Indie Female Directors Were Failed by the Film Festival Circuit

A new study finds that multiple film festivals failed to highlight female directors and filmmakers.
'Watcher'Credit: Shudder
A new study finds that multiple film festivals failed to highlight female directors and filmmakers. 

The indie filmmaking world has been male-dominated and continues to be so. Female filmmakers have been able to make a few improvements to the indie landscape by stepping in front and behind the camera. 

The independent filmmaking world has been more supportive of female filmmakers than major studios. The Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University, which tracks representation in film and television, found that women comprised 21% of directors, writers, producers, executive producers, editors, and cinematographers working on the top 100 films in 2021. 

You can read the report here, but let's go through some other highlights. 

'Passing'Credit: Netflix
Between 2021 to 2022, the same study found that women comprised 39% of directors, writers, producers, executive producers, editors, and cinematographers working on independent films at high-profile film festivals in the U.S. That 18% gap showcased that Hollywood’s representation problem on mainstream TV and film is still a problem. 

The report took a closer look at female representation in independent films at the major film festivals hosted between 2021-2022, including Sundance, the New York Film Festival, AFI Fest, Slamdance Film Festival, SXSW Film Festival, and 17 other prominent film festivals. 

Many of those film festivals hosted prominent movies from female auteurs, including Sian Heder’s Oscar-winning Coda, Rebecca Hall’s directorial debut Passing, and Jane Campion's The Power of the Dog

Despite the strides made by these female filmmakers, the number of female directors at film festivals only increased by a single percentage point. 

As festivals reopened with open arms after going virtual or offering more digital screenings during the COVID-19 pandemic, the changes in strategy didn’t level the playing field for women. 

Despite the efforts made by film festivals to feature more films made by female directors and underrepresented filmmakers, festivals still highlight more movies made by male filmmakers. Variety reports that a recent study found that festivals “screened and streamed an average of six narrative films directed by at least one woman compared to an average of 10 films directed by men.” 

Women only directed 38%. of films at film festivals
'Saint Omer'Credit: Super

On a positive note, festivals streamed and screened almost an equal number of documentaries directed by women as by men. Women are much better represented in behind-the-scenes roles in documentaries, with 43% of those who work on documentaries being women, while only 34% of those who worked on narrative films were women. 

We should take a moment to celebrate the independent documentaries for having equal representation behind the camera, and the members who selected those documentaries to be shown on such a public stage. 

It’s the responsibility of film festivals to not only show quality work that is on the hunt for distribution but also show films that are made by underrepresented filmmakers.

Representation in front of and behind the camera matters, and will always need to be considered whenever a project begins development. The representation should be genuine and showcase that everyone’s voice matters, showing the next generation that anything is possible no matter how you identify.      

You Might Also Like

Your Comment

12 Comments

"Women are much better represented in behind-the-scenes roles in documentaries, with 43% of those who work on documentaries being women, while only 34% of those who worked on narrative films were women".Interesting!
Regarding narrative, may be it's not discrimination but less interest in this genere by women.

September 21, 2022 at 1:57AM

0
Reply
avatar
Javier Diez
Filmmaker
384

Would be interesting to know if the same ratios appear in the submissions... is representation the issue or involvement?

September 21, 2022 at 8:41AM

0
Reply

Maybe the films just weren't very good?

September 21, 2022 at 2:10PM

3
Reply

It's funny how there is an article about women's representation and the first three comments we see are from "Javier", "Luca", and "Mark"... Just the male heroes we need giving their unsupportive 2 cents on this non-male issue.

Especially Marky... this guy again... out of your many, many comments on this site you're never really kind or supportive to anyone or anything. Why do you even come on this site when it seems to do nothing but hurt your little ego?

September 21, 2022 at 8:28PM

0
Reply
bp
914

Are we having a problem with the freedom of speech you Mr.Censor? Males can give opinion on female "issues" or are banned?

September 22, 2022 at 5:55AM

0
Reply
avatar
Javier Diez
Filmmaker
384

Haha no, this has nothing to do with censorship my guy. This has to do with either helping or being part of the problem. The way you're going about it is being part of the problem. That's what we're getting at.

Don't worry, white guys like you need not worry about ever being censored.

September 22, 2022 at 12:37PM

0
Reply
bp
914

. Why do you even come on this site when it seems to do nothing but hurt your little ego? " This sounds you want male comments out, Mr.Censor. Besides, Mr.Censor, you give no argument whatsoever and use a racist term to people that tells things you don't like. What the fuck do you know of me? How you dare? Haters avoid arguments and use insults because it's hard to think a reply.

September 22, 2022 at 2:10PM

0
Reply
avatar
Javier Diez
Filmmaker
384

Haha wow, you're so far away from the point it's... mindboggling. Let's see... How can I put this more simply?

I guess all I'll say is when non-males say they feel underrepresented or discriminated against, especially in a historically male-dominated field, just listen to them. Believe them. Be kind and be supportive.

Every person has a hard time getting through life at times, but in this case, it's not you. Being aware of your privilege and its effect on the problem is so important, and since you can't really grasp the problem as shown in your meandering comments it's best to just step aside.

It's okay to let this article be not about you. Peace out.

September 22, 2022 at 10:31PM

1
Reply
bp
914

You have God complex. Know everyone and everything. Go to the psychiatrist asap. Bye poor ignorant!

September 22, 2022 at 11:50PM

3
Reply
avatar
Javier Diez
Filmmaker
384

In Spanish you are a “Fantasmón perdonavidas”

September 22, 2022 at 11:51PM

1
Reply
avatar
Javier Diez
Filmmaker
384

Nobody said they're not under represented.
But just being a female film director shouldn't automatically have your film accepted by a festival.

Furthermore there are a plethora of grants and funding options available for women and other under represented groups, which I think is great and needed.

I also try and crew my projects with females when available, so there's that as well.
But I draw the line where one is supposed to accept poorly made films, simple but cause the filmmaker is from an underrepresented group.

September 24, 2022 at 1:18PM, Edited September 24, 1:22PM

2
Reply

Aww, you still mad about my post regarding IP theft by Vera Drew.

Boohoo

September 24, 2022 at 1:16PM

0
Reply