The news is troubling, and there’s no way to spin it: For
the past 15 years, there has been no perceptible change in the proportion of
women working behind the camera in the entertainment industry. The Celluloid
Ceiling, a study by the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at
San Diego State University, in assessing 250 of the top-grossing U.S. movies of
2012, found that women comprised only 9% of directors, 15% of writers, and 25%
of producers. (The 1998 numbers: directors 9%; writers 13%; producers 24%.) As
the size of films’ budgets drop (i.e., studio films to independent films to
documentaries), the percentage of female participation rises. But even so, the
lack of change over time at each level persists.
like this one have prompted the creation of the PGA Women’s Impact Network to
broaden the Guild’s commitment to diversity with a focus on gender inequity.
At the 2013
Sundance Film Festival, Sundance Institute Executive Director Keri Putnam and
President of Women In Film Los Angeles Cathy Schulman announced the results of
a first-of-its-kind research study examining gender disparity in American
independent film in the last decade, followed by a plan of action to
collaborate with other key organizations. Sundance/WIF’s efforts inspired PGA
member Lydia Dean Pilcher to reach out to colleagues on the East and West
Coasts to ask: "Are we doing enough? Can we do more?” The responses from 50+
members, collected by Pilcher and Deborah Calla, Chair of the PGA Diversity
Committee in LA, were resounding in favor of further action.
one of the Chairs of PGA Green, cites the progress that has emerged from direct
collaboration with the major studios and independent production companies. "By
using the same model of a national committee, I have no doubt that PGA can make
a significant social impact around gender inequity in the entertainment
industry,” she asserts. The Guild’s membership is 47% female. Not only are we
uniquely positioned by the strength of our membership, but we have a wealth of
resources to offer in terms of utilizing our relationships with studios,
unions, fellow guilds, and other allied organizations.
newly-formed PGA Women’s Impact Network was approved as a national committee on
November 11, 2013, at the Guild’s All Boards of Delegates Meeting in Los
Sundance Institute and Women In Film Los Angeles Study Examines Gender
Disparity in Independent Film
Stacy L. Smith, Ph.D., a renowned expert on diversity and the media, of USC’s Annenberg
School of Communication and Journalism, led the Sundance/WIF landmark study. In
the report, Dr. Smith explores individual, financial and industrial frameworks
that have limited female creative professionals in distinct ways, as well as
pathways and opportunities utilized by successful women subjects.
producer in the study stated, "The majority of films made, in terms of content,
are men’s stories… The stories [women] want to tell are women’s stories, and
those don’t have the same commercial value. Or whether they really do have the
same commercial capacity or not, they’re [not] perceived to have the same
commercial potential as stories driven by men.”
Highlights of the Study include:
FEMALE-SPECIFIC FINANCIAL BARRIERS emerged as the
most frequently-cited barrier to women filmmakers. Interviews with content
creators and industry gatekeepers yielded comments including the subject matter
or sensibility of female-directed films being perceived as not commercially
viable, confidence in a filmmaker’s ability, amount of funding, access or
knowledge about finance, and finance-specific confidence.
MALE-DOMINATED NETWORKS permeate the upper ranks
of the industry’s corporate structure, resulting in a "tilt” toward male
priorities (at the expense of female priorities) in both the corporate culture
of the industry and the types of stories and projects supported by the studios,
networks and major production and finance companies.
SOCIAL NORMS AND STEREOTYPES about women and
filmmaking were cited during production activities from financing through
delivery. This incorporated the token status of females on set, objectification
of women, which can contribute to lower performance, decreased technical
resources or knowledge, and stereotype threat triggers. Gender equality on set
is more common when females fill key leadership positions. This environment may
also affect on-set experiences of emerging and/or seasoned content creators.
STRUGGLE FOR WORK/LIFE BALANCE. This was
reported less often than the aforementioned financial barriers and
male-dominated networks. But it is acknowledged that framing female
unemployment after motherhood as a choice to "opt out,” neglects the fact that
this choice is made within a context of workplace practices, which do not
support a healthy career and family balance.
EXCLUSIONARY HIRING PRACTICES. Female directors
face a real restriction in the range of properties they are hired to helm, thus
foreclosing the opportunities to gain the experience needed to later attach to
larger budget films.
The full study can be found at:
Deborah introduced the PGA Women’s Impact Network at the November 2013 Sundance
Institute/WIF Women and Finance Forum in LA, and PGA WIN will collaborate with
Sundance on a similar finance forum planned for New york in the spring of 2014.
These events are focused on midcareer support, and offer valuable opportunities
to give accomplished female writers, directors and producers an overview of
current film financing models, an understanding of what today’s investors are
looking for, and training to bolster and harness confidence in the course of
raising money for productions.
|Women's Impact Network Chairs Lydia Dean Pilcher (left) and Deborah |
Calla (right) with Sundance Institute Executive Director Keri Putnam,
Women In Film President Cathy Schulman, and Women's Impact
Network Co-ChairJoyce Pierpoline.
One of the
first initiatives that the Committee will focus on is an analysis of the
existing diversity initiatives and training programs affiliated with studios,
networks and other organizations. Building on the PGA’s solid member-driven
profile in the realm of new media, another primary focus will be to facilitate
the adoption of training programs for women in tech companies.
also will be a key area for PGA members to take the lead. In October 2013, the
Directors Guild of America released a report reviewing more than 3100 episodes
produced in the 2012–2013 network television season from more than 200 scripted
television series, and found that male directors outnumbered female directors 4
Economic Forum’s current annual Global Gender Gap Report ranks the United
States 23rd out of 136 countries in the status of women. The U.S.
ranks particularly low by international standards in wage equality and in
numbers of women in the legislative branch. Twitter and other social media
networks have become a key tool for activists raising social and political
awareness. With women comprising the majority of social network users, these
media have shone a brighter spotlight on gender inequity across many sectors of
business, for example, while the percentage of female Board members at Fortune
500 finance and insurance companies has nearly doubled from 10% in 1995 to 19%
in 2012, those Boards are still overwhelmingly male. Consultants at McKinsey
& Company found that the international companies with more women on their
corporate Boards far outperformed the average company in return on equity and
other measures. In fact, at such companies, operating profit was 56% higher.
In terms of
the entertainment industry, there is encouraging news ahead for female
perspectives in storytelling. At the recent Sundance/WIF Women and Finance
Seminar, multiple panelists stated that female audiences, more than male, are
now driving the VOD business. Howard Cohen, president of Roadside Attractions,
said "Movies by and about women have a bigger marketplace now than ever
before.” Stuart Ford of international sales company IM Global, echoed this,
observing, "With the collapse of the male-driven DVD business, more buyers are
looking for material that plays to female audiences on digital platforms.”
Women’s Impact Network seeks to connect interested Guild members of all genders
through an active social media network. Everyone is invited to join and help
our Guild set the agenda for change. A landscape of broader diversity in our
industry not only will create a healthier culture, but will make us more
effective and successful as producers.
Facebook: Producers Guild of America Women’s Impact Network
The PGA Women’s Impact Network’s leadership includes Chairs Lydia Dean
Pilcher and Deborah Calla, and Co-Chairs Laura Allen, Caitlin Burns, Martha
Cotton, Lynn Hendee, Joyce Pierpoline and Rachel Watanabe-Batton.
- Article by Dana Kuznetzkoff
- Click here to see the MS Factor W.I.N. Toolkit