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DGA Report: Feature Film Director Diversity Stayed Low In 2017
Thomas Schlamme, president of the DGA
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From the largest studio tent poles to the smallest indie films, diversity among feature film directors remained low in 2017, the Directors Guild of America reported today in a comprehensive new study. The DGA for the first time examined an expanded data set that encompassed the 651 feature films that were released theatrically in the U.S. last year, including those that earned less than $250,000 at the box office. Even though the data included hundreds of micro-budget projects with limited releases, women only accounted for 16% of directors. Of those features with a box office take of at least $250,000, just 12% of the directors were women and just 10% were people of color.

“It’s outrageous that we’re once again seeing such a lack of opportunity for women and people of color to direct feature films. Our new study shows that discriminatory practices are still rampant across every corner of the feature film business,” said DGA president Thomas Schlamme. “These numbers hit home how the chips are stacked against women and people of color. We dug into our proprietary data to see if we could isolate areas that were bright spots or especially problematic. But as we kept going, it became clear that no matter how you slice the 2017 numbers, the outcome is virtually the same. There is a misconception that things are better in the smaller, indie film world, but that’s simply not the case. From financing and hiring, to distribution and agent representation--every aspect of the entire system disadvantages women and people of color.

“Change is long overdue,” continued Schlamme. “Inclusion is a fight we’ve been fighting with the industry for four decades now, and it’s been an uphill battle to get them to change their hiring practices. In our two most recent negotiations, we pushed for the industry to adopt the Rooney Rule into their hiring practices, but they wouldn’t budge on the issue. Neither will we--we are committed to keeping at this for as long as it takes.”

Analysis by gender: Of the 651 features released in 2017, 175 earned a minimum box office of $250,000 and were U.S.-produced. Of the 181 directors of those 175 features, the DGA found that just 12% were women. Over the five-year period ending in 2017, the percentage of women directors ranged from a low of 6% to a high of just 12%.

The DGA further broke down the data across categories analyzing: box office tiers (under $10M, and over $10M) as markers to distinguish between high- and low-budget features; DGA-signatory features from the major studios; as well as all DGA-signatory projects. The percentage of women directors remained roughly consistent, ranging from 8% to 16%.

Analysis by ethnicity: Of the 145 directors of DGA-signatory features released domestically in 2017 with a minimum box office of $250,000, just 10% were directors of color--down three percentage points from the prior year, and seven percentage points from the five-year high of 17% in 2013. As with gender diversity, the percentages were similar when breaking out the data by box office tiers and the major studios, ranging from 8-12%. Due to the absence of ethnicity data for projects that weren’t made under Guild agreements, the DGA was able to analyze the ethnicity of directors only for Guild-signatory projects.


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