Employment of women on top 250 films grows in 2020

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(Ava DuVernay, Chloe Zhao, Patty Jenkins)

It’s a new year, and time to recognize the substantial growth of filmmaking created by women storytellers during 2020. In a pandemic. A recent study by the Celluloid Ceiling tracked some of the top grossing films that released during the pandemic.

The Celluloid Ceiling has tracked women’s employment on top grossing films for the past 23 years. It is the longest-running and most comprehensive study of women’s behind-the-scenes employment in film available.

Due to the interruption caused by COVID-19 involving theatrical box office grosses, this year’s study monitored women’s employment on the top 100 and 250 U.S. films of 2020. This year’s report also considered women’s employment on recently released films included on the Digital Entertainment Group’s “Watched at Home” list from March through December.



This year’s report monitored over 2,700 credits. Since 1998, the study has tracked approximately 73,000 credits. Figures for the top grossing films are based on numbers obtained from Box Office Mojo on January 1, 2021. The list includes U.S. digital sales, digital rentals (VOD), DVD and Blu-Ray.

This list does not include premium VOD. Every recently released (2019, 2020) U.S. film that appeared on the weekly list at least once from March through December was included. The fourth section discusses the findings of this analysis.

The results were divided into four major sections. The first section reports the findings for the top 250 films, offering comparisons of percentages from 2020 with figures dating back from 1998.

The second section provides the numbers for the top 100 films, comparing this year’s figures with those from 1980, 1990, 2010, 2017, 2018, and 2019.

The third section offers analyses of important relationships between women directors and those working in other key behind-the-scenes.

The big finding – Women comprised 23% of all directors, writers, executive producers, producers, editors, and cinematographers working on the top 250 films of 2020. This represents an increase of two percentage points from 21% in 2019 and a recent historic high. It also represents an increase of only 6 percentage points since 1998.



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Other Findings

•Women fared best as producers (30%), followed by editors (22%), executive producers (21%), directors (18%), writers (17%), and cinematographers (6%).

•In 2020, the majority of films (67%) employed 0 to 4 women in the roles considered. 24% of films employed 5 to 9 women, and 9% employed 10 or more women. In contrast, 5% of films employed 0 to 4 men in the roles considered, 24% employed 5 to 9 men, and the remaining majority (71%) employed 10 or more men.

•Women comprised 18% of all directors working on the top 250 films of 2020. This represents an increase of 5 percentage points from 13% in 2019.

•In 2020, the percentages of behind-the-scenes women working on the top 100 and 250 (domestic) grossing films inched upward, reaching recent historic highs.



•Women comprised 21% of all directors, writers, producers, executive producers, editors, and cinematographers working on the top 100 grossing films in 2020, up from 20% in 2019. Women working in these roles on the top 250 grossing films experienced a slight increase from 21% in2019 to 23% in 2020.

•Women accounted for 16% of directors working on the top 100 grossing films in 2020, up from 12% in 2019and 4% in 2018. Women comprised 18% of directors working on the top 250 films in 2020, up from 13% in 2019and 8% in 2018. The percentages of women directing top 100 and top 250 films represent recent historic highs and also reflect 2 consecutive years of growth.

•Women comprised 16% of directors working on the top 100 films of 2020. This represents an increase of 4 percentage points from 12% in 2019, and a recent historic high.

•Women accounted for 12% of writers working on the top 100 films of 2020. This represents a decline of 8 percentage points from 20% in 2019.

•Women comprised 19% of all directors, writers, executive producers, producers, editors, and cinematographers working on the watched at home films. This percentage is slightly lower than the 21% achieved on the top 100 grossing films.13 39 53 4 18 8 0 20 40 60 Composer Editor Writer Exclusively male directors At least one female director.

Every recently released (2019, 2020) U.S.Figure 9.Comparison of Percentages of Women Working on Films with at Least One Female Director vs. with Exclusively Male Directors film that appeared on the weekly list at least once was included.

Note, there is a good deal of overlap between the lists of the watched at home films and the top grossing films at the box office. Sixty-three percent of the films on the Watched at Home list also appear on the list of top grossing films.


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Now that we are in 2021, inclusion is the major consistent topic at studios. Gender, Race, and Age seem to be challenges that the industry continues to grapple with. While historical initiative is still on the agenda, could we see these opportunities altered in favor for female film makers in the new year? We shall see…

SOURCE: The Celluloid Ceiling

Jessica Velle reports on entertainment, politics, social media and stories relevant to the Latinx community. She can be reached at Jessica@reel360.com.

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