Diversity among Hollywood directors narrowed in 2022: new study

It’s been more than five years since the rise of the Me Too movement and nearly three since the racial trial that followed the killing of George Floyd, prompting Hollywood leaders to promise systemic change. However, by 2022, the percentage of women and people of color directing the biggest films at the U.S. box office was down from previous highs in recent years, a study released Monday found, a of the many indications that these promises may have been largely symbolic.

In 2022, just 9% of directors behind the year’s top 100 fiction films were women, and 20.7% were people of color, according to Southern University’s Annenberg Inclusion Initiative from California Both numbers are well below proportional representation in the US

Now in its 16th year, the group’s annual report, “Inclusion in the Director’s Chair,” examines the number of women and people of color directing the top 100 films at the box office. Among the most stark findings: From 2007 to 2022, only 21 of the top-grossing films (out of a total of 1,488) were directed by women of color.

“Many people have traditions when they look back on the past year and the year ahead,” Stacy L. Smith, who founded the group, said in a statement. “At the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative, it seems like our tradition is to bemoan how little things have changed for women and people of color behind the camera in mainstream film. We’d like to see not just the tradition change, but also hiring practices that continue to marginalize women and people of color as directors.”

In 2022, the percentage of women directing major motion pictures dropped from a record 15% in 2020. Overall, progress appears to have stalled, with this percentage typically hovering around 10% since 2019 , according to the group’s data.

To put it another way, you could easily list the women who directed the top theatrical releases of 2022, since there were only 10: Olivia Newman (“Where the Crawdads Sing”), Gina Prince-Bythewood ( “The Woman King”), Olivia Wilde. (“Don’t Worry Darling”), Jessica M. Thompson (“The Invitation”), Kat Coiro (“Marry Me”), Rosalind Ross (“Father Stu”), Halina Reijn (“Bodies Bodies Bodies” ), Kasi Lemmons (“Whitney Houston: I Wanna Dance with Somebody”), Chinonye Chukwu (“Till”) and Maria Schrader (“She Said”). Only three were women of color: Prince-Bythewood, Lemmons and Chukwu. (The study did not include films that went straight to streaming platforms or those that opened in limited theaters in December.)

Directors Gina Prince-Bythewood (left) and Kasi Lemmons at a screening of the miniseries "Women of the Movement" on June 9 in Los Angeles.  They were two of only three women of color to direct major films at the US box office in 2022.
Directors Gina Prince-Bythewood (left) and Kasi Lemmons at a screening of the miniseries “Women of the Movement” on June 9 in Los Angeles. They were two of only three women of color to direct major films at the US box office in 2022.

David Livingston via Getty Images

The 20.7% of color film directors who helmed major motion pictures last year is a substantial drop from 2021, which saw an all-time high of 27.3%. Over the 16 years of data, white men directed 80.4% of major theatrical films.

The Annenberg Inclusion Initiative’s findings are consistent with other research on the dismal state of representation in Hollywood. In October, UCLA’s annual Hollywood Diversity Report looked at how opportunities in television remain unevenly distributed. Among their findings: the bigger the budget of a TV show, the more likely it was created by a white man. The UCLA researchers also issued a dire warning that the current economic uncertainty in Hollywood, with executives at many major entertainment companies trying to cut costs by cutting programming and staff, could wipe out any recent progress in diversity.

Similarly, the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative report takes particular aim at executives, noting that even in 2022, several major studios and distributors did not have a single major theatrical film directed by a woman or person of color. “Maybe executives should adopt a mindset described by Taylor Swift: ‘It’s me, I’m the problem,'” Smith said in his statement, referencing lyrics from the singer’s latest album.

In recent years, Smith and her team have pointed to the lack of upward mobility of women and people of color in directing by examining the demographics among people who direct episodic television, the independent films that compete at the Film Festival Top-grossing Sundance film and theatrical releases. They have documented a sharp decline in women and directors of color moving to the highest stages of cinema.

"Until" Director Chinonye Chukwu attends the 2022 Gotham Awards in November.  28 in New York City.
‘Till’ director Chinonye Chukwu attends the 2022 Gotham Awards in November. 28 in New York City.

Dia Dipasupil via Getty Images

Additionally, women and people of color are less likely to be hired multiple times to direct major films, compared to their white peers. Few women or people of color, and especially few women of color, make repeat appearances on lists of the highest-grossing films at the box office each year. According to the study, the number of women of color who have directed more than one major release in the past 16 years can be counted on one hand: Prince-Bythewood, Lemmons, Ava DuVernay, Jennifer Yuh Nelson and Stella Meghie.

“For many of the years we have provided this data, there have been small or incremental changes,” Smith and his team wrote in the report. “The explanation for the lack of progress is simple: too few women and people of color are being hired for top management jobs. Ultimately, the solution is also simple: hire more women and people of color to direct the best films. Despite the simplicity of the solution, change is still hard to come by.”

Read the full study here.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *