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Is It "Hasta la vista, baby" for women film-makers?

The American Film Institute's highly touted announcement of the top 100 movie quotes - leading with "Frankly my dear, I don't give a damn" - might also be described as its attitude towards the advancement of women working behind the scenes in the film industry.

During the past four years, the percentage of women working as directors, executive producers, producers, writers, cinematographers, and editors on the top 250 domestic grossing films has declined from 19% in 2001 to 16% in 2004.

The so-called "Celluloid Ceiling" is getting thicker, according to the just-released data of Communications Professor Martha M. Lauzen, Ph.D., San Diego State University. Each year, Lauzen looks closely at the behind-the-scenes employment of women in the top 250 domestic grossing films. And frankly, my dear, it's not a pretty picture!

In 2004, Women comprised only 5% of directors. That's a decline of 6 percentage points since 2000 when women accounted for 11% of all directors. "In other words," reports Lauzen, "in 2004 the percentage of women directors was slightly less than half the percentage in 2000." 

Lauzen's study analyzed behind-the-scenes employment of 2,305 individuals working on the top 250 domestic grossing films of 2004 with combined domestic box office grosses of approximately $8.4 billion. Here's what she found:

o Women comprised 16% of all executive producers, producers, directors, writers, cinematographers, and editors working on the top 250 grossing films of 2004 - a slight decline from 17% in 2003.

o Twenty one percent of the films released in 2004 employed no women directors, executive producers, producers, writers, cinematographers, or editors.

o Women comprised 19% of all executive producers working on the top 250 films of 2004. Sixty three percent (63%) of the films had no female executive producers. 

o Women accounted for 24% of all producers working on the top 250 films of 2004. Thirty nine percent (39%) of the films had no female producers.

o Women comprised 5% of all directors working on the top 250 films of 2004. Ninety five percent (95%) of the films had no female directors.

o Women accounted for 12% of writers working on the top 250 films of 2004. Eighty two percent (82%) of the films had no female writers.

o Women accounted for 16% of all editors working on the top 250 films of 2004. Eighty percent (80%) of the films had no female editors.

o Women comprised 3% of all cinematographers working on the top 250 films of 2004. Ninety seven percent (97%) of the films had no female cinematographers.

Gender also makes a big difference to who gets hired on and off-camera. In previous data, Lauzen reported that on films with male executive producers only, women comprised 15 percent of behind-the-scenes staff. The percentage jumped to 22 percent on films with at least one female executive producer.

So is it "Hasta la vista, baby" for women behind the scenes in our film industry?

Not if at least two Chicago-based organizations have anything to say about it! The mission of "Women in the Director's Chair" is to raise the visibility of women media makers and to support the production of media that defies demeaning stereotypes. "Women In The Audience Supporting Women Artists Now!" or WITASWAN. The concept of WITASWAN comes from the American Association of University Women-Illinois (http://aauw-il.org/WITASWAN). It is an informal alliance of women who have pledged themselves to helping women film-makers break through the Celluloid Ceiling. There are no dues and no officers - but there is a responsibility: WITASWAN members make a commitment to see at least one film every month either directed by and/or written by a woman, either in a theater or on DVD/VHS.

Which brings me back to the AFI and another of its top 100 all-time movie quotes from Gone with the Wind: "After all, tomorrow is another day!"

Copyright © 2005 Marion Gold & Company Marketing Communications

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