The Swedish Film Institute finds that female-led feature films spend more than a year longer in development than male-led projects

The Swedish Film Institute launched its annual Gender Equality Report today. The ‘406 Days’ survey, which examines the gender disparity in the development and production process, shows that female-led fictional feature films spend on average more than a year longer in development than projects directed by male filmmakers.

Highlights of the report include:

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Funding:

  • The report showed that women in key positions have access to significantly lower budgets than men and that the percentage of women in key positions decreases as budgets increase.

  • Projects carried out by women are generally considered to be a higher financial risk, and this therefore reduces the willingness to fund projects with higher budgets

  • A stark difference between private equity financing for films with male versus female directors

  • Investors tend to ask male entrepreneurs promotion-oriented questions, that is, those that focus on opportunities, achievements, and development. Women entrepreneurs are more often asked prevention-oriented questions, i.e. those that focus on potential pitfalls, risks and how they will be avoided

  • On average, more development aid is granted to films with women in key positions (director, screenwriter or producer). However, development funding is only a small percentage of a film’s overall budget, especially when it comes to mid- to high-budget projects. Although film projects with women in key positions receive more development funding, the long development phase still leaves these filmmakers financially vulnerable.

  • The difference in the time it takes for female key positions to complete a film can be entirely explained by the longer time it takes women between securing initial development funding and securing a Letter of Intent (LOI), confirmation of production funding from the Swedish Film Institute

  • Across all development funding applications, the key function of director has the lowest proportion of women at 41%, while the corresponding proportion for screenwriter is 47% and producer is 49%.

  • For the first requests for funding, only 35% of requests concerned films with a female director and 38% for films with a female screenwriter. As producers, women make up 45% of these films, which represents a much more even distribution between the sexes than for the other two key positions.

Production:

  • Of the 358 new film projects among the 2016-2017 development funding applications, 31 films were finally released (as of October 2021). Looking at the process as a whole, it is clear that women drop out more than men. It is only among the directors that we see an increase in the percentage of women from the first candidacy to the release. It should be noted, however, that films with female filmmakers fall later in the process. On the one hand, this could be interpreted as the fact that women filmmakers have more opportunities to explore and develop their cinematic ideas, but it could also mean that they are tied longer than men to projects that do not ultimately lead to the making of a film.

  • Films with women in key positions generally take longer to complete. This is particularly evident for film projects with female screenwriters. For these, it takes on average 406 days longer than for projects with men, from the first development funding to the actual exit. This means it takes an average of four years, four months for films with female screenwriters to be completed.

  • Films with female directors take an average of 138 days longer to complete than films with male directors. The gender of the producer, however, does not seem to affect the duration

The documentary bucks the trends

  • The opposite is true for feature length documentaries, it is the opposite of feature length fiction. For all key positions, men need more time than women. It is above all the production phase that is the longest for men.

  • Looking at the overall requests for development funding for documentary film, it is clear that, as with feature-length fiction, gender equality varies over the years, but shows a relatively even distribution between the sexes in the different key positions.

  • Among documentary films tracked since the first request in 2016-2017, women make up 45% of directors, 48% of screenwriters and 47% of producers for the 32 films released.

Read the full report here

The report is primarily based on quantitative analyzes of the Swedish Film Institute’s own data, looking at films released over the past five years, then backtracking by analyzing what the process has been like for them, from funding initial from development to finished film.

In 2014, the Swedish Film Institute was the first public film funding body to achieve gender parity in public film funding. Together with the Minister of Culture and Democracy of Sweden and the Minister of Culture of France, the Swedish Film Institute organized a successful event at Cannes 2016, where the Swedish Film Institute launched “50/50 by 2020which had a huge impact on the global film industry.

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