There’s lots of insight into the barriers and issues facing female directors in a new study published today by the Sundance Institute and Women In Film Los Angeles.
The study looked at how the careers of female directors had panned out after premiering a film at the Sundance Film Festival, and why there continues to be a huge gender disparity in film-making.
What’s interesting is that the gender gap widens progressively over the course of directing careers so that ulimately the ratio of male to female directors stands at just over 23 to 1 for the top 1,300 top films from 2002 to 2014.
The study found that women directed one-quarter of the 208 films in Sundance’s U.S. Dramatic Competition between 2002 and 2014.
Of these, the study reported that:
- Gender is a significant factor in the types of stories told. Three-quarters of all SFF U.S. Dramatic Competition movies featured drama, comedy and/or romance, with female-directed films (92.5 percent) more concentrated in these genres than male-directed films (69 percent). Lead character gender was also associated with director gender. Male-directed films were more likely to feature male leads whereas female-directed films were more likely to feature female leads.
- Gender did not affect whether the Sundance Competition films received theatrical distribution. Of the 208 SFF U.S. Dramatic Competition movies from 2002-2014, 177 received domestic distribution (85.1 percent) and 31 did not. Female-directed films (88.7 percent) were just as likely to receive distribution out of SFF U.S. Dramatic Competition as male-directed films (83.9 percent).
- However, there are differences in the types of companies that distribute male- and female-directed films. Movies with a female director (70.2%) were more likely to be distributed by Independent companies with fewer financial resources and lower industry clout. Conversely, male-directed films (43.1%) were more to receive distribution from a Studio Specialty/Mini Major company—companies with deeper pockets and greater reach.
- When it comes to releasing films on a wide release, above 250 screens, male directors outnumber female directors by a factor of 6 to 1.
- The director gender gap is at its widest in top-grossing films. Across 1,300 top-grossing films from 2002 to 2014, only 4.1 percent of all directors were female. This calculates into a gender ratio of 23.3 male directors to every 1 female director.
- The prevalence of women decreases notably when moving from independent to mainstream film. In 2014, there was a 25 percent difference between the percentage of female directors at SFF (26.9 percent) and the percentage of female directors across the top 100 films (1.9 percent). This is almost double the gap observed in 2002.
The study also used 59 interviews (39 male, 20 female) with buyers and sellers who were asked about the reasons for the lack of female directors in top 100 films. Forty-one female directors were also interviewed.
The key conclusions were:
• Perception of a Gendered Marketplace (44%): Female directors are perceived to make films for a subset and/or less significant portion of the marketplace. In contrast, films by males are perceived to reach wide and lucrative segments of the market. One explanation for this difference is the tendency to “think director, think male,” or to describe the job of a director or profitable film content in masculine terms.
• Scarcity of Talent Pool and Experience (42%): Industry decision-makers perceive that there is a scarcity of female directors and a small pool to choose from in top-grossing films. Those interviewed named, on average, three female directors who might be included on consideration lists. In contrast, 45 different women helmed one of the 100 top-grossing movies across 13 years, and over 100 different women brought a narrative film to Sundance Film Festival from 2002 to 2014.
• Women’s Perceived Lack of Ambition (25%): Participants mentioned or questioned the degree of interest women have in 1) the directing position generally and 2) genre-based jobs, including action and tent-pole films. Sellers were more likely to report this impediment than buyers were. However, when asked directly about their ambitions, nearly half of female directors (43.9 percent) interviewed articulated an interest in larger-budget, action or blockbuster films.
• Industry Gender Imbalance (22%): Responses described the skewed representation of women in the film industry. This includes the predominance of men in gatekeeping positions and an industry socialization process and/or culture (e.g., boy’s club) that is male-dominated.
• Little Support and Few Opportunities (14%): Individuals mentioned or questioned whether agents and managers are putting women up for jobs and the scarcity of chances or opportunities given to women.
• Competence Doubted (12%): Participants mentioned or speculated about beliefs that women “can’t handle” certain types of films or aspects of production, such as commanding a large crew. When asked if their authority had been doubted, 70 percent of female directors interviewed answered that they had been challenged by a work colleague.
The study was authored by Dr. Stacy L. Smith of USC’s Annenberg School.
“Female filmmakers face deep-rooted presumptions from the film industry about their creative qualifications, sensibilities, tendencies and ambitions. Now we need to move a heavy boat through deep waters, and WIF is committed to year-round action until sustainable gender parity is achieved,” said Cathy Schulman, President of Women In Film Los Angeles.
Based on feedback from hundreds of Televisual readers, the salary survey reveals the weekly and daily rates for key jobs in the industry, as well as information about pay by sector, region, age and gender. The survey paints a mixed picture of pay rates in broadcasting and production.
On the plus side, the median salary according to the survey is £45k a year compared to an average UK salary of £26.5k.
A producer can expect to earn £46.5k while an offline editor is likely to take home £47.5k. The median salary of a director is £58k; for a series producer and exec producer it is £70k and £90k respectively.
43.5% of respondents say their their earnings are up – compared to 14.2% who say they have fallen, and 42.3% who report they have stayed the same.
However, as in previous years, the feedback to the salary survey is dominated by concerns that tightening broadcaster programme budgets are continuing to bear down on salaries and working conditions.
Many individuals say they are working harder and for longer hours – but for little extra money.
The plan to close BBC3 as a TV channel was described as ‘the biggest strategic decision the BBC has made in over a decade,’ when it was announced last year by director of television Danny Cohen.
But an increasingly vocal campaign is arguing that the corporation’s decision is misguided.
Led by Hat Trick boss Jimmy Mulville and Avalon founder Jon Thoday, it’s a campaign that appears to be gaining traction. They aim to persuade the BBC to reverse its decision, just as it did with BBC6 Music.
The pair recently met with some 100 indies at a Pact organised event to explain their alternative proposals for BBC3. They are also meeting with the BBC Trust to lobby against BBC3’s closure.
Talking to Televisual, their determination to reverse the decision is readily apparent. Despite being rivals who have built up indies that between them produce shows such as Have I Got News for You, Episodes, Russell Howard’s Good News and Catastrophe, the pair make a compelling and forceful lobbying team.
They spell out their position in a rapid-fire but measured delivery. As soon as one makes a point, the other quickly picks up the argument and takes it further. “We are finding that more and more people are coming to us, and everyone agrees that, first, BBC3 shouldn’t go, and secondly, there are plenty of ways to keep it going,” says Thoday.
The pair stress that BBC3’s closure as a broadcast channel has not yet been approved by the BBC Trust. However, they say that BBC management has already begun dismantling the channel, pointing out that one of its staple shows, animation Family Guy, has just been picked up by ITV2.
Mulville says: “The BBC made a show of wanting to retain Family Guy, but it was cosmetic. The fact is that they are dismantling the channel and setting up an online service without the permission of the Trust – and the Trust are basically doing absolutely nothing.” He describes it as a “kind of quiet British scandal.”
BBC management, he adds, are not willing to engage with them to explore other options for the TV channel that would prevent its closure.
The pair has put forward three proposals for BBC3. Firstly, that the BBC should change its mind and keep BBC3 going. Secondly, that Hat Trick and Avalon with a consortium of other indies should buy BBC3 and run it under a different name. And thirdly, that they should form a ‘statutory corporation’ similar to C4 to run it as a not for profit broadcaster.
The first of these proposals has the strongest support from the indie community. This became clear at the recent meeting with fellow indies, where a straw poll conducted by Pact chief executive John McVay after the producers’ presentation revealed strong support for preserving BBC3 as a linear channel. But, according to a report in Broadcast, there was only a smattering of raised hands in support for proposals to buy BBC3 or set up a Channel 4-style public service broadcaster.
Steve Coogan and Henry Normal’s indie Baby Cow – producer of BBC3 hits Gavin and Stacey and The Mighty Boosh – has already backed their campaign, which is set to be joined by a high profile and as yet unnamed executive from the online world.
Mulville argues that an online channel needs to have a relationship with a TV channel in order for the online channel to work properly. “You need the synergy of both platforms…the future is multiplatform, not single platform.”
Both argue that BBC3 is an important service for 16-34 year olds, and that its closure would make the BBC ‘more middle aged, more middle class and whiter’. They point out that the channel has been a crucial gateway for new talent, ideas, executives and production companies in the TV industry.They also note that the BBC is the only broadcaster closing channels. “Everybody else is actually growing channels,” says Mulville. Replacing BBC3 with a +1 service for BBC1, meanwhile, is merely a “ratings grab where no money goes into programmes.”
They explain that the BBC has invested around £1bn in the channel. To simply close it and move it online makes no business sense: rather the BBC could realise some of that investment by selling the channel slot while carrying on with their online plans for BBC3. Mulville and Thoday have previously spoken of paying £100m for the slot occupied by the channel.
The pair question whether the closure of BBC3 actually saves the corporation any money. The BBC has said the move will save £50m a year, but £30m will be reinvested in drama for BBC1. Further money would be spent on the BBC1 catch up service and running BBC3 online. “We are not convinced there will be any saving,” says Thoday.
They also rebut criticism that their call to save BBC3 is motivated by self-interest as key suppliers of new talent and shows to the channel. They say they are not looking to become channel owners, and are busy running their own companies – and would prefer not to spend valuable time campaigning. “We are doing this because we see this as a disaster for the industry,” says Thoday.
Mulville admits their plan is driven by “enlightened self interest.” Their campaign against the closure of BBC3 was hatched nine months ago over a breakfast meeting. “We couldn’t believe they were actually closing a service they had spent a billion pounds of licence fee on, and had got working very well,” says Mulville.
What started off as a “cheeky bid” for the channel has now become very serious, they say. “We realised the BBC hadn’t thought of any alternative beyond just shutting it down,” he adds.
“If anybody can find an argument why it isn’t in the interest of the industry that money is invested in new programmes for young viewers, then I would like to see it,” says Thoday. Mulville chips in: “They already have a fantastic catch up service – BBC iPlayer.”
Cohen hit back at their plan to buy the channel in an open letter published in February, saying they could not use the BBC3 brand name for a commercial service, could not have the EPG slot which is reserved for public service channels and would not have access to a very large proportion of programme rights.
The pair responded by saying they did not want the BBC3 brand name, and that rebranding channels – such as Dave – is a well-established practice. They also acknowledged that the BBC3 EPG slot is not within the gift of the BBC, but argue their proposals – which include an increase in original production spend of £30m – make more sense than a catch up channel. On the issue of rights, they say that programme makers who have produced shows for BBC3 would welcome the opportunity to continue providing programming for a linear TV channel ‘rather than see their work struggle for viewers on a much diminished online channel.’
- The BBC announced plans in March 2014 to close BBC3 as a TV channel in autumn 2015 and to replace it as an online service. The change is subject to approval of the BBC Trust.
- Hat Trick’s Jimmy Mulville and Avalon’s Jon Thoday mounted a £100m bid in January 2015 to buy the TV channel, with a commitment to increase its programme spend.
- The BBC responded, saying “it’s not for sale because it’s not closing”.
- The BBC Trust is currently consulting on the managment’s proposals, and is set to publish its initial conclusions soon.
- The BBC says its plans would mean saving over £50m a year. Of that, £30m would go into drama on BBC1. The freed up spectrum would be used to extend CBBC by two hours and to provide a BBC1 +1 service.
- A Save BBC3 petition, signed by more than 270,000 people, was delivered to the BBC Trust on Feb 15. Labour MP John McDonald tabled an Early Day Motion in the House of Commons opposing the closure.
- The BBC3 content budget was approximately £60m in 2013/14, of which £54m was spent on originations including repeats. Its content spend will decline by approximately £30m as a result of the service changes.
- Mulville and Thoday wrote to the BBC Trust in February saying, if they bought the channel, they expected BBC3 revenues to be £150m to £170m, content costs to be £100m to £120m, and overheads to be £15m to £20m.
- BBC3 has a viewing share of 1.5%. Its average weekly 15 min reach was 20.5% in 2013. The total volume of viewing was 1.15 billion hours.
- BBC3 was launched on 9 February 2003. Hit shows to originate on the channel include Gavin and Stacey, Little Britain, Bad Education, Bluestone 42, Our War, The Fades and The Revolution will be Televised.
The MipTV international programme sales market kicks off in Cannes this month (13-16 April).
As ever, there will be a significant UK contingent at the market, touting the best shows and formats made by British producers to international broadcasters. Up for grabs is a slice of the estimated £1.3bn that the UK generates each year from selling its television shows around the world.
Here, Televisual names its top Mip picks – the British produced shows that will be launched in Cannes that look set to generate strong interest from international buyers. They range from buzz dramas like Humans and Safe House, through to factual such as Bangkok Airport, comedy including The Delivery Man and entertainment formats like Prized Apart.
1. Safe House
Producer: Eleventh Hour Films
Distributor: All3Media International
Directed by Marc Evans (Hinterland, Collision), Safe House tells the story of a married couple who turn their guest house in the remote Lake District into a police safe house. Their first guests are a family at great risk, pursued by a violent man with an unknown agenda. Starring Christopher Eccleston, Marsha Thomason and Paterson Joseph, it’s billed as a compelling ‘event’ thriller, delivering a fresh take on the investigative crime genre. All3Media EVP of marketing Rachel Glaister says Evans has done a brilliant job directing Safe House. “There is a real buzz about this show overseas…and we are expecting a string of sales.”
2. Prized Apart
Producer Electric Ray
Distributor Sony Pictures Television
Prized Apart is a new primetime adventure game show for BBC1, filmed on location and in a UK studio. The show sees 10 men and women battle it out overseas in tough physical and mental challenges, in the hope of winning a life changing prize. Each week, the bottom placed contestants are flown back to the UK, to a studio hanger where their partners await. The partners must keep their loved ones in the competition by answering a set of questions in a head-to-head round against the other partners. If they succeed, their loved ones will get back on the plane to continue the game. Jane Dockery, SVP International Distribution, Formats, Sony Pictures Television, said: “Prized Apart is an adventure game show - a brand new genre that the market hasn’t seen before. Mark Linsey, Controller of Entertainment at the BBC, who commissioned the show last year, described it as a potential “game changer”. We’re hugely excited about this title.”
3. The Delivery Man
Production company: Monicker Pictures
A comedy following a male midwife making his way in a woman's world, Delivery Man stars Darren Boyd and airs on ITV after a successful pilot last year. Noel Hedges executive vice president of content at DRG, said: “Delivery Man is British comedy at its best: fantastic writing and acting from top comedy talent, a central fish out of water story running through it that is universal coupled with hilarious physical comedy. It's comedy for a broad audience no matter which territory.”
Broadcaster: Channel 4, AMC
Distributor: Endemol Shine International
Humans is a new drama written by Sam Vincent and Jonathan Brackley (Spooks: The Greater Good) set in a parallel present where the latest must-have gadget for any busy family is a ‘Synth’ – a highly-developed robotic servant eerily similar in appearance to humans. When one of them joins the Hawkins family, the line between human and machine increasingly blurs. Billed as sinister, thrilling and packed full of emotion, Humans explores the rapidly evolving relationship between humanity and technology and asks what does it really mean to be “human”? Cathy Payne: CEO of Endemol Shine International, said: “British drama offers innovative storytelling that, packaged with a strong cast, has captured the imagination of television broadcasters and platforms worldwide. The British standard run has created the new term – limited series”
5. Home Fires
Producer: ITV Studios
Distributor: ITV Studios Global Entertainment
Starring Francesca Annis and Samantha Bond, Home Fires follows a group of women in a rural Cheshire Community with the shadow of World War II casting a dark cloud over their lives. As the conflict takes hold, and separates the women from their husbands, fathers, sons and brothers, the characters find themselves under increasing pressures. Ruth Clarke, EVP, global content & co-productions, ITV Studios Global Entertainment said: "The impact of World War II touched the whole world, the events on the home front are less well known but no less relevant to a global audience. Home Fires is a fascinating story of how an extraordinary group of women kept a rural community together during a dark time.”
6. The Ark
Production Company: Red Planet Pictures, in association with Lip Sync Productions and Great Point Media
Distributor: Content Television
This one-off 90-min special is a retelling of the biblical story of Noah and The Ark. It’s billed by distributor Content as “a timeless saga of family and faith which has a resonance across all cultures.” It certainly comes with a strong pedigree. It’s produced by Red Planet, the team behind Death in Paradise, with scripts from Tony Jordan, writer of Life on Mars and Hustle, and a cast led by David Threlfall (Shameless) and Joanne Whalley (The Borgias). Greg Phillips, President, Content Television, said: “There’s a strong demand in the international market for stand out one-off event features – content which broadcasters can create a real buzz about – and with the UK’s BBC airing the drama just before MIP, we’re expecting interest to be high.”
7. 7 Deadly Sins of the Animal Kingdom
Producer: Back2Back Productions
Broadcaster: Discovery & Sky 3D
Distributor: Sky Vision
Actor Richard E Grant fronts this exploration of the seven deadly sins as seen through the perspective of the animal kingdom. For humans envy, lust, wrath, sloth, greed, pride and gluttony are sins – associated with shameful behaviour. But in the animal kingdom they are simply survival mechanisms. Leona Connell, head of global sales at Sky Vision said: “This series offers a truly fascinating and original way to approach wildlife programming which really pushes the boundaries, all in glorious 3D.”
8. Top Coppers
Production Company: Roughcut
UK Broadcaster: BBC3
Distributor: FremantleMedia International
Top Coppers is a new, gag-fuelled character comedy following the adventures of cops John Mahogany and Mitch Rust in the fictional world of Justice City, as they attempt to rid it of its deranged criminal underworld. It stars John Kearns (2014 Edinburgh Comedy Award-Winner) and Steen Raskopoulos (2014 Edinburgh Best Newcomer nominee). Sarah Doole, director of global drama at FremantleMedia said the series features some of the newest stars on the UK comedy circuit, adding: “Roughcut has a brilliant track record for creating comedy that travels.”
Producer RSJ Films/Seesaw Films
Distributor BBC Worldwide
This character-led drama from Jimmy McGovern (The Street, Cracker) is based on the lives of the inhabitants of the first penal colony in Sydney and stars Russell Tovey, Myanna Buring, Julian Rhind-Tutt and David Wenham. Paul Dempsey, president of global markets at BBC Worldwide said: “Banished has so much to offer international buyers and is a key title for BBC Worldwide. Even though it is set in 18th Century, it’s also a contemporary and very relatable story about friendship, betrayal and the fight for survival. This is fantastic original, big budget British drama, shot in a stunning setting and has real potential for a returning series.”
10. A Cook Abroad
Producer BBC Productions
Agent DCD Rights
This 6x60-min BBC2 series sees six of the UK’s best known cooks take viewers on a culinary tour of the world’s most inspiring food cultures. Each travels to a different country to track down how history, geography and culture have shaped what we eat today. Hairy Biker Dave Myers uncovers Egypt’s 2,000 year old baking tradition and Tony Singh travels to India to explore the breadth of Punjabi cuisine. Other chefs include Rick Stein on Australia, Masterchef’s Monica Galetti on France, John Torode in Argentina; and Rachel Khoo in Malaysia.
Rick Barker, head of sales at DCD Rights said: “The unique combination of travel and food is an appealing mix for international broadcasters. Broadcasters are moving away from studio based cookery shows and are keen for their audience to get an authentic feel for cooking, local flavours, culture and the landscape.”
11. Bangkok Airport
Producer Keo Films
Agent Hat Trick International
With access to all aspects of the airport, this Keo Films 6x30-min series introduces the quirky Thai characters and international travellers passing through Bangkok airport. The location proves a hotbed of stories as young tourists run into trouble overseas – from run-ins with the tourist police to treatment at the on-site medical centre and missed flights. Sarah Tong, director of sales at HTI, says Bangkok Airport has already sold to Australia, Denmark, Norway and Asia, and is confident it will be a strong seller throughout the rest of Europe and ROW. “One of the big selling points is that it’s highly entertaining with lots of amusing and quirky characters. Plus it’s hour long episodes, and there’s six of them – rather than the 2 or 3 that are often commissioned in the UK but make international sales a little harder.”
12. Ainsley Eats the Streets
Production Company: Snap TV
Broadcaster – More4/Channel4
Agent TCB Media Rights
Ainsley Harriott presents this 6x60-min street food series, uncovering the local cooking away from the tourist traps of some of the world’s biggest and best known cities. TCB managing director Paul Heaney says Ainsley is a known international 'face' who brings the popular street food sub-genre to life and creates his own slant on well-established local delicacies, and at the same time as finding out more about the cities themselves. “We think there's a need for well-made food travelogue series across the world. Australia and Asia have already bought the series before completion, we expect more to come.’”
13. Code of a Killer
Production company: World Productions
Distributor: Endemol Shine International
From the director of Broadchurch and the producers of Line of Duty, Code of a Killer tells the true story of how DNA fingerprinting was first used to crack a murder case. Set in 1984 in Leicestershire, its stars John Simm as a brilliant scientist and and David Threlfall as a progressive police detective who unite to create the biggest advance in twentieth century criminal investigation. Code of a Killer is written by Michael Crompton (Kidnap & Ransom) directed by James Strong (Broadchurch) and produced by World Productions (Line of Duty, The Bletchley Circle, The Great Train Robbery)