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Independent Women: Behind-the-Scenes Employment on Festival Films in 2013-14

by Martha M. Lauzen, Ph.D.

Copyright © 2014 – All rights reserved. _________________________________

Independent Women is the most comprehensive study of women’s behind-the-scenes employment on independent films available. This study is sponsored by the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film, San Diego State University, San Diego, CA, 92182, Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film.
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Women comprised 26% of individuals working in key behind-the-scenes roles on feature-length films screening at high-profile film festivals in the United States in 2013-14. This is even with the figure from 2011-12 and up 2 percentage points from 24% in 2008-09.

The percentage of women directors, writers, producers, executive producers, editors, and cinematographers working on documentaries continues to be larger (28%) than the percentage working on narrative features (24%).

Women accounted for 28% of directors working on documentaries and 18% of directors working on narrative features. These figures are stunning when compared to the percentage of women directing top grossing films in 2013 (6%).

For the first time, this year’s study also tracked the percentages of women working as composers. Women comprised 10% of composers working on all of the films considered in this study, 11% of composers working on documentaries, and 10% of composers working on narrative features. These numbers are dramatically higher than the 2% of women working as composers on top grossing films.

The following summary provides employment figures for domestically and independently produced feature-length documentaries and narrative films screening from May 2013 to April 2014 at the following 23 festivals: AFI Fest; Atlanta Film Festival; Austin Film Festival; Chicago International Film Festival; Cinequest Film Festival; Cleveland International Film Festival; Florida Film Festival; Hamptons International Film Festival; Los Angeles Film Festival; Nashville Film Festival; New Directors, New Films; New York Film Festival; Palm Springs International Film Festival; Rhode Island International Film Festival; St. Louis International Film Festival; San Francisco International Film Festival; Santa Barbara International Film Festival; Seattle International Film Festival; Slamdance Film Festival; Sundance Film Festival; SXSW Film Festival; Telluride Film Festival; Tribeca Film Festival.

The findings of the study are divided into three major sections. The first section reports on the overall figures for women working on narrative features and documentaries. The second section provides the figures for women working on documentaries only, and the third section reports the figures for women working on narrative features only.

This report also provides comparisons of the data gathered for the present study (2013-14) with data collected from 2011-2012 and 2008-2009.


Overall Findings for Documentaries and Narrative Features Screening at Festivals

•Women fared best as producers (33%), followed by executive producers (27%), directors (23%), writers (22%), editors (20%), and cinematographers (10%) (see Figure 1).

•The percentages of women executive producers and producers increased from 2011-12 to 2013-14, while the percentages of directors, writers, editors, and cinematographers decreased.

•Women comprised 23% of directors in 2013-14, down from 29% in 2011-12 and up slightly from 22% in 2008-09.

•Women accounted for 22% of writers in 2013-14, down from 24% in 2011-12 but up from 19% in 2008-09.

•Women comprised 27% of executive producers in 2013-14, up from 25% in 2011-12 and 22% in 2008-09.

•Women accounted for 33% of producers in 2013-14, up from 31% in 2011-12 and even with 2008-09.

•Women comprised 20% of editors in 2013-14, down from 25% in 2011-12 and 23% in 2008-09.

•Women accounted for 10% of cinematographers in 2013-14, down
from 13% in 2011-12 but up from 9% in 2008-09.


Figure 1.
Historical Comparison of Percentages of Women Working on Films (Documentaries and Narrative Features)

Screening at High- Profile U.S. Festivals

Figure I
Figure I

Findings for Documentaries Only

•Women fared best as producers (39%), followed by executive producers (31%), directors (28%), writers (23%), editors (20%), and cinematographers (12%) (see Figure 2).

•The percentages of women working as directors, writers, editors, and cinematographers on documentaries decreased from 2011-12 to 2013-14. The percentage of women working as executive producers remained the same, and the percentage of women working as producers increased.


Figure 2.
Historical Comparison of Percentages of Women Working by Role on Documentaries


Figure II
Figure II

•Women comprised 28% of directors working on documentaries screening at the festivals considered in 2013-14, down from 39% in 2011-12 and even with 28% in 2008-09.

•Women accounted for 23% of writers working on documentaries screening at the festivals considered in 2013-14, down from 32% in 2011-12 and 28% in 2008-09.

•Women comprised 31% of executive producers working on documentaries screening at the festivals considered in 2013-14, even with 31% in 2011-12 and up from 27% in 2008-09.

•Women accounted for 39% of producers working on documentaries screening at the festivals considered in 2013-14, up from 35% in 2011-12 and even with 39% in 2008-09.

•Women comprised 20% of editors working on documentaries screening at the festivals considered in 2013-14, down from 27% in 2011-12 but up from 19% in 2008-09.

•Women accounted for 12% of cinematographers working on documentaries screening at the festivals considered in 2013-14, down from 16% in 2011-12 but up from 11% in 2008-09.

Findings for Narrative Features Only

•Overall, women fared best as producers (30%), followed by executive producers (26%), writers (21%), editors (19%), directors (18%), and cinematographers (7%) (see Figure 3).

•The percentages of women working as producers and executive producers increased from 2011-12 to 2013-14. The percentages of women directors and writers remained the same, and the percentages of women editors and cinematographers decreased.

•Women accounted for 18% of directors working on narrative features screening at the festivals considered in 2013-14, even with 18% in 2011-12 and up from 15% in 2008-09.

•Women comprised 21% of writers working on narrative features screening at the festivals considered in 2013-14, even with 21% in 2011-12 and up from 15% in 2008-09.


Figure 3.
Historical Comparison of Percentages of Women Working by Role on Narrative Features

Figure III
Figure III

•Women accounted for 26% of executive producers working on narrative features screening at the festivals considered in 2013-14, up from 22% in 2011-12 and 19% in 2008-09.

•Women comprised 30% of producers working on narrative features screening at the festivals considered in 2013-14, up from 29% in 2011-12 and 28% in 2008-09.
•Women accounted for 19% of editors working on narrative features screening at the festivals considered in 2013-14, down from 23% in 2011-12 and even with 19% in 2008-09.

•Women comprised 7% of cinematographers working on narrative features screening at the festivals considered in 2013-14, down from 9% in 2011-12 but up from 6% in 2008-09.


















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New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council, and New York State Council on the Arts