Female directors becoming rarer in Hollywood

Story highlights

  • New study: The number of films made by women is decreasing
  • Director says female filmmakers need more opportunities

(CNN)This year will see some major movie releases from female filmmakers. There's superhero flick "Wonder Woman," starring Gal Gadot and directed by Patty Jenkins, and the bachelorette comedy "Rock That Body," starring Scarlett Johansson and Kate McKinnon, helmed by Lucia Aniello.

But don't let those high-profile projects fool you.
A study released Thursday by San Diego State's Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film finds the number of female directors is declining.
"The Celluloid Ceiling: Behind-the-Scenes Employment of Women on the Top 100, 250, and 500 Films of 2016" was authored by Martha M. Lauzen. For the past 19 years, it has tracked the top-grossing movies and bills itself as "the longest-running and most comprehensive study of women's behind-the scenes employment in film available."
According to the study, only 7% of directors among the year's top 250 grossing films were women, down from 9% in 2015.
All told, women made up 17% of all directors, writers, producers, executive producers, editors and cinematographers working on the year's top films -- a 2% drop from 2015.
For the top 500 films -- which included more independent movies -- women accounted for 19% of all directors, writers, executive producers, producers, editors and cinematographers -- also a 2% decline from 2015.
The data comes at a time when Hollywood has been pushing for greater diversity.
Kate Rees Davies is a film maker and member of the Alliance of Women Directors. Last year, she started series of panel discussions about how to broaden opportunities for women in Hollywood.
"We have a slew of men who have never directed anything being handed $150 to $200 million budgeted movies," Rees Davies said. "The Hollywood system is, 'I am a white male in my 50s or 60s, who has had a phenomenal career, and now, I'm going to mentor a younger me.'"
Rees Davies said she see glimmers of hope in partnering with people like "American Horror Story" creator Ryan Murphy, who founded the Half Foundation to mentor women, people of color and/or members of the LGBTQ community in the TV industry.
In his acceptance speech, he said "I felt I had failed" after a plan to have a woman direct an episode of "The People v. O.J. Simpson" series fell through.
"I have always had female directors on my shows, but why here didn't I feel I had a roster of women around me, who I could turn this important episode over to," he said. "Why weren't these women on speed-dial? Why did I make the choice that was easier for me, but not for the material or the world in general?"
Rees Davies said Hollywood insiders like Murphy, and the showrunners of "Queen Sugar" and "Jessica Jones" (who arranged to have entire seasons directed by women) are recognizing the need to bring more women into the fold.
At the end of the day, Rees Davies said, female directors aren't looking for special treatment. They just simply want equal treatment.
"I don't tout myself as a woman director," she said. "I am a director and I have every single right to be in the room, along with any other members of a diverse group, with these 30-something-year-old white men who are being considered."