Despite an increase of female writers, editors, and producers hired to work on major movies, the number of women working on Hollywood sets in 2018 has decreased 3 percent since the previous calendar year, according to an annual report measuring female employment on top-grossing American films.
The Celluloid Ceiling report — an initiative of San Diego State University’s Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film which has gauged women’s employment on major Hollywood titles for the last 21 years — released its findings Thursday, indicating female filmmakers helmed only 8 percent of top 250-grossing movies (foreign films and reissues excluded) released to theaters in North America across 2018, down from both the 11 percent recorded in 2017 and the 9 percent recorded when the study launched in 1998.
Results further concluded that women comprised 20 percent of all directors, writers, producers, executive producers, editors, and cinematographers working on Hollywood’s top 250 highest-earning projects, which marks a 2 percent increase from the 18 percent registered in 2017. Of the 3,076 people who worked on the top 250 films, women were represented most as producers (26 percent), followed by executive producers (21 percent), editors (21 percent), writers (16 percent), directors (8 percent), and cinematographers (4 percent).
In 2018, 25 percent of those projects employed zero to one woman in the aforementioned roles; 58 percent employed two to five; 16 percent employed six to nine, and one percent employed 10 or more. The majority of those films (74 percent) employed 10 or more men.
“The study provides no evidence that the mainstream film industry has experienced the profound positive shift predicted by so many industry observers over the last year. This radical underrepresentation is unlikely to be remedied by the voluntary efforts of a few individuals or a single studio,” said study author Dr. Martha Lauzen in a press statement. “Without a large-scale effort mounted by the major players — the studios, talent agencies, guilds, and associations — we are unlikely to see meaningful change. The distance from 8 percent to some semblance of parity is simply too vast. What is needed is a will to change, ownership of the issue — meaning the effort originates with the major players, transparency, and the setting of concrete goals. Will, ownership, transparency, and goals are the keys to moving forward.”
While the study reportedly measures only American theatrical releases, it is unclear if films like Susanne Bier’s Bird Box, which had a limited theatrical run before breaking a viewing record in its first week on Netflix, were counted as part of the Celluloid Ceiling’s findings.
Throughout 2018, films directed by women made headlines at the box office and on the awards season trail. Despite landing as an overall commercial disappointment, Ava DuVernay’s Disney blockbuster A Wrinkle in Time became the first film directed by a black woman to cross the $100 million domestic mark, while Marielle Heller’s Melissa McCarthy-starring prestige picture Can You Ever Forgive Me? and Karyn Kusama’s Nicole Kidman vehicle Destroyer both made significant showings on the awards circuit with nominations from several voting bodies including the Golden Globes, the Screen Actors Guild, and more.
Read full 2018 Celluloid Ceiling report here.