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Infographic: Women Directors in the Studio System

Features
by Melissa Silverstein
August 28, 2014 12:00 PM
44 Comments
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Women and Hollywood is on vacation this week. While our lights are out, we'll be reposting our most popular posts of the summer.

The director's chair is one of the most influential thrones in Hollywood -- and where women are least welcome, particularly at the studios. We've made some progress since the days when DGA meetings began with the words "Fellow Directors and Mrs. Lupino" (thank heaven for Ida), but it's clear that institutional gender discrimination still governs daily business at the Big Six. Here's an infographic that shows how much further we still have to go, with numbers for each studio. 

Infographic women directors

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44 Comments

  • Chi | August 28, 2014 2:26 PMReply

    I, experienced the injustices just recently....I, had finished my script which took me about 6 years to write. I contacted a very successful person on the industry who had made a name for himself and I submitted my outline and summary of the work. I, didn't even submit my movie script to him at all. I trust his word and he knows the business. So, needless to say I was shocked when he came back with such positive feedback. So, to make a long story short I submitted my work to one of those websites that promise you executive contacts and even one of the major studios was looking for new writers. They review your work and then give you feedback by one of the "insiders" of the industry. The feedback I got was a racial slurr about the characters being "TOO GHETTO". That slurr was the reason that the movie script wouldn't sell!

    I, was shocked! I sent a letter to the company and broke down each review point and countered with a series of examples on block buster hits that had the same attributes as my project. I, even included %'s and resource listings, everything I could present to show that not only did I know my home work but I wasn't giving up on my dream. I, also detailed each character and profession pointing out the heritage and legacy of my characters. My last words were we as the African American population are a 1.1 trillion dollar industry so let the public speak! Ladies we can't let go of our dreams we are just too close for them to become what we need for it to be! Stay the course and don't allow anyone to steal what you've been made for!

  • Chit-Town Blue | August 28, 2014 2:15 PMReply

    I, represent an otherwise ignored generation of women who've been rejected by society...We've, been treated as second class citizens when it comes to healthcare, education, and home ownership. What, all of America fails to understand is that we were created and chosen to willfully give up our dreams and goals in life (Producing and Directing etc) So that our love ones who are of the disabled population can become productive people within society. Yet, I truly understand that there can be balance where those needs are met and those dreams can be reached if there was equality among the sexes within this boys club field. Once script sold can mean the difference between one writers chance to feed their children or by med's for their children due to them running out of money by the end of the month. We, are a unique breed and are breaking the glass ceiling....THE SHE INFLUENCE on F/B join the movement!

  • Sabrina WGSS | July 18, 2014 4:03 PMReply

    I've been taking a class about women in movies and this chart perfectly sums up a section that was covered in this class. Women and specifically women of different nationalities aren't seen as capable as men when in comes to directing a movie. I think this has to do with the white patriarchal society that we live in. Also Hollywood has done a good job of projecting women in a way that undermines there potential. I remember watching a documentary about women directors in other countries and they were being subjected to sexual harassment by their coworkers and discrimination. This documentary dates back a few decades, but still, these facts are shocking. One of the main reasons that women don't land director jobs is because people think that their movie will have a more feminine view and won't appeal to men. However, an interesting fact is that women are the ones who are supporting box offices numbers, because they are the ones going out a watching the movies. I think that we have reached a time in our society where women are viewed more as equal then they ever were in the past. I am hoping that with this new light, this will help women achieve more directing jobs.

  • IGBO | June 25, 2014 6:00 PMReply

    It is important to point out the lack of opportunities for female directors in Hollywood, but I believe the larger issue should be "why"? I think the lack of female-directed films released by the majors is at least partially due to studio reluctance to back more modestly budgeted films. These films tend to be romances and comedies, which female directors are most often associated. That means for things to really change, one of two things has to happen: 1) studios have to be more willing to back more smaller budgeted films or (2) women need more opportunities to direct big-budget "tent pole" movies.

  • Anon | June 24, 2014 2:45 PMReply

    Ha! Stronk womyn xDDDD

  • Martyn Drake | June 24, 2014 12:37 PMReply

    How do those figures compare against television?

    It looks like there are more women directors working in television than movies. For example, Michelle MacLaren (Breaking Bad, GoT, X-Files, Walking Dead), Holly Dale (Falling Skies, The Walking Dead, Castle, Under the Dome and many, many, MANY popular TV shows), Lesli Linka Glatter (Homeland, The Walking Dead, Ray Donovon and many other), as well as Gwyneth Horder Payton (again, long list of very popular US shows). To name but a mere handful.

    So my question is: why are women directors seem to fare better in television than in the movies?

  • Martyn Drake | June 24, 2014 12:39 PM

    Of course I meant to ask (properly): why DO women directors seem to fare better in television than in movies?

  • XYZ | June 24, 2014 6:33 AMReply

    It would be nice if this were filed under the general section of the site, rather than being relegated to the Women's section. Serious inequality is something everyone needs to be made aware of. It is not just a women's issue.

  • Farrell | June 23, 2014 9:10 PMReply

    Very black and white thinking here. This chart fails to take into account practical factors, like how many women directors are actually are out there vs. male. When I went to film school, in a class of 40, there were about 3 or 4 women and it had nothing to do with discrimination...whoever could pay the tuition, got in, male or female. Females just don't seem to as interested in filmmaking as males. A couple of the women in my class didn't even seem interested in filmmaking, but just wanted to try something different. So you had maybe 2 women out of 40 students serious about it. And the odds on top of that are even brutal, as most of the males in the class never went on to have a career...it is brutal for everyone, and fewer females trying to break in means their odds are not very good, and it has nothing to do with gender. In my 10 plus years in Hollywood, I ran into VERY few female filmmakers compared to males. There are far more women interested in acting than filmmaking. And what would satisfy people? A 50% split? 70/30? Should studios start hiring female directors even if they don't fit the material just because they're a woman? There are already plenty of awesomely talented females directing films. And not to mention it is very difficult to make it in the film business, regardless of your gender. Talent trumps everything. If you make a great film, you will get hired, as money speaks louder than gender. If a woman made something like Requiem for a Dream or Boogie Nights or Blood Simple, no studio would turn them away. There are many factors that go into why a studio hires one person over another...and they are too complex to boil them down to racism and sexism. I do agree those things exist in Hollywood, but making simplistic charts like this that do not take into account the many complex factors involved in success is a mistake in my opinion.

  • Chit-town blu | August 28, 2014 2:37 PM

    This is just a friendly comment based on what was stated in your comment...Everyone's experience with hollywood is different. There are some whom have success and others that don't..There a numerous reasons why some women in the class may have chosen to do acting instead of filmmaking. It, my be that some really are not for the hard work that it takes to hang out with the big boys........However, there are some like me who write for survival. Maybe, many have seen the struggle and can't handle it and decide that the easiest way is to just settle. However, you have an underdog in the midst who refuses to give in or up. There is drive in the heart of those dreamers who take struggle and can turn them into a rocky moment. Many of the greats Ron Howard, Tom Hanks etc have all dominated this field for years giving their versions of what women are thinking and saying. It's, really time for us to begin to speak for ourselves. I, have the talent determination and drive to see my projects all the way through to the end. The most powerful way to walk in the freedom of self expression is to create your own diverse move so that finally all of America will hear your words spoken and heart felt through every film produced. Women are the next generation of dreamers.....See you at the box office!

  • Kat | June 24, 2014 6:52 PM

    That's odd, because in my graduating class at USC film, the undergraduate class was about 60% female versus 40% men -- and the MFA program had significantly more women enrolled in the producing and production programs, most of whom (shocker!) wanted to be directors. Many of my male undergraduate peers were more interested in writing, showrunning, editing and cinematography. The women wanted to write and direct.

    This was only four years ago, so it's not like women's interest in filmmaking has completely vanished in such a short period of time.

  • Heidi Van Horne | June 24, 2014 11:29 AM

    Did you even stop to think that the long standing perception and misogyny is WHY there are less women out there "doing it" and applying for those roles as director or enrolling in film school in the first place?? You do realize at one point in time the NBA was all/predominantly Caucasian? I guess African Americans just weren't good at basketball, or interested in it then? Think again about what you are saying.
    I'd also have to ask what year, and in what state you attended said school. Doubtful less women were interested, but many less, percentage-wise, we're allowed, encouraged or approved to strive for such goals. And, with statistics like this, no wonder, then, that little girls are more pushed to be pretty little trinkets in front of the camera, rather than guiding the story behind it.

  • Kate | June 24, 2014 8:07 AM

    You're part of the problem.

  • Emily | June 23, 2014 10:03 PM

    Funny, because I just finished film school myself and my class was exactly 50% male, 50% female. And more of the women in my class wanted to be directors than the men. And yet, here we are.

  • Alex | June 23, 2014 8:28 PMReply

    Nice infographic. You should do one with minorities

  • Ira Goldberg | June 25, 2014 5:09 AM

    I agree. I wonder how many Jewish people get to direct movies.

  • Frank | June 23, 2014 6:09 PMReply

    This infographic shows how studios are towards female directors. Studios are evil entities that profit from the neoliberalism, female directors are smart enough to stay in the indi film industry. Also people are simply not aware that there are plenty women in every film schools, normally they outnumber male students. Now what I wonder is, why are there so many female producers? And so many female excecutives?

  • Frank | June 23, 2014 6:08 PMReply

    This infographic shows how studios are towards female directors. Studios are evil entities that profit from the neoliberalism, female directors are smart enough to stay in the indi film industry. Also people are simply not aware that there are plenty women in every film schools, normally they outnumber male students. Now what I wonder is, why are there so many female producers? And so many female excecutives?

  • Frank | June 23, 2014 6:08 PMReply

    This infographic shows how studios are towards female directors. Studios are evil entities that profit from the neoliberalism, female directors are smart enough to stay in the indi film industry. Also people are simply not aware that there are plenty women in every film schools, normally they outnumber male students. Now what I wonder is, why are there so many female producers? And so many female excecutives?

  • Analee | June 23, 2014 5:19 PMReply

    This may be controversial, but would it be too much to ask to stop including Lana Wachowski on these lists?? Having a successful directing career with a penis, and then being lumped in with a group of women directors once you've had it cut off, defeats the purpose. We can't all start our female directing careers off as men.

  • Nathania Johnson | June 24, 2014 12:49 PM

    Actually, Lana Wachowski should be at the top of these lists. To transition from man to woman is an incredibly courageous thing to do - especially with an established career. Transgendered people also face extremely high rates of discrimination and violence. Plus, when she was making films as a "man" she likely already felt like a woman. She probably felt it since birth. Arguably, she's had it harder than anyone.

  • Melissa Silverstein | June 23, 2014 9:02 PM

    If a person identifies as a woman and lives as a woman I respect her right to be called a woman - always.

  • Beebee | June 23, 2014 7:43 PM

    Yeah, that kind of is too much to ask. She's a woman. She deserves to be included in things regarding women.

  • JenniferP | June 23, 2014 7:18 PM

    A transgender woman is a woman (whether or not any surgery has taken place). Whatever (admittedly considerable) privilege Lana Wachowski gained in Hollywood by presenting as a man was perhaps offset by having to hide her identity and grapple with the very fraught, expensive, and emotional process of coming out and transitioning. Is that a price we'd wish on anyone? I'd like to see Wachowski stay on these lists because she's a woman and because it doesn't hurt to have the visibility of someone who created a blockbuster franchise attached. But since we're talking, I'd like to see Ava Duvernay (Middle of Nowhere), Kasi Lemmons (Eve's Bayou, Black Nativity, Talk to Me, etc.), Dee Rees (Pariah), and Amma Asante (Belle, in theaters now) added.

  • Danny Derakhshan | June 23, 2014 5:13 PMReply

    I never liked this kind of favoritism that takes away from any specific group, especially women. Women are amazingly creative, hard working, and are great bosses, if given the opportunity. We, as men and women, need to make changes first in ourselves: Offer women the same jobs. Pay women the same as men. Make sure that equality is not just out in the media, but also offscreen. I'm producing a documentary about women directors in film because of how the studios do things like this. Now, women have shifted to directing documentaries. Our goal with this film is to lead by example: We have a first time feature film director who is a woman directing, and we strive for the crew and people onscreen to be equal ratios of men and women. If you'd like to help us or become part of the team, please contact me. Thank you.

  • Nick | June 23, 2014 11:23 PM

    Women apparently suck at making movies.

  • Diana | June 23, 2014 7:20 PM

    You are a beautiful soul.

  • Max | June 23, 2014 2:35 PMReply

    Are there any stats about how many female directors or aspiring female directors there actually are in the world? It's hard to put something like that in a nifty chart, but currently these infographs only point the finger at studios for having some kind of "No girls allowed" sign on the door, when the issue involves many more factors.

  • Rachel | June 24, 2014 10:08 AM

    I can tell you that there are over 1200 women director members of the Directors Guild of America! These are all experienced directors who have already delivered work to a network or studio. On the indie front, 50% of the films in competition at Sundance last year were directed by women. The Alliance of Women Directors has hundreds of members. There are easily thousands of accomplished female directors out there, eager to call "Action!"

    Every major film school also currently had 50% female enrollment. It is only after a woman steps into the profession that the opportunities dry up.

  • claire cassidy | June 23, 2014 1:39 PMReply

    where is sarah polley?
    Charts like this are depressing AND encouraging. Getting the names of the Few that have directed out there, offers a platform for others to be reminded of the diversity of their work.
    I am a firm believer that you can't be what you can't see.

    I also whole heartedly disagree that there is this gap because there are so few women who aspire to be directors. In classes and colleges where there is an even split, alot of the female classmates are encouraged to take paper work/producer roles. There is a view that only the truly auteur aggressive style of directing is key- I don't know alot of directors who happen to be female like that. So they are discriminated against, as being unsure- if they aren't pushy.
    a critical style over a collaborative style is idealized in alot of institutions.

    And studios still don't trust women to do mega budget shoot em ups- so they are put in the niche of indie. But any man can do a "chick flick" or stories with women as protagonists. So strange.

  • Paulie | June 23, 2014 9:26 PM

    "Take This Waltz" didn't come out of a major studio.

  • eric | June 23, 2014 1:25 PMReply

    This probably has more to do with the fact that there aren't very many female directors. I went to a large film school and there were barely any females in the directing program. This isn't necessarily an example of discrimination.

  • MAM | June 23, 2014 2:40 PM

    Yep, what Dave said. Dig around on the internets for a little bit and you'll see plenty examples of institutionalized sexism that prevents women from being considered for studio work. But first, maybe start by really getting to know and understand what institutionalized sexism is, you might be enlightened.

  • Dave | June 23, 2014 2:09 PM

    That attitude is part of the problem.

  • Ninjatrrtle | June 23, 2014 1:22 PMReply

    Kathryn Bigelow directed the Hurt Locker in 2008 and Zero Dark Thirty in 2012. Anne Fletcher's not the only one.

  • IGBO | June 25, 2014 5:22 PM

    @NINJATRRTLE Kathryn Bigelow has only one film released by a major studio between 2009-2013. "The Hurt Locker" was released in 2009 in the US, but by Summit Entertainment, which is a subsidiary of Lions Gate, which is not considered a major studio. @GMBPURPLE The same is true for Sofia Coppola because "The Bling Ring" was released by A24 in the US, which is also not a major studio.

    However, there is another female director that did have two films released by major studios between 2009-2013. That is Nicole Holofcener. She directed "Please Give" (Sony, 2010) and "Enough Said" (Fox, 2013).

  • gmbpurple | June 25, 2014 3:50 AM

    Sofia Coppola, Somewhere in 2010 & The Bling Ring in 2013

  • Melissa Silverstein | June 23, 2014 2:07 PM

    It's 2009-2013

  • anonymous | June 23, 2014 1:17 PMReply

    Have charts and articles like these worked in changing things or are they just confirming to the studios that "others are doing it" so they should continue doing it too? If the media changes the way they report on women directors, perhaps the studios will follow. Stop framing the subject as a negative. Stop interviewing women directors with the focus on the negative aspects of making it in the industry as a woman, and instead focus on the same filmmaking questions that are asked of males. Media could also refuse to print any PR announcements for white male directors who are hired for doing studio films. Period. Just stop printing that "new wonder boy" has been hired by studio X to direct a feature and start only printing PR pieces about female or minority directors (until the numbers change significantly). Let the studios find a new way to push their chauvenism or force them to change. They will. Or maybe women should just get together en masse and do a class action lawsuit. Reverse marketing and money would talk. It's the only thing they understand.

  • anonymous | June 23, 2014 1:15 PMReply

    Have charts and articles like these worked in changing things or are they just confirming to the studios that "others are doing it" so they should continue doing it too? If the media changes the way they report on women directors, perhaps the studios will follow. Stop framing the subject as a negative. Stop interviewing women directors with the focus on the negative aspects of making it in the industry as a woman, and instead focus on the same filmmaking questions that are asked of males. Media could also refuse to print any PR announcements for white male directors who are hired for doing studio films. Period. Just stop printing that "new wonder boy" has been hired by studio X to direct a feature and start only printing PR pieces about female or minority directors (until the numbers change significantly). Let the studios find a new way to push their chauvenism or force them to change. They will. Or maybe women should just get together en masse and do a class action lawsuit. Money would talk.

  • IndieReader | June 23, 2014 1:10 PMReply

    I am in support of women filmmakers but this infographic is horribly designed and requires too much effort to navigate. #baddesign

  • MAM | June 23, 2014 2:34 PM

    Are you kidding me? I think it's one of the clearest ones on the topic to date.

  • cb | June 23, 2014 1:31 PM

    Horribly designed? Too much effort to navigate? Huh? Would you prefer a pie chart, perhaps?

  • thedirectorlist | June 23, 2014 11:53 AMReply

    Pretty disgraceful, especially when one considers how many talented women directors have made indie films over the past decade. There's a huge pool of talent, yet the studios still claim they struggle to find women to consider! Here's one place to find them: thedirectorlist (dot) com.

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