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Directors UK calls for more films to be directed by women

Directors UK calls for more films to be directed by women
Tim Dams
04 May 2016

Directors UK has today called for 50% of films backed by UK public funding bodies to be directed by women by 2020.

The call is one of a number of recommendations from Directors UK, which has published a new report showing that the prospects for women film-makers have not improved in the past 10 years.
The report studied 2,591 UK films released over a ten-year period (2005-2014) and found that just 13.6% of working film directors in the last decade were women.

Meanwhile, the percentage of films directed exclusively by women only increased from 11.3% in 2004 to 11.9% in 2014.   


Despite women making up 50.1% of all film students in the UK and 49.4% of new entrants in the film industry, only 27.2% of short films and 21.7% of publicly funded films studied were directed by women.

The report reveals that fewer women are hired as budgets rise; just 16.1% of low budget films (under £500,000), 12.8% of mid-budget films (£1-£10million) and as little as 3.3% of big budget films (over £30million) were directed by women. This filtering effect has resulted in the disappearance of women directors at every level as they try to progress their careers. 
Even publicly funded films, which were the best performing area of the industry, showed a dramatic fall in the percentage of films directed by women from 32.9% in 2008 to just 17% in 2014.

Directors UK, the professional association for British screen directors, is proposing a number of recommendations including calling for 50% of films backed by UK-based public funding bodies to be directed by women by 2020; amending the Film Tax Relief cultural test rules to take account of diversity, including gender equality; and an industry wide campaign to ensure gender equality.
The study concludes that gender inequality is caused by unconscious bias stemming from systemic issues within the industry. These include:

·        an absence of a regulatory system to monitor, report and enforce gender equality;
·        no structured hiring and recruitment practices;
·        the industry’s short-term focus leading to greater risk-aversion and greater reliance on the stereotype of the male director;
·        the project-based production of films discouraging long-term thinking and preventing the use of positive HR practices.
·        All of these have resulted in a vicious cycle which perpetuates and enforces the low number of women directors.
Beryl Richards, Chair of Directors UK and Chair of Directors UK Gender Equality Group said, “It cannot be acceptable that in 2016 any industry with this level of inequality continues to go unchecked - not least the film industry that plays such an influential role in our economy, our society and our culture. The first step to tackling this is by understanding why these disparities are happening in the industry. With such comprehensive evidence we can now pinpoint and address the areas that need the most attention and focus on rectifying it. Our suggestion of a 50:50 split in public funding is something that has been achieved in other countries, such as Sweden. Equality of opportunity in UK film making is something we should all be working towards.”
Andrew Chowns, Chief Executive of Directors UK commented: “We are calling for strong action because we don’t believe that the situation will change without it. This report shows that women directors are limited and inhibited at every stage of their career – from making their first short films to working on big budget productions. Gender inequality must be tackled at every level by everyone involved in hiring and funding decisions, including directors themselves. The time for talking about low numbers has passed. Now it’s time for change.”
The recommendations come in a Directors UK commissioned study “Cut Out Of The Picture - A study into Gender Inequality Amongst Directors within the UK Film Industry”, by Stephen Follows, which explores the factors affecting women directors, such as career progression, industry culture, budgets, genres, critics, audiences and public funding.

Click here for a PDF of the full report.

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