Women Make Gains in Indie Films, Study Says

More women are making independent films than ever, according to new research, and on every independent film with a female director, more female writers, editors and cinematographers get hired.

The study, “Indie Woman,” by the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University, looked at nearly 1,000 films shown at 22 film festivals between July and this month. Women made up nearly a third of the directors, executive producers, writers, cinematographers and editors, and though they were still outnumbered by men two to one, the new figures represented a leap: A decade ago, women occupied just 24 percent of those positions.

“After many years of tracking stubbornly stagnant numbers, this year women achieved healthy gains in a number of key behind-the-scenes roles,” Martha M. Lauzen, the center’s executive director, said in a statement.

Among the film festivals included in the study were Tribeca, A.F.I. and Sundance, where such female-directed films as “Clemency,” with Alfre Woodard, “Late Night,” with Emma Thompson and Mindy Kaling, and “The Farewell,” starring Awkwafina, were screened. The researchers found that on films with at least one female director, women made up 72 percent of writers and 45 percent of editors. “This tendency counters the widespread and seemingly intractable bias that has favored male networks,” Lauzen said. On films directed exclusively by men, women made up 11 percent of writers and 21 percent of editors.

Women fared best as producers on documentaries, holding 43 percent of those jobs on documentaries shown at festivals, and worst as cinematographers, holding just 16 percent of those positions on both narrative and documentary features.

Cara Buckley is a culture reporter who covers bias and equity in Hollywood, and was part of a team that won a Pulitzer Prize in 2018 for reporting on workplace sexual harassment. @caraNYT Facebook

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