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Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Amma Asante, and James Norton on the set of 'Belle'
David Appleby—Fox Searchlight

Here’s the latest surprise-free report from the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University: most people who make movies are men, even in the more open world of film festivals. The Center, led by Martha Lauzen, is the source of scads of research confirming what’s not so difficult to guess — that filmmaking is far from equal on the gender front.

Their latest “Independent Women” report, released May 6, looked at domestically and independently produced feature-length films (narrative and documentary) that showed at about two dozen American film festivals during the 2013-2014 festival season. The researchers counted up the directors, writers, producers, executive producers, editors and cinematographers.

Among the movies considered, the gender breakdown was:

  • Producer was the most equal — one-third are women. (Cinematographers, at 10% female, were least.)
  • Women made up 23% of directors considered and 22% of writers, both down slightly from 2011-12 and up from 2008-2009.
  • Though the percentage of women working on documentaries decreased from 2011-12 in most roles, the world of documentaries is still far more equal than the world of narrative film. Among directors, for example, 28% of the documentary directors were women (the same number as in 2008-9) whereas 18% were women among narrative directors.

Even though the numbers aren’t all that impressive — women only made up about a quarter of those people when taken all together, which is no improvement from the 2011-2012 season — the results were dubbed “stunning” (in a good way, based on the context) by the Center when compared to mainstream, high-grossing films. Among the directors of those blockbusters, for example, only 6% were women.

As Lauzen pointed out to The Hollywood Reporter, only one of this summer’s upcoming studio movies (Jupiter Ascending, from the Wachowskis) was even co-directed by a woman — and festival movies don’t always get seen by larger audiences, which isn’t good for the women who are making a dent in these figures.

But some festival movies directed by women are making it to theaters in the next few weeks, and so audiences who want to endorse female filmmakers can keep an eye out for titles like these:

Belle: In theaters now, directed by Amma Asante

Palo Alto: In theaters May 9, directed by Gia Coppola

Fed Up: In theaters May 9, directed by Stephanie Soechtig

Night Moves: In theaters May 30, directed by Kelly Reichardt

Obvious Child:In theaters June 6, directed by Gillian Robespierre

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Write to Lily Rothman at

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