We’re making some progress, but we have quite a ways to go.
In a recent study conducted by USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative (pdf), 2017 showed a notable increase in black filmmakers within the top 100-grossing movies of that year. Fourteen percent of the directors in that coveted group were black, which is a 270 percent increase over 2017 and a 200 percent increase since 2007.
A “whopping” 16 black directors helmed projects in the top 100 movies of 2018, which is a record within the entire timeframe of the study, according to Daily News.
“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, co-author of the study, entitled Inequality in 1,100 Popular Films: Examining Portrayals of Gender, Race/Ethnicity, LGBT & Disability from 2007 to 2017 (pdf). “This is the first time we’re reporting a major change in representation behind the camera.”
It’s true, #OscarsSoWhite certainly placed the drive toward inclusiveness at the forefront in a way we hadn’t seen before. And yet, how far have we actually come?
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Women, in general, were given the shitty end of the 2018 top 100-grossing movie stick, with only four women sitting in the director’s chair in this high moneymaking group. Only one of those four was black: Ava DuVernay, for A Wrinkle in Time.
“Women aren’t given as many chances to be hired again by studios, and that makes it more difficult for women to see this as a career path they can pursue in order to provide for themselves and feed their families,” noted study co-author Dr. Katherine Pieper.
Of the 1,200 top-grossing films between 2007-2018, only 4.3 percent of all directors were female. Intersectionality played a key role here, too, because only five were directed by black women, three by Asian women, and one by a Latina, IndieWire confirmed.
Because representation matters, it’s important to name names. The black women directors who served as auteurs behind the top-grossing films between 2007-2018 are:
DuVernay gets the crown for having two of the top-grossing films in the last twelve years, as Selma ranked in the top-100 in 2014. As a champion of black women in filmmaking, I’m sure this is bittersweet for DuVernay, since she’s always here for more black women getting their deserved shine at the helm.
Another troubling statistic: Only 18 percent of producers behind the top 300 movies of the last three years were women, with only 1.6 percent being women of color. Producers identifying as men of color represented 9.8 percent during that same timeframe.
If we get into other crew members behind the camera, Variety pointed out:
The numbers were even starker when it came to below-the-line positions, the term for crew members who aren’t producers, writers, or directors. Men comprised 97% of cinematographers, 84.5% of editors, 81.7% of production designers, and 97.7% of composers.
Would trying to pick out the black women in the mix raise my blood pressure? It’s very likely.
Do better, Hollywood.