Most of my research appears on the blog but some topics spill over into standalone reports.
Cut Out Of The Picture: Gender in UK Film
You can read more about this study at stephenfollows.com/gender-inequality-in-the-uk-film-industry.Download the full report
Click the chapter titles to read a summary of the key findings within each chapter.
Section A: The Current Landscape for Female directors
The percentage of UK directors who are women
- Just 13.6% of working film directors over the last decade were women.
- Only 14.0% of UK films had at least one female director.
- UK films are over six times more likely to be directed by a man than a woman.
The issue over time
- In 2005, 11.3% of UK films had a woman director; by 2014 this had only increased to 11.9%.
Career progression for female film directors
- During their careers, female directors tend to direct fewer films than male directors.
- Men are 13.1% more likely to make a second film than women.
- Female directors make fewer second, third and fourth films than men.
The budget level of female-directed UK films
- As budgets rise, fewer female directors are hired.
- 16.1% of films budgeted under £500,000 have a woman director.
- That figures drops to just 3.3% of films budgeted over £30 million.
The genre of female-directed UK films
- Female directors appear to be limited to genres traditionally viewed as “female”.
- Female directors are best represented within documentaries, drama, and romance films, while having the lowest representation within sci-fi, action, and crime.
- Although female cinema-goers prefer some genres more than others (i.e. drama over sci-fi), the extent of this preference is not as stark as the employment of women as directors in each genre.
The quality of female-directed films
- Films by female directors get higher ratings from film audiences and film critics compared to films by men.
- 22% of ‘Top Film Critics’ on Rotten Tomatoes are women.
- 36% of reviews written by female film critics and 21% of reviews written by male critics were about films directed by and / or written by a woman writer
Women in key creative roles on UK feature films
- Only two out of the nine key creative roles have above 50% female representation.
- 25.7% of producers of UK films are women.
- Women account for 14.6% of screenwriters on UK films.
Female crew members on UK feature films
- The transportation, sound, and camera departments have under 10% women crew members.
- Only casting, make-up, and costume departments have a majority of women crew.
Female representation among department heads and their crew
- In the vast majority of cases, the more senior a role is, the lower the percentage of women holding the role is.
- A crew member working in production is almost twice as likely to be women (49.9%) than the producer (25.7%).
- The data suggests that in the vast majority of departments within UK film, women have a harder time working their way up the chain than men.
- The weight of evidence suggests that there is a pervasive belief within the film industry that women, outside of the roles and departments that have been traditionally viewed as “female”, are less able to hold senior roles than their male counterparts.
The effect of a woman director on overall female representation
- 30.9% of crew working on female-directed films are women, compared with 24.1% of crew on male-directed films.
- The difference is starkest for writers, where 65.4% of writers on female-directed projects are women compared with just 7.4% on male-directed films.
Changes in female representation on UK feature films over time
- There is no meaningful trend towards improvement in female representation across the UK film industry.
Female directors within UK publicly-funded feature films
- 25% of UK films 2005-14 received some form of public funding.
- 21.7% of the films with UK-based public funding had a woman director.
- Public funding support for films with female directors has fallen dramatically in the seven years.
- In 2008, 32.9% of films with UK-based public funding had a woman director whereas in 2014 it was just 17.0%.
Female directors within UK Regional Film Funding Schemes
- 37.3% of funding awards via Northern Ireland Screen (April 2007 to March 2015) went to female applicants.
- 49.7% of funding awards via Creative England (Jan 2011 to October 2015) went to female applicants.
- Women applying to Creative England have a much higher success rate (16.6%) than men applying (10.1%).
- 29% of funding awards via Ffilm Cymru Wales (Jan 2014 to May 2015) went to female applicants
- The BFI, Creative Scotland and Film London could not provide gender statistics for their funding applications.
Section B: Why Are So Few Female Directors Hired?
The path to becoming a professional film director in the UK
- When we asked a number of working UK film directors about their route into directing, the most common responses were that they studied a film-related course, worked in television, made short films, and/or worked in other crew roles.
- Four out of five working film directors have a degree, although only 23.1% of directors have a film degree.
Entering the film or television industry
- 49.4% of Runners and Production Assistants in the UK Film Industry are women.
- The principal method of advertising an entry-level job in the UK film industry is Facebook.
- In employability terms for new entrants, owning a film degree is significantly less important than owning a driving license.
- All of the six most common proving grounds for future-directors have an underrepresentation of women.
- The crew roles which are the most useful to a director’s early carer are all male-dominated, including editing (14.4% women), producing (25.7%) and the camera department (9.8%).
The first directing gig
- First films are typically on the lower budget range.
- Most public funding schemes aimed at early filmmakers require the director to have a portfolio of work.
- Success with a debut feature film can be measured in the film’s quality, box office performance and in the intangible ‘industry reputation’.
- Making a second feature film is often harder than the first.
- The most commonly cited reasons why a director failed to make a second film are not gender specific.
- And yet, fewer female directors make a second film than their male counterparts.
- Many of the directors who do have opportunities to make subsequent films feel severely limited in the types of films the industry will support them to make.
- We have found no evidence that gender inequality is the result of any conscious or deliberate effort to keep women out of the film industry.
- There is no indication that the kinds of people attracted to work in film are disproportionally misogynistic or anti-women compared with the general population.
- It is our belief that the gender imbalance is due in large part to unconscious bias, rather than considered actions by industry insiders.
- We believe that this bias is created and sustained by a number systemic issues within the UK film industry.
- Meritocracy tends to depend on either strictly enforced regulation or balancing market principals. Neither is clearly apparent in the UK Film Industry.
- Only 7% of theatrically distributed British films return a profit, which undermines the ability of market forces to be the engine which drives change away from anti-commercial over-reliance on male directors.
- The lack of certainty in the film business creates two major undesirable outcomes: firstly, a fear of doing something different resulting in the veneration of rituals and conventions over facts or reason. And secondly, a reliance on ‘on the job’ training resulting in a lack of progress based on new ideas and methods.
- These, in combination with the pressured environment decisions are made under, have led to and maintained a reliance in the film industry on preconceived notions of the archetypal director, rather than on actual evidence of ability.
- An issue further protected by permanent short-termism in the industry.
- Film audiences do not care about the gender of the director, meaning that hiring a woman director is not negative from a film sales perspective.
- Films that women chose to watch tend to have an above-average proportion of women writers, producers and directors, suggesting that if producers wish to target women cinema-goers then hiring a woman director can be advantageous.
- There currently exists a vicious circle, whereby the lack of female directors leads to the image of a typical director being that of a man, which creates the unconscious assumption that men are better at directing, which leads to fewer female directors.
Section C: Fixing the Gender Inequality issue
- The underrepresentation of female directors in the UK film industry has a number of negative externalities; for the industry, for film audiences, and, above all, for overlooked female directors.
- The underemployment of women in the UK film industry has been reported on for decades.
- The film industry shows no signs of self-correcting the current gender imbalance.
- Film industry professionals do not believe they are consciously using gender as a factor when assessing directors.
- Our suggested solutions target the two main causes of the gender imbalance; unconscious individual bias and the systemic issues which allow this to continue.
- The current vicious circle which perpetuates the under-employment of female directors can be used as the engine of change, becoming a virtuous circle.
- A target of 50/50 gender parity within public funding by 2020.
- Amend the Film Tax Relief to require all UK films to take account of diversity.
- A co-ordinated, data-lead campaign for gender equality across the UK film industry.
- We also believe that it is worth investigating amending the UK Film Tax Credit to reward female-directed productions, although this suggestion requires further study.
- We do not feel that naming and shaming producers or production companies who hire few / no female directors will be an effective route to improving the situation, and could even harm the cause.
- We advise against campaigning on the suggestion that female directors are, by definition, better than male directors.
- While the campaign for gender equity among film directors should be promoted loudly and widely, there is a real danger in championing minor (or invented) successes as it could lead to the perception that the situation is ‘in hand’, despite the lack of actual change.
Gender in Hollywood film crews
To study gender within film crews, I created a dataset of the 100 highest grossing films at the US Box Office for each year between 1994 and 2013 (a total of 2,000 films). Additionally, in order to see how a film’s genre affects gender employment I created a second dataset of the 100 highest grossing films of each genre.Click here to download the full report
The headline findings are below…
- Women make up only 23% of crew members on the 2,000 highest grossing films of the past 20 years.
- Only one of the top 100 films in 2013 has a female Composer.
- In 2013, under 2% of Directors were female.
- The only departments to have a majority of women are Make-up, Casting and Costume
- Visual Effects is the largest department on most major movies and yet only has 17.5% women
- Of all the departments, the Camera and Electrical department is the most male, with only 5% women
- Musicals and Music-based films have the highest proportion of women in their crews (27%).
- Sci-Fi and Action films have the smallest proportion of women (20% and 21% respectively).
- The films with the highest percentage were “Mean Girls” and “The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants” (42%).
- The most male crews were “On Deadly Ground” and “Robots” (10% female).
- There has been no improvement in the last 20 years. The percentage of female crew members has decreased between 1994 (22.7%) and 2013 (21.8%).
- The three most significant creative roles (Writer, Producer and Director) have all seen the percentage of women fall.
- The jobs performed by women have become more polarised. In jobs which are traditionally seen as more female (art, costume and make-up) the percentage of women has increased, whereas in the more technical fields (editing and visual effects) the percentage of women has fallen.
Gender in UK film crews
Following on from the ‘Gender in Hollywood Film Crews’ research I conducted a similar project into the gender split on 2,336 UK film crews.Click here to download the full report
The key findings were…
- Between 2009-13, women made up 26.2% of crew members on British films.
- This compares favourably with top US films over the same period (22.2%)
- Of all the departments, the Transportation department is the most male, with only 7.7% women.
- The only departments to have a majority of women are Make-up, Casting, Costume and Production.
- Visual Effects is the largest department on most major movies and yet only has 16.5% women.
- 6.4% of composers on UK films were women.
- 14% of UK films had a female director, compared with 3% of top US films.
- The percentage of women on British films has barely changed in the past five years.
Film Industry Survey
I interviewed 1,235 film industry professionals, all of whom have attended at least one of the three major film markets (Cannes, Berlin or AFM) within the past five years and asked questions on a variety of hot topics including piracy, the appeal of 3D, gender, and how optimistic industry professionals are.Click here to download the full report
The findings have also been split up into ten blog posts, which you can read via the following links…
- Has piracy affected business?
- Do film professionals illegally download films?
- Is film a sensible business investment?
- Do women have a harder time than men?
- Is 3D better than 2D?
- What are the average distribution fees?
- How do professionals pick their next project?
- How optimistic is the industry about the future?
- When will VoD pay like DVD?
- Where does film financing come from?
Gender in the International Film Business
I gathered data on participants of international film markets for the past five years and looked at their gender, split it by country and profession.Click here to download the full report
The findings include the following…
- Across the whole world, 42.5% of professionals in the film business are women
- Taiwan, China and Thailand have the highest percentage of women in their film business
- The only countries which have over 50% women in their film industries are Taiwan, China, Thailand, Russia, Hong Kong, Lithuania, Malaysia, Ukraine and Romania.
- 39% of UK film professionals are women
- Mexico, India and Iran have the lowest percentage of women in their film business
- Only 24% of the film professionals in Iran are women
- The only film sectors in which women are the majority are Marketing, Publicity and PR
- Women account for only a third of film professionals within Management
Film Festival Survey
I built a list of almost 10,000 film festivals which have run in the past 15 years and performed a quantitative study to look at patterns and trends. I then contacted the Film Festival Directors for whom I could find contact details and asked them to fill in a qualitative survey. The full results can be read on the following blog articles…
- Film Festivals Pt 1: The Truths Behind Film Festivals
- Film Festivals Pt 2: The Economics of Film Festivals
- Film Festivals Pt3: What Festival Directors Really Think
This was an illuminating study as (to the best of my knowledge) no-one else has ever performed such an exercise. The study also lead me to discover the secret to why Withoutabox is so unpopular and yet largely unrivalled.