Men Still Outnumber Women 2 to 1 in Indie Films Despite ‘Historic’ Gains, Study Says

Percentage of women directors grew from 29% in 2017-18 to 33% in 2018-19, study finds

director chair gender female director

In the last year, the number of women involved behind-the-scenes in independent film productions hit a “recent historic high,” but men still greatly outnumber women on these productions, according to a new study from San Diego State University.

Published on Tuesday by Dr. Martha Lauzen and Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film, the survey studies indie films that screened at major festivals between July 2018 and June 2019 and found a year-over-year percentage increase of female directors, writers, producers, executive producers, and editors working on those films. The percentage of women directors grew from 29% in 2017-18 to 33% in 2018-19, while the percentage of women writers rose from 26% last year to 32% this year.

The study also found that films with at least one woman directing also frequently had more women in other major positions. 72% of films with female directors also had at least one woman as a writer, and 45% had a woman as editor.

Indie Films Representation Study Women Historic High

“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.”

Despite this, the study shows that indie productions have seen progress, in some ways more than in mainstream film production. In February, a survey conducted by TheWrap found that 18% of all films released by the six major film studios in 2019 were directed by women, the highest ever in a single year and up from just 3% in 2018. This is also the first year that all six studios had at least one film directed by a woman on their slate.

The study looked at indie films produced in the decade between 2008 and 2019.

Read the full study from SDSU here.