Black Directors Hit Historic High in 2018, Intersectionality Remains Stagnant

Clockwise from top left: Ryan Coogler (‘Black Panther’), Antoine Fuqua (‘The Equalizer 2’), Spike Lee (‘BlacKkKlansman’), Ava DuVernay (‘A Wrinkle in Time’) (via THR)


USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative’s annual “Inclusion in the Director’s Chair” report published in January 2019 shows the number of black directors reached a historic high in 2018, though representation and intersectionality among other demographics remained flat.

The good news: 16 black directors helmed the top 100 grossing films, the highest number by far in the report’s 12-year history. (The previous best was only 7 directors out of 100, back in 2007.)

However, only one of the 16 black directors is female: Ava DuVernay. In fact, only 7 black women directors TOTAL have directed a top 100 film since the study began in 2007. The numbers for female directors in general remain dismal, staying flat at 4% across the top 1,200 films from 2007 and 2018. And of those female directors, the vast majority are white.

For the first time, the “Inclusion in the Director’s Chair” study also looked at gender and race of producers and below-the-line roles across the top 300 films from 2016 to 2018. 72.3 % of the producing jobs were held by white men, 16.3% by white women, 9.8% by men of color and just 1.6% by women of color. Projects in which an underrepresented producer was involved were also more likely than those with all-white male producing teams to attach an underrepresented director.

“This year really illuminates that the pictures of what a director ‘should’ look like are ways of old, and that storytellers who are given the resources and support of major companies and distributors [can come] from many different backgrounds. The only thing that is restricting more individuals from being let in is the imagination of the people who greenlight.” – Annenberg Inclusion Initiative founder and director Stacy L. Smith 

In terms of board leadership: the seven major media companies (21st Century Fox, AT&T, Comcast, Sony, Walt Disney Company, Viacom, Lionsgate) now have 25% of their board seats filled by women, including half of Viacom’s. Viacom also had the most gender-inclusive C-suite (31.8% female), while Sony and Comcast had no women in their top executive tiers. 

Read the full study. And for more information on women’s representation – or lack thereof – behind the camera, see the most recent “Celluloid Ceiling” report from the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University.