It might not come as a surprise to anyone that’s worked in film, whether it’s on a no-budget short or big-budget blockbuster, that film crews feature more men than women. What might surprise you is that the proportion of women working in film crews has actually fallen over the last 20 years.
This is the disheartening headline to come out of a survey of crew composition on the top 100 highest grossing films between 1994 and 2013, carried out by writer and producer Stephen Follows.
Some of the other key findings are:
- In 1994 the average number of women in a film crew was 22.6%. In 2013 it was 21.8%.
- The only departments where you’ll find more women than men are make-up, costume and casting.
- Musicals have the highest proportion of female crew members (27%), sci-fi has the lowest (20%).
- The proportion of women in key creative roles (Director, Writer and Producer) has fallen.
- The proportion of women working in make-up, costume and casting has risen, while the proportion working in editing and visual effects has fallen.
The widely accepted view is that over the last 20 years we have seen an increased participation of women in almost all industries. But this report shows that proportionately this has not been the case in the film industry, and what’s more, the participation looks depressingly old-fashioned, with women specialising in costume and make-up.
What’s happening, film? Why, in an industry that is seen as being made up of largely progressive, left-leaning, liberal folks is it failing so abysmally at reflecting the make-up of society in the make-up of its workforce?
We see the success of writers like Abi Morgan (Shame, The Iron Lady) and directors like Kathryn Bigelow (The Hurt Locker, Zero Dark Thirty), and think it’s all getting better, but this report blows that assumption out of the water.
You might think this is just a hangover from years of male domination of the industry and that the generation coming up next is going change that. But, and I’d love to see some statistics about this, from my personal experience working at Gorilla and making short films, the low budget filmmaking world, where you expect the next generation to cut their teeth, runs along much the same lines. Most directors, writers and producers are men. I’ve never worked with a male make-up artist or costume designer and I’ve never worked with a female camera person or sound recorder.
What’s to be done? Why are more women not working in key creative and technical roles? Are the films we see in the cinema, made by these male dominated crews, subconsciously turning women off wanting to make films? Is there something going wrong in film schools? Is the industry inherently sexist and choosing not hire women in key roles? Is the supply of women not there?
We’d love to hear your views and experiences of this, especially if you’re in film school right now.
You can read the full report here.