New Study Shows That Women Are Better Represented in Independent Film Than in Hollywood

by Katrina Pallop

Study leaders Stacy Smith and Marc Choueiti 

Here’s a bit of good news for those among you who are continually frustrated with the boys club that is the American movie machine. A new study commissioned by the Sundance Institute and Women In Film Los Angeles shows that female filmmakers are far better represented in independent film than in Hollywood. The results of this research reveal that female filmmakers are finding success in independent film, but there are still a lot of challenges and barriers that need to be addressed when it comes to female participation in the film industry overall. 

There is a huge gap between female presence in independent film as compared to Hollywood. In the last decade, 23.9% of all Sundance Film Festival directors were female; for top 100 box office films during the same time, only 4.4% of movies were directed by women. This new study sought to identify some of the major contributing factors to this disparity. Some of the top challenges for female filmmakers were identified as stereotyping on set, male-dominated industry networking, and gendered financial barriers. These problems don’t sound too different from the kind of gender-specific workplace discrimination that we hear about far too often from office workers around the country. 

Keri Putnam, executive director of the Sundance Institute, attributes women’s presence in independent film to a supportive and inclusive environment. “Sundance Institute believes that stories and characters told through film play an enormously influential role in determining audiences’ perceptions of themselves, one another and the world around us,” she said. “Seen through that lens, the results of this research are encouraging in that they show a higher representation of female filmmakers in independent film compared to other types of media — but they also highlight the work that is still to be done.”

In addition to highlighting some heartening statistics about women in independent film, the study also sought out possible solutions for the problems that women face in the film industry.  One of these solutions, a new mentoring initiative, is already being put into action. The commissioners of the study have started a program that matches female Sundance filmmakers with industry leaders. The Sundance Institute has always been respected for the incredible work that it helps to produce, and this action toward gender equality in film is sure to inspire even more admiration. 


Photo via USC News

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