Directors Guild of America (DGA) president Thomas Schlamme has branded as “outrageous’ the lack of diversity highlighted in a new study published on Thursday (June 21) that dispels the myth of fairer representation in the independent space.
According to the research, a mere 16% of directors on 651 features released in 2017 were female. The pool of features spanned the gamut of budgets, including micro-budget projects with limited releases.
When the study looked at the 175 features that grossed $250,000 or more and were US nationality, the proportion of female directors dropped 25% to 12%. That proportion was the highest in five years and climbed 50% from a low of 6% five years earlier.
Across the range of budgets and DGA-signatory studio and non-studio releases, representation of female directors ranged from 8%-16%.
Directors of colour accounted for one in 10 of the 145 DGA-signatory features released in the US in 2017 with a minimum box office of $250,000. That was the lowest mark in five years and represented a drop of three percentage points from 2016 and a drop of seven percentage points from the five-year high of 17% in 2013.
When the DGA broke out the data by box office tiers and the major studios, representation of directors of colour also ranged from 8-12%. Due to an absence of ethnicity data for projects that were not made under Guild agreements, the DGA was only able to analyse the ethnicity of directors on Guild-signatory projects
“It’s outrageous that we’re once again seeing such a lack of opportunity for women and people of color to direct feature films,” Schlamme said. “Our new study shows that discriminatory practices are still rampant across every corner of the feature film business.
“These numbers hit home how the chips are stacked against women and people of color. We dug into our proprietary data to see if we could isolate areas that were bright spots or especially problematic. But as we kept going, it became clear that no matter how you slice the 2017 numbers, the outcome is virtually the same.
“There is a misconception that things are better in the smaller, indie film world, but that’s simply not the case. From financing and hiring, to distribution and agent representation – every aspect of the entire system disadvantages women and people of color.”
Schlamme continued: “Change is long overdue. Inclusion is a fight we’ve been fighting with the industry for four decades now, and it’s been an uphill battle to get them to change their hiring practices. In our two most recent negotiations, we pushed for the industry to adopt the Rooney Rule into their hiring practices, but they wouldn’t budge on the issue. Neither will we – we are committed to keeping at this for as long as it takes.”