ByTom Chapman, writer at
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Tom Chapman

Man oh man, 2016 not only tore through the back catalogue of celebrity faces, but it was also a disappointing year to be a female director. The latest study shows that the fairer sex were behind just 7% of the year's Top 250 films, a figure that was depressingly down 2% in 2015.

The study was conducted by The Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film and contains some alarming results for gender equality. Dubbed "The Celluloid Ceiling," 2016 matched the same percentage of female directors as 1998 — the same year that gave us Gus Van Sant's abysmal Psycho remake, Stephen Hopkins's Lost in Space, and Roland Emmerich's dire Godzilla. Women in prominent roles fared slightly better elsewhere behind the camera (but not much); 13% of the writers from the Top 250 films were women, 17% were executive producers, 24% were producers, and 17% editors. Sadly just 5% of the Top 250 films had a female cinematographer, and only 3% had female composers — thanks Hans Zimmer

The Celluloid Ceiling

'Fifty Shades of Grey' [Credit: Universal Pictures]
'Fifty Shades of Grey' [Credit: Universal Pictures]

The report showed that more women were hired for the stereotypically "more intellectual" documentary and drama genres, while action and horror films were almost exclusively reserved for male directors. It is also no surprise that films with a female director at the helm tended to employ more women in other roles.

It is a sad turn of events, especially given the female-first year that was 2015, which had big hitters like Sam Taylor Johnson’s Fifty Shades of Grey and 's Pitch Perfect 2. Until now, it looked like critically acclaimed female director films were on the rise, however, with 2016 being the way it was, we should probably just call it a write-off. Martha Lauzen, the center's executive director and author of the study, says she is shocked and saddened by the results:

“I would say I’m dumbfounded. It is remarkable that with all of the attention and talk over the last couple of years in the business and the film industry, the numbers actually declined. Clearly the current remedies aren’t working.”

2016 saw fewer big projects handed over to women, while the likes of Jodie Foster's Money Monster and Patricia Riggen's Miracles From Heaven were met with mixed success. It comes in the wake of the likes of Jennifer Lawrence, Natalie Portman, and even Banks herself arguing that the landscape for women in Hollywood still isn't fair. Most outspoken was Shameless actress Emmy Rossum, who demanded the same pay as her co-star William H. Macy, and was supported by the lead actor.

See also:

The Future's Bright

'Wonder Woman' [Credit: Warner Bros.]
'Wonder Woman' [Credit: Warner Bros.]

Thankfully, 2017 looks like it could change things. The all-female film XX promises to shake-up the horror world, 's will surely mean big bucks for its director, while Sofia Coppola hopes to follow the success of her father with The Beguiled. Although Jenkins threatens to break the mould with Wonder Woman, the superhero genre is notoriously hard to break into as a female director. Previous incarnations like Lexi Alexander's Punisher: War Zone, didn't exactly wow critics, and the likes of Zack Snyder and James Gunn still rule the superhero roost. Alexander claims that she was only hired because she had previously directed the R-rated Green Street Hooligans.

Then you have female comedy films like Bridesmaids and the lambasted Ghostbusters — even they find (the male) Paul Feig at the helm. Also, the female version of the Oceans franchise will be directed by Gary Ross (but co-written by Olivia Milch) and produced by George Clooney. All the talk of change and outrage may stir the news pot, but sadly it looks like things are business as usual for the time being for the male-led Hollywood. One day ladies, one day!

Check out the trailer for Wonder Woman, and don't forget our poll below!


Does Hollywood need more female directors?

(Poll image: Sony)

(Source: Variety)


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