Black filmmakers made history in 2018. A movie business that has historically been dominated by white men became a little less monochromatic over the last twelve months, as studios apparently became more receptive to public pressure to back projects from a more diverse group of filmmakers. Fourteen percent of the directors of the top 100 grossing movies last year were black, according to a new report by the USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative. That’s a 270% increase over 2017 and a 200% increase from 2007 in terms of representation and comes after grassroots campaigns such as #OscarsSoWhite brought public attention to the lack of representation in Hollywood.
“All of the activism and attention surrounding the issue of diversity, inclusion, and belonging has shown that the time has come,” said Dr. Stacy L. Smith, the report’s co-author.”This is the first time we’re reporting a major change in representation behind the camera.”
The push for greater diversity in the filmmaking ranks benefitted studios’ bottom lines. Ryan Coogler’s “Black Panther,” Spike Lee’s “BlacKkKlansman,” and Steven Caple Jr.’s “Creed II” were all critical and commercial successes. And while Ava DuVernay’s “A Wrinkle in Time” was a box office disappointment, the fantasy adventure represented an important milestone as the first $100 million production to be directed by a black woman.
But it wasn’t all good news in terms of inclusion. Women continue to be given fewer directing opportunities than men. Only four of the top 100-grossing movies last year were helmed by female directors — Kay Cannon (“Blockers”), Abby Kohn (“I Feel Pretty”), Susanna Fogel (“The Spy Who Dumped Me”), and DuVernay with “A Wrinkle in Time.” That paltry representation is in line with historical trends. From 2007 to 2018, just 4.3% of all directors across the 1,200 top-grossing films were female, which translates into a ratio of 22 men to every one woman with a directing credit. Women of color were barely given any chance to slide behind the camera. Only five black females, three Asian females, and one Latina directed any of these 1,200 films over the last twelve years.
The USC study is the second report this week to highlight the gender imbalance on major movies. A similar report from San Diego State University found that 92% of the top 250 highest-grossing domestic releases had no women directors, 73% had no women writers, and 27% had no women producers.
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