Sundance Institute’s Artist Demographics Reveal Some Progress, More Work to Be Done

A recent study put forth by Sundance Institute and USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative analyzes demographic data from submissions and acceptances to Sundance Film Festival and Sundance Institute’s Artist Support programs over the last two years. It reveals that while efforts for parity have been made, more work is needed.

While the numbers have generally increased since the last study conducted in 2009, submissions by female directors are still under 50% in all festival sections.

The study does present some hopeful statistics, particularly in regards to the festival’s Short Film Program, where women and people of color had higher submission and acceptance rates: 34.1% of shorts submissions and 51.4% of accepted shorts had at least one female director. The data is a bit less optimistic in the feature films category, with 28% of submitted and 35% of accepted content having at least one female director. The study speculates that gendered financial barriers prevent women from directing longer-form independent film.

Women of color, in particular, remain highly underrepresented. The numbers are not reflective of our cultural landscape: though women of color represent 20% of the U.S. population, their submission and acceptance rates in the U.S. Dramatic categories are extremely small in comparison (5.8% and 7.4%, respectively).

The fact that short films are closer to representing the U.S. population is proof that talented female directors and directors of color are out there. Keri Putnam, Sundance Institute’s Executive Director, agrees. “It’s clear from this data that there is a robust and exciting talent pool including women and people of color,” she said. “We are proud of the investments the Institute has made in identifying and supporting underrepresented artists, and we are even prouder of the results those investments have catalyzed, over the two years captured here.” The question, then, is if the rest of the industry will join in these efforts to support these artists and finance their work?

For more information, you can view the full report here.