Women Grossly Underrepresented as Directors in Indie Films, Too

It’s not exactly news that women are underrepresented in the film industry, right? But it’s eye-popping when you take a good look at how truly stark the contrast is between males and females in directorial roles. My friend and the uber smart Melissa Silverstein showcases the truth of the matter in another great piece, this time about the representation of women in independent films.

Previously released numbers showed that less than 5% of studio movies in the past five years were directed by women so, when looking at the independent film world, it was only natural to hope for a better turnout. And while in the indie genre, women are a tiny bit better represented, (10% of indie films having been directed by women from 2009-2013), that’s still a very small number. To top it off, of the indie features released in this time period, only a lonely 11 were nominated for Oscars.

To gather this data, the 300 top-grossing films of every year from 2009 – 2013 were reviewed. Removed from the list were studio pics, documentaries, re-releases and others that fell into the miscellaneous category. Included are foreign films that were released in the United States. The studio that gave women the greatest representation in this time period? Sony Pictures Classics, with a whopping 12 women-directed films distributed.

Worth noting is the infographic Melissa shares in her article, and I’ve embedded it below. When I see the information and data collected like this, I feel what what can most certainly be called frustration, and possibly something quite a bit stronger! Our world is filled with women beyond capable and brimming with talent. Is it such a lofty dream to hope that we would be better represented in an industry that speaks to as many women as it does to men? What do you think?


  • Wow, I would have thought there would be a stronger push from women directors in the Indie arena. What do you think is the reason? Are there less women aspiring to become directors? I know that situation exists in the engineering industry. Or do women have more obstacles to face when launching a project? I hope this changes because I don’t know how I could personally do any work of value without input and support from my wife – she’s a powerhouse. Keep up the good fight, Brenda!

    • brendachapman

      I don’t think there are less women… I just really think it’s harder for them to be taken seriously… and to take themselves seriously. Society has conditioned us to be second fiddle. But hopefully with more discussions like this, that will change for the next generations.

      • I think you are completely right. As I thought about this on the way to work I realized the same exact problem happened right as I became a part of my current team. I felt so bad because when I was working the first day, she came in to discover I had taken over her computer. Of course she new it wasn’t my fault, but It was a shame because she was good.

        Now we only have one woman in our department and she has told me several times that she wished she felt more empowered in her position. Since then I’ve been pulling for her at meetings and encouraging her to feel like she can step up and create anything she feels would be of value. For a while she didn’t feel her ideas would l be respected or valued, but she is finally making some strides with recent projects. Is there a way I can help her even more? Are there words of encouragement that could help unlock her potential?

        • brendachapman

          I think you are doing what you can. Just keep up the encouragement. And if you feel she deserves it, point out her contribution and value to her supervisors. We need more human beings like you, Scott!

      • Benjamin

        Do you have any evidence that an equal number of women want to become directors?
        Or do you simply oppose the idea that men and women naturally have different interests?

        • brendachapman

          I’m actually not stating either one of those concepts.
          What I am saying is that there are many more women who are interested in becoming filmmakers than actually get the opportunity to because of their gender. I think a big part of that is that many of us would make different types of movies beyond the norm of the male driven studio executives tastes.

  • kammi

    I think that that’s a tough one; A lot of the directors I see on this list who did make it often had support in some way (whether it was a mentor/supportive spouse or a career with a lot of contacts already in the industry). The time (in terms of long hours or just ‘making it’) and effort it takes to get there is grueling, and for a lot of people it may not be worth it. I wouldn’t necessarily compare it to something like engineering, but for example, I’m constantly in all-male scenarios and I can tell you that although yes, there is a push for females to do other things (like make-up or scripty on set in film), the interest is also not there for a LOT of predominantly male fields. I’ve taken welding classes where I’ve been pretty much the only female..and the teacher was female! I see the numbers drop off SIGNIFICANTLY all the time; I’ve gotten used to it, but I was also the one watching my dad fix his car when I was younger instead of playing with Barbies.
    I was telling someone last week that females are at such a disadvantage already for some fields (like engineering) because they often aren’t learning things like welding or machining or how to repair cars like their male counterparts (these guys are starting when they’re 8 years old doing wood shop and machining and learning how to weld or assistant plumbing or car repair to their fathers!), and this is reflected later on when they have to play catch-up in a college engineering program, for example. As an aside, I know of ONE petro-chemical engineer girl, and she grew up in a house full of brothers, and was pretty much a tomboy her entire life!
    So I personally think it’s a number of factors (the long hours, the filtering of people into other areas with other interests, women do want to have a family and spend time with their children, etc).

    • brendachapman

      Absolutely. We just need to make the playing fields accessible to those girls/ladies who would love the opportunities.

  • kammi

    You also reminded me of what a friend told me years ago. Apparently years ago there was an effort in Hollywood to make the camera department more ‘diverse’ (to put it PC). They brought people in from all over the world and tested them (various tests), and would mentor them if they placed in the top ten chosen. Strangely (so she said), there was one asian, one african american female, etc, and they promised to mentor them and basically train them up the ranks once they qualified (they had to sit a test that was a mix of science, math and camera knowledge, etc) and filter them into the Hollywood system as working professionals (this was back when the studio system was stricter). A few years ago, my friend told me exactly ONE guy remained out of that ENTIRE group. The female one who was chosen even said back then that even though she got in, her ambition was to marry a rich gentleman (which she did end up doing and is out of the film industry and never returned).

    • brendachapman

      Wow! Thanks for the insight!

  • Thanks so much for sharing this! I can never be reminded too often. At times when I’m feeling arrogant, obnoxious, aggressive, forward, or pushy for following my dreams– it’s helpful to think about how at least a some of that anxiety has been handed down to me. When men attack their dreams, or see themselves as more, that ambition is admirable. It’s what they are “supposed” to do. They often take a seat at the table without thinking about whether it’s selfish.

    I’m grabbing a chair any way I can. If someone else is faster or better or stronger, then maybe they’ll beat me out… but I won’t lose my place to the voices in my head listing the reasons I’m not worthy.

  • Tohrmented

    Dead Body – The Movie
    Dead Body – The Movie was directed by a women and is an indie film. Bobbin Ramsey did a great blog post about the lack of women in film, and in horror specifically.

    • brendachapman

      Great! I will have to look into that! Thanks!

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