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Diversity of Festival Programmers Affects Diversity of Showcased Filmmakers, Time’s Up, USC Study Finds

Study reinforces women and people of color are vastly underrepresented at film festivals worldwide

The TIME’S UP Foundation and USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative’s report released on Saturday found that when film festivals have more women of color working as programmers, they are more likely to showcase movies by underrepresented female directors.

Commissioned by the TIME’S UP Foundation, the study analyzed the demographic makeup of film directors, festival programmers across the top five global film festivals and the top 10 North American film festivals from 2017-2019. The study found that when festivals had more women of color working as programmers, they were more likely to showcase underrepresented female directors.

“The fact is that the voices and talent of women and people of color remain marginalized,” Dr. Stacy L. Smith, founder of the USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative, said in a statement. “The data in this report makes it clear that the next generation of women of color filmmakers are not being launched into the industry at the same rate as their white male peers.”

“As we have seen in our other collaborative work with TIME’S UP, inclusion amongst those who evaluate content is essential,” she continued. “When film festivals are inclusive of women of color as programmers, there is a clear impact on the directors who get to participate. Festivals must ensure that their teams represent the audiences they hope to serve.”

Tina Tchen, president and CEO of TIME’S UP Foundation, added, “Film festivals play a critical role in shaping our culture, which is why representation and access is so critical. While some festivals are taking the lead in featuring the voices of women and women of color, this study drives home the need to expand opportunities for women festival programmers — and, in so doing, women directors — of all backgrounds. We can do better.”

Although the study found that 2019 was a banner year for female filmmakers and other underrepresented directors, the study found that globally only 25% of directors in competition sections across the last three years were women. And for women of color, the disparity is even greater: only 8% of film directors in competition at the top five film festivals were women of color, compared to 47% white men and 17% white women.

The study found a similar pattern in North America, where 71% of directors were men compared to 29% who were women. Likewise, 17% were white women and 12% were women of color, compared to white men, who made up 45% of film directors at North American festivals.

The report is the latest from the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative, and can be found online here.