In a year in which, for the first time, half of the dramatic competition entries at Sundance are by women, a new study finds that the festival continue to be a proving ground and safe haven for women in movies.
Between 2002 and 2012, nearly a quarter of the directors at Sundance were women, compared with 4.4 percent for the top 100 box office films in the same period. Including cinematographers, editors, producers and writers, women accounted for 29.8 percent of the American films at Sundance, which has become synonymous with indie film. Films directed by women were also more likely to have women in other key roles behind the camera. And breaking it down further, documentaries were rife with female talent – 34.5 percent were directed by women, compared with 16.9 percent for feature films.
The study, commissioned by the Sundance Institute and Women in Film Los Angeles, an affinity group, was conducted through the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism at the University of Southern California. The results are to be announced at a brunch here hosted by the Sundance Institute and Women in Film Los Angeles today.
“The data shows us that there is a higher representation of female filmmakers in independent film as compared to Hollywood,” Cathy Schulman, president of Women in Film, said in a statement announcing the study, “but it also highlights the work that is still to be done for women to achieve equal footing in the field.”
The landscape for women at the box office is improving – as Carry Rickey wrote in The New York Times, “9 percent of the top 250 movies at the domestic box office last year were made by female directors,” up from 5 percent in 2011 – but there are still barriers to their success. In the study, which included interviews with female filmmakers and industry players, the reasons women lag behind their male counterparts included “gendered financial barriers” (43. 1 percent) and “male-dominated industry networking” (39.2 percent). Stereotyping on set, exclusionary hiring and work-family balance were also listed as challenges.
The study found that by far the biggest proportion of women in film worked as producers, with a high percentage as associate producers in both narrative (40 percent) and documentary (59.5 percent) film. But, it notes, “as the prestige of the producing post increased, the percentage of female participation decreased,” both in documentary and narrative filmmaking. New York Times