This image released by A24 shows director Lulu Wang, left, on the set of “The Farewell.” Women directed 12 of 2019’s top 100-grossing films in 2019, according to a study released Thursday by USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative Female filmmakers. (Casi Moss/A24 via AP)

Study finds 2019 was a ‘banner year’ for female filmmakers

It’s the most meaningful increase in several decades for female director

Lulu Wang, Lorene Scafaria, Melina Matsoukas and Greta Gerwig led Hollywood to a record year for women in the director’s chair. In 2019, women directed more of the most popular movies than any year before.

Women directed 12 of 2019’s top 100-grossing films in 2019, according to a study released Thursday by USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative. That percentage of female filmmakers, 10.6%, is greater than researchers have recorded before, suggesting that some measure of change is finally coming to a film industry where inequality behind the camera has remained stubbornly persistent.

It’s the most meaningful increase in several decades for female directors. Despite mounting outcry, the rate of female directors helming Hollywood’s top productions has long been largely stagnant. The previous high in USC’s annual study was 8%, in 2008. In 2018, only 4.5% of the year’s top films were directed by women.

“This is the first time we have seen a shift in hiring practices for female film directors in 13 years,” said Stacy L. Smith, one of the study’s authors. “One notable reason for this jump in 2019 was that Universal Pictures had five films with women directors at the helm in the top 100 movies. Yet there is still much more progress needed to reach parity for women behind the camera.”

The high-profile success of several films had already made 2019 a historic one for women. Those include Wang’s “The Farewell,” one of the year’s most popular indie releases, Scafaria’s acclaimed “Hustlers” ($105 million domestically), Matsoukas’ “Queen & Slim” ($40.7 million) and Gerwig’s “Little Women,” which last week opened strongly with $29 million in its first five days of release.

“Frozen II,” with $1.2 billion in worldwide ticket sales, is close to setting a new box-office record for a movie directed by a woman. Jennifer Lee, who co-directed the film, set the record with the first “Frozen” film. In 2018, Lee became the chief creative officer of Walt Disney Animation Studios.

Other notable films included Kasi Lemmons’ “Harriet,” Tina Gordon’s “Little” and Jill Culton’s “Abominable.”

ALSO READ: Canadian TV, film industry making progress on gender, but not race: study

USC researchers singled out Universal Pictures, which put forward a slate of films with 26% directed by women. Universal is the only major studio with a female studio chief, Donna Langley.

Netflix also fared well. While the streaming company’s films largely bypass theatres — leaving them outside the study’s parameters — 20% of Netflix’s 2019 movies were directed by women.

Paramount Pictures, however, hasn’t released a movie directed by a woman in the last five years.

Four women of colour directed one of the top 100 movies in 2019, though the overall statistics for underrepresented directors dipped. Underrepresented filmmakers were behind 16.8% of films in 2019, a decline from last year’s 21.4%, a record.

“While 2019 is a banner year for women, we will not be able to say there is true change until all women have access and opportunity to work at this level,” said Smith.

Despite the gains, female filmmakers have been largely overlooked in this awards season. Sunday’s Golden Globes, presented by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, includes no women nominated for best director. None of the 10 films nominated for best picture were directed by women, either.

Rebecca Goldman, Time’s Up chief operating officer, said those results were unacceptable.

“This year, there have been twice as many women-led features than ever, with more films by female directors on the way,” Goldman said. “Women — and especially women of colour — continue to be pushed to the sidelines by a system that holds women back, onscreen and off.”

Jake Coyle, The Associated Press

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Fourteen Comox Valley kids get bikes through Share the Ride

Several businesses combine efforts to get bikes and other cycling gear

Comox Valley artist’s mask heading to prestigious U.S. museum

John and Peggy Varnedoe purchased the piece and have donated it to the Burke Museum in Seattle.

Perseverance Week raises more than $155,000 for Cumberland Community Forest Society

The Cumberland Forest’s Perseverance Week (Oct. 21-31, 2019) fundraising drive totals are… Continue reading

Musical feast celebrates Lunar New Year in Courtenay

Chai Found Music Workshop performs contemporary take on Chinese music Jan. 27

Quick response from Comox Fire Rescue saves two homes

Sunday afternoon (Jan. 19) Comox Fire Rescue received a report of a… Continue reading

VIDEO: 17 Husky pups rescued from Interior B.C. property find new homes

The BC SPCA caught the moment on video the last puppy, Uki, met his owners

U.S. officials confirm first case of Wuhan coronavirus near Seattle

The U.S. is the fifth country to report seeing the illness

Police recover body of Tofino man near Hot Springs Cove

An RCMP dive team has recovered the body of a Tofino man in his 50s.

Prince Harry reunites with Meghan and Archie in Victoria

Buckingham Palace said Tuesday it would not comment on private matters

Skier dies at Fernie Alpine Resort

It’s the second person to die in a tree well at a ski resort in B.C. in the past week.

Put away the shovels, week of rain ahead for Vancouver Island

Environment Canada calling for wet weather until Sunday

Power lines cut as thieves strike Vancouver Island veterinary hospital

‘Thankfully there weren’t any animals or staff in the clinic when this happened’

Most Read