directors kicked off the TIME’S UP and the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative #4PercentChallenge, asking producers and studios to commit to hiring a female director on a feature film in the next 18 months (statistics say that only 4% of the top 1200 studio films over the last 10 years have been directed by women). Only when the Celluloid Ceiling report comes out next year will we be able to know if 2019 truly is the renaissance of women behind the camera. Corduroy Media, a San Francisco Bay Area video production company and creative agency, strives to elevate women in all areas of production and continues to hope that 2019 will be a better year for women behind the camera.
- Mariana Urban, Associate Producer/Studio Manager and Crescent Diamond, Executive Producer, Corduroy Media