Lifting The Celluloid Ceiling
  • Friday, Jan. 15, 2021
Dr. Martha M. Lauzen

While a return to normality is coveted in this COVID era, there’s something to be said for not resurrecting business as usual on certain fronts--as shown in research from San Diego State University’s Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film headed by Dr. Martha M. Lauzen.

To be sure, the report--titled “The Celluloid Ceiling: Behind-the-Scenes Employment of Women on the Top U.S. Films of 2020”--shows some progress. But at the same time, considerably more is needed to get the industry up to even a remotely acceptable level. 

Among the prime positive-trending findings was that for the second straight year, the percentage of women directing top grossing films increased, reaching recent historic highs, while the overall percentages of women working in key behind-the-scenes roles remained relatively stable. Women comprised 16% of directors working on the top 100 grossing films in 2020, up from 12% in 2019 and 4% in 2018.  Women accounted for 18% of directors on the top 250 films, up from 13% in 2019 and 8% in 2018.  In 2020, the percentages of behind-the-scenes women working on the top 100 and 250 (domestic) grossing films inched upward. Women comprised 21% of all directors, writers, producers, EPs, editors, and DPs working on the top 100 films, up from 20% in 2019.  Women working in these roles on the top 250 grossing films experienced a slight increase from 21% in 2019 to 23% in 2020.  

Women accounted for 18% of directors, 17% of writers, 21% of EPs, 30% of producers, 22% of editors, and 6% of DPs working on the top 250 grossing films.Yet while percentages are up, movement is far too gradual. In 2020, the majority of films (67%) employed 0 to 4 women in the roles considered; 24% of films employed 5 to 9 women, and 9% employed 10 or more women.  In contrast, 5% of films employed 0 to 4 men in the roles considered, 24% employed 5 to 9 men, and the remaining majority (71%) employed 10 or more men. 

Due to the COVID-impacted box office, the study also tracked employment on films included on The Digital Entertainment Group’s “Watched at Home” list. Dr. Lauzen noted that the gender imbalance is huge. Most films employ less than 5 women and 10 or more men. And 80% of the top films have male directors. 

Robert Goldrich is an editor with SHOOTonline.

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