SAN DIEGO, CA – Documentary films continued to employ higher percentages of women in behind-the-scenes roles than independent narrative feature films in 2020-2021, according to a report released Tuesday by the director of the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University.
According to the findings of Martha M. Lauzen’s “Indie Women” report, women made up 42% of those working as directors, screenwriters, producers, executive producers, editors and directors of photography on documentaries compared to 35% of those working on documentaries. Narrative feature films in streaming / screening. at 20 top film festivals in the United States
The study also showed that festivals broadcast / screened an almost equal number of documentaries made by women – an average of seven – than by men – – an average of eight. Festivals screened an average of six narrative feature films directed by at least one woman compared to an average of nine narrative feature films directed exclusively by men.
“The results confirm that women continue to enjoy higher employment rates in documentaries than in narrative feature films,” Lauzen said. “Each iteration of this study since 2008 has shown that women fare better in the world of documentaries.”
In all but one of the behind-the-scenes roles, documentaries employed higher percentages of women than narrative films. Women represented 41% of directors on documentaries against 37% on narrative feature films; 45% of executive producers on documentaries against 31% on narrative feature films; 50% of producers on documentaries against 40% on narrative feature films; 40% of publishers on docs versus 34% on narrative features; and 26% of directors of photography on documentaries against 19% on narrative feature films.
It was only as writers that the percentage of women working in narrative films narrowly exceeded that of women working on documentaries – 37% versus 35%, respectively.
Films with at least one female director had significantly higher percentages of women working as screenwriters, editors and filmmakers. The percentages of women working in other key behind-the-scenes roles have more than doubled. For example, on films with at least one director, women made up 33% of cinematographers. On films with all-male directors, women made up 12% of cinematographers.
First produced in 2008, the Indie Women report examines the employment of women in domestically produced and independent feature films streamed / screening at 20 leading US festivals, including AFI Fest, SXSW Film Festival and the New York Film Festival. This year’s report examined 7,452 credits out of 582 films.
Lauzen has been researching the portrayal and employment of women on screen and behind the scenes in film and television for more than two decades. She is the Founder and Executive Director of the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at SDSU.