Women Make Gains In Indie Films, But Are Still Outnumbered 2 To 1

Women directors, writers, editors and producers are making strides in the indie film industry, but there's still a long way to go. According to a new study from San Diego State University, the number of women in indie film productions hit a "historic high," are still by outnumbered men 2-to-1.

The latest Indie Women study (via The Wrap) conducted by San Diego State University found that women achieved record high numbers in the indie industry as directors, writers, producers, executive producers, and editors. The percentage of women directors grew from 29% in 2017-18 to 33% in 2018-2019, with similar gains across the board, including a significant rise in women writers from 26% last year to 32% this year. Executive producers saw a similar increase (32% in 2018-19, from 26%) to writers, while producers saw a 1% increases from 36% to 37% and editors a 2% increase from 27% to 29%.

However, these history-best numbers don't outweigh the fact that men still greatly outnumber women on these productions, "with independent films employing more than twice as many men as women in these roles," according to Dr. Mautha Lauzen, who conducted the study with the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film. Lauzen's survey studies indie films that screened at major festivals since 2008, exmaning more than 10,700 credits on more than 970 films in 2018-19, and over 80,000 credits on almost 8,000 films over the period of 2008 to 2019.

"After many years of tracking stubbornly stagnant numbers, this year women achieved healthy gains in a number of key behind-the-scenes roles," Lauzen said. "Despite these increases, it is important to note that women remain dramatically underrepresented, with independent films employing more than twice as many men as women in these roles."

However, the study found that indie productions have seen progress since 2008, and have in some ways made more gains than mainstream films. In comparison to the TheWrap's study finding that 18% of all films released by the six major film studios in 2019 were directed by women, the percentage of female filmmakers directing indie films is almost double that. Still, women are slowly making gains in both fields — this is the first year that all six studios had at least one film directed by a woman.

This study comes as Hollywood is undergoing a massive shift in representation. This year's Sundance Film Festival saw a group of filmmakers and Stacy L. Smith of the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative launch the 4 Percent Challenge, challenging production companies, studios, and producers to hire a woman filmmaker in the next 18 months. Other initiatives, like Time's Up and calls for inclusion riders have addressed the gender parity and the wage equality.

Read the full study from SDSU here.