February 4, 2011 in Features

Women hold few key jobs in film

Rebecca Keegan Los Angeles Times
 

A woman is more likely to hold a seat on a Fortune 500 company board (15 percent), serve as a member of the clergy (15 percent) or work as an aerospace engineer (10 percent) than she is to direct a Hollywood movie (7 percent).

A year after Kathryn Bigelow became the first woman to win an Oscar for best director for “The Hurt Locker,” a new study indicates that the share of top behind-the-scenes positions held by women in Hollywood remains stagnant.

Women held 16 percent of key jobs such as director and producer on the 250 top-grossing films of 2010, according to the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University.

That’s about the same level as in 1998, when the center launched its “Celluloid Ceiling” report.

“People were talking about the Bigelow effect, and would her success open the door for other women,” says executive director Martha Lauzen. “It affected her career, but we’re not at that point where there’s a halo effect that reaches out to other women.”

Women are most likely to work in the romantic comedy, documentary and romantic drama genres, and least likely to work in the horror, action and comedy genres, according to the study.

One reason that the number of women working in film hasn’t increased more quickly may be the fee-for-hire system used to staff movies, says Melissa Silverstein, co-founder of the Athena Film Festival, which opens Thursday in New York City with the theme of celebrating women’s leadership in film.

“Directors, writers – they’re technically not employees of the movie studios,” Silverstein says. “So the studios keep no statistics, except of course for counting box office.

“If this were a Fortune 500 company and they looked at these (study) statistics, they would have a diversity committee working on this immediately. How could you have a company in the 21st century and less than 10 percent of its leaders are women?”

Says Lauzen: “I don’t think people know when they walk into a theater that nine out of 10 times they’ll see a film by a male director.

“It’s not just an employment issue for women, it’s a cultural one for all of us. Movies make a difference in how we see the world and how we see certain groups of people. These are the architects of our culture.”


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