Black Filmmakers Directed Record Number of Top-Grossing Movies in 2018

“This offers proof that Hollywood can change when it wants to,” USC professor Dr. Stacy L. Smith says

Black filmmakers like Ryan Coogler (“Black Panther”), Spike Lee (“BlackKklansman”) and Antoine Fuqua (“Equalizer 2”) directed 16 of the top 100 movies at the box office in 2018, nearly three times as many as 2017 and double what they achieved a decade ago, according to a new study.

“This historically high figure is nearly three times greater than the six black directors working in 2017 and twice as many as the eight black directors working in 2007,” Dr. Stacy L. Smith of USC’s Annenberg Inclusion Initiative said in a statement on the annual report about inclusion in the director’s chair. “While we do not see this finding mirrored among female or Asian directors, this offers proof that Hollywood can change when it wants to.”

TheWrap recently reported that black filmmakers had a record year at the box office in 2018, earning $1.5 billion at the domestic box office from 16 films, which was double of what was earned in 2017.

And this was also the first year in which five black filmmakers made movies that grossed over $100 million in North American ticket sales.

However, the picture was less rosy in the remainder of the Annenberg study, which has analyzed 1,200 of the top-grossing films released between 2007 and 2018 by a total of 1,355 directors.

Female directors accounted for only four of the 100 most popular movies in 2018, and Asian directors represented only 3.6 percent of 2018’s top 100 film directors, which is just a tick up from the 3.1 percent of the total number of directors across the 12-year sample.

Only 4.3 percent of all directors of the 1,200 top films between 2007 and 2018 were female — that’s 22 men for every one woman. And only five black females, three Asian females and one Latina have worked as directors on those 1,200 films, with no evident change over time.

This was also the first year that the study included data on producers and below-the-line film crew positions across 300 of the top movies between 2016 and 2018.

Eighteen percent of the produced by credits on the top 300 films went to women, but only 1.6 percent were women of color compared to 9.8 percent for men of color, 16.3 percent by white women, and 72.3 percent by white men.

As for the below-the-line positions, 97 percent of cinematographers in the study’s span were men, as were 84.5 percent of editors, 81.7 percent of production designers and 97.7 percent of composers. There were no female gaffers across the films studied, and only one woman had the title of best boy electric.

Women fared better as 2nd Assistant (33.6 percent) and 2nd 2nd assistant directors (31.9 percent), and as unit production managers (31.7 percent), though were still outnumbered by their male counterparts. Fewer women worked as 1st assistant directors, only 9 percent in all.

“Women of color are nearly invisible in film production–whether as directors, producers, or in below-the-line crew positions,” Dr. Smith said. “A mere 1.4 percent of editors, 1.5 percent of production designers, and 1.6 percent of producers were women of color. Only 1 woman of color worked as a composer across the 300 films we examined and there were no underrepresented female directors of photography.”

The new report also includes a profile of the executive ranks at seven major entertainment companies. Across all seven corporations, 25 percent of the board members were female — an improvement over the 18.8 percent observed last year. Just 17.3 percent of the C-suite positions at these companies were held by women.

Focusing more closely on film executives, 22.5 percent of president and chairperson roles went to women, while females were more likely to appear in EVP, SVP, and VP positions.