A historically high number of top movies had black directors last year, according to a sweeping study, released on Friday, that examined diversity behind the scenes and in studio boardrooms.
While 2018 was a banner year for black directors — with 16 working on the top 100 films — 15 of those 16 directors were men; the one woman in that group was Ava DuVernay (‘A Wrinkle in Time’). The overall figure was up from six black directors working on the top 100 films in 2017 and eight in 2007.
“While we do not see this finding mirrored among female or Asian directors, this offers proof that Hollywood can change when it wants to,” said Stacy L Smith, who wrote the report with the University of Southern California Annenberg Inclusion Initiative, which released it.
Indeed, the remainder of the research showed little change for other ethnicity groups or for women. Surveying the 1,200 top-grossing films from 2007-18, researchers found that just over 4 per cent had female directors, which meant that they were outnumbered by their male counterparts by a ratio of 22-1. And Asians represented just 3.6 per cent of last year’s top 100 grossing directors, a number that changed little over 12 years.
The study, ‘Inclusion in the Director’s Chair?,’ also found that between 82 per cent and 98 per cent of all production designers, cinematographers, editors and composers were men; and of the few women holding those jobs, the vast majority were white.
“Women of colour are nearly invisible in film production — whether as directors, producers, or in below-the-line crew positions,” Smith said. “A mere 1.4 per cent of editors, 1.5 per cent of production designers and 1.6 per cent of producers were women of colour. Only one woman of colour worked as a composer across the 300 films we examined, and there were no underrepresented female directors of photography.”
There was, however, an increase in the number of female board members at seven major entertainment companies: The study found that women — most of them white — occupied a quarter of those positions, up from less than one-fifth last year.
Examining diverse hiring by studio, the researchers found that in 2018, only 3 out of 7 major entertainment companies had women directors on their films: Universal, Walt Disney Studios and Lionsgate, which each released one film directed by a woman. Broken down by ethnicity, Sony released the most films by black directors last year — five — while Warner Bros released none.
However, Warner Bros did release two films by Asian directors, out of a total of four Asian-directed films released by those seven major companies last year.