Why Were There Fewer Top Female Movie Directors in 2018 Than In 2017?

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Ugh. File yet another story under "depressing news from last year": According to Variety, only eight percent of directors of the 250 most successful Hollywood movies were women in 2018, which is somehow down from the already tiny 11 percent in 2017. Also, this is one percent below the same stat in 1998. That means the number of top female directors has gone down slightly in the past 20 years. It hasn't been all bad news, with Ava DuVernay being the first woman of color to direct a film budgeted at more than $100 million (A Wrinkle in Time)—but it's still far from where it needs to be.

According to the research author, Dr. Martha Luazen, this runs counter to predictions that the industry was finally, finally starting to change for the better. This research “provides no evidence that the mainstream film industry has experienced the profound positive shift predicted by so many industry observers over the last year.” She added that the work of a single studio isn't going to provide the long-lasting change that's needed, which does make a sort of depressing sense.

One other small piece of good news:

In 2018, women comprised 20 percent of all directors, writers, producers, executive producers, editors, and cinematographers working on the top 250 domestic grossing films. This represents an increase of 2 percentage points from 18 percent in 2017.

So, there are more women represented in the industry as a whole, particularly the big money-making vehicles that represent a good chunk of overall revenue. But there's still fewer women in the top spots. There is most definitely a glass ceiling still in play in Hollywood.

DuVernay is continuing to blaze a trail for others. She just signed a $100 million open-ended deal with Warner Brothers and is continuing to move forward with her indie film production company, ARRAY. She's committed to breaking more barriers—basically, she's just getting started, in other words.

Also, DuVernay continues to be an outspoken champion of women, women of color, and representation in the industry—hopefully bringing some much needed change.


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