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Documentaries, indie films have greater opportunities for women, report finds

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Posted at 11:05 AM, Sep 20, 2022
and last updated 2022-09-20 14:05:14-04

SAN DIEGO (CNS) - Documentaries and independent films tend to give women more jobs and opportunities in filmmaking, according to a report released Tuesday by a San Diego State University researcher.

Martha M. Lauzen, executive director of the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at SDSU, found in her Indie Women report that high-profile film festivals in the U.S. streamed or screened an average of 10 narrative films directed exclusively by men but an average of six films directed by at least one woman in 2021-22.

The festivals streamed and/or screened almost equal numbers of documentaries directed by women -- an average of 10 -- as by men -- an average of 11. Women accounted for 43% of those working as directors, writers, producers, executive producers, editors, and cinematographers on documentaries versus 34% of those working on narrative features, according to the report.

"Documentaries continue to employ higher percentages of women filmmakers than narrative features, and independent films offer more opportunities for women than larger budget features," Lauzen said in a statement.

According to Lauzen's studies, women made up 21% of directors, writers, producers, executive producers, editors, and cinematographers working on the top 100 films in 2021. In the Indie Women study of 2021-22, women comprised 39% of people in these roles.

"That's a difference of 18 percentage points," she said. "The Indie Women study reflects the larger pool of women available to make films. Arguably, these numbers more closely approximate the number of women who desire to make movies."

Additionally, the report found that films with at least one woman director had substantially higher percentages of women working as writers, editors, and cinematographers. In films with at least one woman director, women comprised 34% of cinematographers.

However, on films with exclusively male directors, women accounted for just 10% of cinematographers, according to the report.

Lauzen's study also reported the percentage of women working as composers in independent film: women 17% and men 83% of composers in 2021-22.

On documentaries, women represented 20% of composers compared to narrative features, where they made up 13%. By comparison, women composers accounted for just 3% of composers working on the top 100 domestic grossing films in 2021, the report found.

First conducted in 2008, the Indie Women study considers women's employment on domestically and independently produced feature-length films streaming/screening at 20 high-profile U.S. festivals including AFI Fest, SXSW Film Festival, and Tribeca Film Festival.

This year's report examined 9,960 credits on 730 films, and more than 105,360 credits on more than 10,200 films over the period of 2008 to 2022.

For more than two decades, Lauzen has conducted research on the representation and employment of women on screen and behind the scenes in film and television. The most current reports can be found on the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film's website.