Recent events have reinforced just how difficult it is to be a woman in Hollywood, both in front of the camera and behind it.
Natalie Portman made a splash Sunday night at the Golden Globes by going off-script and introducing the “all-male nominees” for best motion picture director. The BAFTA best director nominations, announced Monday, differed slightly from those of the Globes, as Denis Villeneuve (“Blade Runner 2049”) and Luca Guadagnino (“Call Me by Your Name”) made the cut over Ridley Scott (“All the Money in the World”) and Steven Spielberg (“The Post”). Still, no women.
The issue at hand is not that these directors are undeserving of recognition, of course, though critics have remarked that Greta Gerwig (“Lady Bird”) and Dee Rees (“Mudbound”) were also of merit. It is that female directors have fewer opportunities to compete in the first place.
To help guide your conversations on representation during this sure-to-be controversial Oscar season, here are some figures from last week’s study by the University of Southern California’s Annenberg Inclusion Initiative.
Women directed just 4.3 percent of top movies over the last 11 years
The study looked at the gender, race and age of the 665 individual directors who worked on the 100 top-grossing movies in each year — 1,100 total. Last year, out of the 109 people who directed the top 100 movies, just eight were women. Gerwig, named best director of the year by the National Society of Film Critics last week, was one of them. The others? Patty Jenkins (“Wonder Woman”), Trish Sie (“Pitch Perfect 3″), Stella Meghie (“Everything, Everything”), Anna Foerster (“Underworld: Blood Wars”), Hallie Meyers‐Shyer (“Home Again”), Stacy Title (“The Bye Bye Man”) and Lucia Aniello (“Rough Night”).
“Lady Bird,” released Nov. 3, made more than $28.3 million domestically by late December, according to IndieWire, making it distributor A24’s highest-grossing film.
Gerwig shared her optimistic outlook with Variety last month: “Every year they come out with the numbers . . . I think those numbers are going to shift. And it seems like it’s going to be less and less its own category. There are just going to be . . . directors.”
Another recent study, this one by San Diego State University’s Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film, found that in 2017’s top 250 films, women comprised 11 percent of the directors, which is up 4 percentage points from last year but equivalent to the number recorded in 2000 — meaning not much progress has been made since.
That study also found that women made up 18 percent of all the directors, writers, producers, executive producers, editors and cinematographers who worked on the 250 films. “This represents an increase of 1 percentage point from 17% in 2016 and is virtually unchanged from the percentage achieved in 1998,” the study states.
Women directors in each year never got higher than 8 percent.
In the USC study, the year with the highest percentage was 2008, with nine women, or 8 percent.
Phyllida Lloyd ranked high on the list that year with the incredibly successful “Mamma Mia!,” which became the highest-grossing film to ever be released in the United Kingdom. Last summer, Patty Jenkins’ “Wonder Woman” surpassed “Mamma Mia!” as the worldwide highest-grossing film directed by a woman.
Jenkins told Deadline in November that directing is “a caretaking job that has to do with other jobs that women are great at: encouraging people.”
Only seven women of color directed any of the top movies over the 11 years.
Four black women, two Asian women and one Latina were on the list. The other 36 female directors were white.
The list includes Ava DuVernay (“Selma”), Gina Prince-Bythewood (“The Secret Life of Bees”), Sanaa Hamri (“The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2″), Stella Meghie (“Everything, Everything”), and Loveleen Tandan (“Slumdog Millionaire” co-director).
With the upcoming “A Wrinkle in Time,” DuVernay became the first woman of color to direct a motion picture with a production budget of more than $100 million, the Los Angeles Times reported. DuVernay spoke to Vulture in December about how her identity has shaped the project.
“I’m excited to share a sci-fi vision through the lens of a black woman, because so often when we’re watching sci-fi films, it’s through one specific lens: A white male lens, predominantly, for decades and decades and decades,” she said. “It’s not that mine will be radically different, but there might be a softness to it or an edge to it or a color change to it that we’ve not seen. The bottom line is that we don’t know until we see it, so why not see it?”
Jennifer Yuh Nelson directed multiple “Kung Fu Panda” movies and therefore appeared twice. Patricia Riggen (“Miracles from Heaven”) was the only Latina hired to direct any of the 1,100 films.
The “one and done” phenomenon is more common among female directors.
Fifty-five percent of the male directors helmed just one film, compared with 84 percent of the women. Over the 11-year period, men directed between one and 15 movies, whereas women directed between one and four.
Tyler Perry, the top performer across the board, directed 15 of the 1,100 films. Clint Eastwood directed eight, while Michael Bay, Ridley Scott, Zack Snyder and Steven Spielberg each helmed seven. Anne Fletcher (“27 Dresses”) was the one woman with four, with Lana Wachowski was close behind with three. Five others — Catherine Hardwicke, Phyllida Lloyd, Nancy Meyers, Julie Anne Robinson and Jennifer Yuh Nelson — directed two each.