Male film-makers might dominate the mainstream, but in the indie world the gender gap is closing, says Sundance survey
Female directors remain woefully underrepresented in Hollywood but appear in greater numbers in the field of independent film, according to a new study commissioned by the Sundance film festival and Women in Film.
The survey found that there has been little change in the gender balance at Robert Redford’s annual showcase of indie film-making in Park City, Utah over the past decade. (This year, however, male and female directors are equally represented at the festival, which kicked off on Thursday and runs until Sunday.) Overall, women represented fewer than one-third of the 11,000 directors, writers, producers, cinematographers and editors working on the 820 narrative and documentary films that have appeared at Sundance since 2002.
“There has been no sustained or meaningful change across the last 11 years in the percentage of [female] directors or producers at the Sundance film festival,” said Stacy L Smith of the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, which carried out the survey.
Sundance still does far better than the mainstream film-making sphere, however. Over the same period only 4.4% of the top-grossing Hollywood films were directed by women, and a remarkable 40% of these had come through programmes organised by the Sundance Institute.
The study also found that female film-makers are more likely to employ other women on their productions. Separate studies have found that female directors are more likely to feature women or girls on screen, and the subject matter for their films is likely to be less violent and feature fewer guns and less blood and gore.
The Sundance survey found that women were better represented in the factual film-making sphere: they made up almost half of documentary directors at Sundance since 2002.
Organisers hope to use the results of the study to create mentoring and support programmes to increase the number of women working behind the camera in US film-making.
Gender disparity in film-making has long been an issue but raised its head firmly above the parapet at last year’s Cannes film festival after it emerged that not one of the directors vying for the prestigious Palme d’Or prize was female. Organisers later apologised for the oversight following strident criticism from French feminists and critics.
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