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Only 26% European features directors are women, the latest European Audiovisual Observatory report finds


Although the disclosed figures are far from depicting an ideal scenario, some progress has been made in most of the countries surveyed by the study

Only 26% European features directors are women, the latest European Audiovisual Observatory report finds

Last week, the European Audiovisual Observatory (EAO) published the 2023 edition of its report “Female professionals in European film production,” authored by Patrizia Simone.

The new study addresses the presence of women among film professionals and tackles three main questions: How are women represented among active professionals? What is the average share of female professionals per film? What is the share of works by a majority of female professionals? 

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In detail, the analysis draws on data from the EAO’s LUMIERE database and covers European features produced between 2013 and 2022 and released in European theatres over the same time period, “leaving out compilations of short films and event cinema screenings” and examining animated features separately from fiction features. The geographic scope of the research includes the 46 member states of the Council of Europe, and surveyed professionals are directors, screenwriters, cinematographers, composers, editors and leading actors.

The first key finding is that women still represent a minority of film professionals working in key roles behind the camera. In particular, “between 2018 and 2022, women only accounted for 26% of all directors of European feature films,” and “the gender gap was more pronounced among cinematographers and composers, where women only represented 11% and 10% of the workforce, respectively. In turn, the female share was higher among producers (35%) and screenwriters (29%).” Conversely, “the gender ratio appears to be more balanced ‘on screen,’ with actresses accounting for 41% of all acting professionals starring in at least one lead role in a feature film.”

Next, the study finds that the proportion of women among active professionals has been slowly progressing over the years, with significant differences across European countries, spanning more inclusive countries like Iceland, Norway and Austria (where the share of women directors is well above 30%) and countries where women have a hard time taking the helm of features such as Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria and Turkey (all below 15%).

More broadly, “women worked on fewer films, and worked in teams more often than men.” In particular, “the average levels of activities registered for female professionals were slightly lower than for their male counterparts,” and “this was true for all professional roles in the study sample except editors.” “Taking the example of directors, only 22% of women in the sample directed more than one film between 2013 and 2022, compared to 28% for men,” the report further explains.

The tendency of forming teams more often than men made it less likely “for female professionals to be the sole professional credited in a given role for a film.” This tendency is crystal clear, for example, when it comes to screenwriters, since “only 33% of feature films were written by one individual female screenwriter compared to 43% films by only one male writer.” Besides, women are more likely to work in gender-mixed teams. For example, 86% of features were penned in collaboration with at least one male colleague.

Coming up next, the research highlights that “the presence of a woman as a film’s co-director is linked to increased female representation in film crews.” The research shows, for instance, that for features directed by at least one woman, the average share of female screenwriters per film was 77% (compared to 28% for films in general), and this figure dropped to 48% when excluding features penned and helmed by the same person. 

Finally, documentary is the genre boasting the strongest female presence (31% between 2018 and 2022), followed by live action fiction (21%) and animation (20%).

The full report can be accessed here

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