Documentaries entered into high-profile U.S. film festivals in 2021-22 employed a much higher percentage of women in key behind-the-scenes jobs than did feature films, according to the latest “Indie Women” report from Dr. Martha Lauzen, executive director of the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University.
The report (read it here) found that women accounted for 43% of those working as directors, writers, producers, executive producers, editors and cinematographers on documentaries, compared to 34% on narrative feature. It also found that the percentage of women working in each of those job categories was higher on documentaries than on narrative features.
“Documentaries continue to employ higher percentages of women filmmakers than narrative features, and independent films offer more opportunities for women than larger-budget features,” Lauzen said.
On independently and domestically produced feature-length films entered into the major festivals in 2021-22, women made up 39% of directors, writers, executive producers, producers, editors and cinematographers working – up a percentage point from the previous report.
With documentaries and features combined, women fared best as producers (44%), followed by executive producers (42%), directors (40%), writers (35%), editors (33%), and cinematographers (21%). Women fared worst as composers, accounting for only 17% of those jobs, and did better on documentaries (20%) compared with narrative features (13%).
Since the previous report, female directors gained one percentage point, writers were down a percentage point, executive producers were up 4 percentage points, editors were down 4 percentage points and cinematographers were down 2 points. The percentage of female producers remained the same.
The report also found that women are much more likely to land top jobs on independent films with at least one woman director. On those films, women comprised 67% of writers, compared with only 10% on films with exclusively male directors. On films with at least one female director, women comprised 50% of editors, but on films with exclusively male directors, they only accounted for 19%. On films with at least one female director, women comprised 34% of cinematographers, but on films with exclusively male directors, they accounted for just 10%. And when films had at least one female director, women accounted for 23% of composers, compared to only 12% on films with exclusively male directors.
On documentaries, women accounted for 44% of directors, up three percentage points from the prior report; 36% of writers, up one percentage point; 48% of executive producers, up three percentage points; 49% of producers, down one percentage point; 34% of editors, down six percentage points, and 22% of cinematographers, down four points.
The study looked at 9,960 credits on 730 films in 2021-22 and more than 105,360 credits on more than 10,200 films from 2008-22. The study included U.S. feature and documentary films screening/streaming at the festivals, including those in and out of competition.
Film festivals included in the survey include AFI Fest, Ann Arbor, Atlanta, Austin, Chicago, Cinequest, Cleveland, Florida, Hamptons, Nashville, New York, Rhode Island, St. Louis, San Francisco, Santa Barbara, Seattle, Slamdance, Sundance, SXSW and Tribeca.