Wait, Is It Good or Bad To Be A Woman in Indie Film? My Lady Brain Hurts
San Diego State University just released a new study about women in independent film, and its findings are, shall we say, up for debate. Here are a few headlines (from The New York Times, Deadline, and The Hollywood Reporter, respectively):
Authored by Dr. Martha M. Lauzen of SDSU's Center for the Study of Women in Television & Film, the study examines the behind-the-scenes contributions of women at major film festivals like Sundance, SXSW and and AFI Fest.
The New York Times interpreted the numbers somewhat dismally (see above), noting the study's statistic that high-profile U.S. film festivals screened three times as many feature films directed by men as by women in 2016-17, and twice as many documentaries directed by men as by women. Deadline opted to look for the silver lining, pointing out that sure, the study's stats are grim, but they make the indie-film circuit look like a Valhalla of gender equity compared to the world of big-budget film, where women directed just 7% of last year's 250 top-grossing domestic films. So, basically, things are bad for female indie directors, but not quite as bad as they are for female big-budget directors. Yay! Progress!
Lauzen's study isn't wholly devoid of optimism; she notes that films with at least one woman director also had substantially higher, percentages of women writers, editors,and cinematographers, so at least the women who do rise through the independent-film ranks are helping each other succeed. Now, if only we could get studio heads to stop systemically discriminating against female directors, we'd be in business. Sort of. Eventually.