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Study Shows Women Remain Underrepresented In The Director's Chair


In some ways, 2018 appeared to be a banner year for leading women in Hollywood. Both blockbusters and Oscar bait saw their share of strong female characters on the screen, but it is a different story for women behind the camera. NPR's Colin Dwyer explains.

COLIN DWYER, BYLINE: Take a look at some of 2018's biggest films. Women play military heroes like Danai Gurira in "Black Panther"...


DANAI GURIRA: (As Okoye) Take her to the river province to prepare her for the ceremony.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: (As character) Yes, General.

DWYER: ...Superheroes like Evangeline Lilly in "Ant-Man And The Wasp"...


EVANGELINE LILLY: (As Wasp) We don't have much time. Watch this.

DWYER: ...And fast-talking thieves, like this one played by Sandra Bullock in "Ocean's Eight."


SANDRA BULLOCK: (As Debbie Ocean) Go home. Get your affairs in order because tomorrow, we begin pulling off one of the biggest jewelry heists in history.

DWYER: Now, look at who's making these films, especially the directors. The Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University looked at the 250 top-grossing films in the U.S. last year, and what they found looked a lot like years past. Women made up just 8 percent of the directors. The numbers are higher when it comes to producers and editors, more around 20 percent. And the numbers haven't changed much for a while.

MELISSA SILVERSTEIN: They've been stagnant for over a decade, so this year's no surprise, right?

DWYER: That's Melissa Silverstein. She did not work on the report, but as founder of another group called Women and Hollywood, Silverstein has long fought to seek greater representation in the industry.

SILVERSTEIN: Studies have shown that the more women you have behind the camera and positions, the more inclusive your film is. So if you want to have an inclusive set, the thing you do is hire a woman director.

DWYER: A study released just last month shows that when a woman stars in a film, it does better at the box office worldwide. And Silverstein says the same success can be achieved behind the camera if only women get the chance.

SILVERSTEIN: Really, what this is is about access to opportunities and access to capital. Women have to be able to operate at the highest levels of the business, and that has been an area that has been very cut off for women and also people of color.

DWYER: The number of women in director and producer roles is a bit higher in television, and the conversation around inclusion has certainly picked up in the last couple years. But as the study's author, Martha laws, points out, conversation is not the same as action. In a statement to NPR, she said the situation is, quote, "unlikely to be remedied by the voluntary efforts of a few individuals or a single studio." Instead, she says, what is needed is the will to change and an industry-wide effort to see it through. Colin Dwyer, NPR News, New York. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Colin Dwyer covers breaking news for NPR. He reports on a wide array of subjects — from politics in Latin America and the Middle East, to the latest developments in sports and scientific research.