USC’s Annenberg Inclusion Initiative Study 2022

The latest research from USC’s Annenberg Inclusion Initiative breaks down inequality in the entertainment sector, while the organization is introducing a solution in the form of scholarships for female students of color in filmmaking. .

The industry is continuing to reap the rewards of hiring female directors and directors of color, but Hollywood is still a long way from parity. While last year, the share of films directed by people from ethnic minorities hit a 15-year high, nearly all of that increase has come from male filmmakers. In fact, less than 2% of all top-grossing directors have been women of color over the past decade and a half.

Those are some of the word findings Latest research from USC .’s Annenberg Inclusion Initiative, which was released on Wednesday. Titled “Including the director’s chair: A director’s gender and race/ethnicity analysis of the top 1,500 films between 2007 and 2021,” the study revealed that an early rise in the pandemic Behind-the-scenes fairness continues, and streamers are spearheading efforts to hire Asian, Black, Latino and multiracial directors.

The study primarily looked at the highest-grossing cinema-released sci-fi films of the past 15 years. Of all the films in that time period, female directors make up 5.4%. 2020 saw the highest increase in female-led films, 15%, followed by a slight drop to 12.7% last year.

Last year, 27.3% of the top films were directed by underrepresented filmmakers, compared with 17.5% in 2020 and 12.5% ​​in 2007. US Census data States show that 39.9% of the population belongs to underrepresented groups.

“This is the first time we’ve felt comfortable presenting research that truly understands the box office and hiring practices amid the pandemic,” Dr. Stacy L. Smith, the study’s lead author and founder of the Inclusive Initiative, said in an interview. “We’ve had a steady shift in female directors, with a high in 2020 and a decline in 2021, we’re in double digits for the first time since we did this study. . It’s a function of the 4 Percent Challenge and primary advocacy work. We are far from equality, but this is a great step forward.”

And yet, of those underrepresented directors, the vast majority are men. Last year, women of color directed the three highest-grossing films: Chloe Zhao (“Eternals”), Liesl Tommy (“Respect”) and Nia Costa (“Candyman”). And there were only 18 women of color in the top films between 2007 and 2021, making up just 1.2% of those top director jobs, despite the fact that women of color make up 20 % of the US population.

Universal was most likely to hire a woman of color, which distributed 27.8 percent of those 18 films. Lionsgate and STX didn’t work with a female director of color on a top-grossing film from that time slot, according to the study. The data shows that this has nothing to do with the aptitude of female directors of color. Their movies had significantly higher average Metacritic scores (62.2) than white men (54.2), according to the study.

Chloé Zhao directs “Eternals”

While theatrical studio cinemas offer less directing opportunities for underrepresented women, the picture is brighter among streamers, for both women and women of color. The study looked at original film options from major broadcasters over the past two years and found that women of color were more likely to be hired as directors there than for a high-grossing theatrical film. highest revenue.

Amazon Prime leads the pack, with 15% of its films directed by women of color. This compares with the highest-grossing theatrical films of the past two years, of which women of color are directors at 5.3%. At Disney+, the numbers are 9.7%, 5.3% at Netflix, and 4.9% at Universal.

Female filmmakers are also generally better at attracting streamers, and those outfits are much more likely to hire a female director than studios. Amazon Prime once again leads when it comes to hiring female directors, as 37.5% of its original films during the period studied were directed by women. (Disney follows with 29 percent, HBO Max with 19.5 percent and Netflix with 18.1 percent).

“Legacy studios are having a really hard time,” says Smith. “One group where we haven’t seen any movement in legacy studios are women of color directing these large-scale films…streamers who understand who their consumers are, what they’re doing. Create and distribute content to a very different world than legacy studios operate. They need to get involved – the world has changed – or their relevance will continue to explode and rapidly decline. “

Smith said the Inclusive Initiative wants to be part of the solution. On Wednesday, the initiative launched AI² Accelerator, a $25,000 scholarship that will be awarded to a woman of color in film school for use in her student film. It’s aimed at aspiring filmmakers who want to work on major narrative films, such as those driven by VFX and IP.

The recipient will meet with an all-star roster of mentors throughout her senior year, including Universal president Donna Langley, Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige, Halle Berry, and many other leaders in the publicity field. , management , production and creation of the industry .

“We hope that companies and benefactors will match this scholarship and we will be able to provide exponential resources not only this year but also in the years to come, to provide human resources for women of color,” Smith said.

Latest research from Annenberg Inclusive Initiativegenerate an annual update report, and can be found here.

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Olly Dawes

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