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Movies: Past, present and future

Category: Women in Hollywood

Study: Females 'dramatically under-represented' in top 2011 films

May 15, 2012 | 12:12 am

Females were “dramatically under-represented” in the United States’ top 100 grossing films last year, accounting for 33% of all characters at a time when they made up nearly 51% of the U.S. population, according to a study being released Tuesday.

The 33% figure represented an increase over the findings of a similar study in 2002, when females comprised 28% of the movie characters, said the report from the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University.

But while there were more female characters overall, fewer of them were “clearly identifiable protagonists,” the study found -- 11% in 2011 versus 16% in 2002. “Thus, while there are more female characters on screen today, fewer stories are told from a female character’s perspective,” according to Martha Lauzen, executive director of the center.

Her title for the report: "It's a Man's (Celluloid) World."

The report mirrored a study of women's behind-the-scenes participation that the center released in January, which found that women made up 18% of all directors, producers, writers, cinematographers and editors working on the 250 highest-grossing movies last year. That was only one percentage point higher than when the center began studying employment figures in 1998.

Lauzen’s latest report said that, on average, female characters in last year’s films were younger than the male characters, less likely to be portrayed as leaders and more likely to be identified by their marital status. It said that 73% of the female characters were Caucasian, 8% African American, 5% Latina and 5% Asian (with the rest in smaller categories, including aliens and animals).


Oscar voters overwhelmingly white, male

Gender inequality still has a starring role in Hollywood

Few gains for women in key movie industry creative jobs

--Lee Margulies

Photo: Jessica Chastain, left,  and Octavia Spencer in 2011's "The Help." Credit: Dale Robinette / DreamWorks

Study: Few gains for women in key movie industry creative jobs

January 24, 2012 | 12:02 am

Despite the attention being paid to "Bridesmaids" this awards season, women are not making significant gains in the U.S. movie business, according to a report being issued Tuesday by the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University.

Women made up 18% of all directors, producers, writers, cinematographers and editors working on the top 250 highest-grossing movies last year, an uptick from the 16% figure recorded for 2009 and 2010 but only one percentage point better than when the center began compiling employment statistics in 1998, executive director Martha M. Lauzen reported.

Only 5% of the directors of last year's surveyed films were women, the center said, compared with 7% in 2010 and 9% in 1998.

Of the other jobs examined, the study found that women comprised 25% of producers, 20% of editors, 18% of executive producers, 14% of writers and 4% of cinematographers.

It also reported that among the 250 films, 96% had no female cinematographers, 94% had no female directors, 77% had no female writers, 76% had no female editors, 59% had no female executive producers and 36% had no female producers.


Sundance features a cluster of risque, female-driven comedies

Does "Bridesmaids" have a shot at Oscar gold?

Gender inequality still has a starring role in Hollywood

--Lee Margulies

Photo: The cast of "Bridesmaids." Credit: Suzanne Hanover/Universal Pictures

Hollywood history: A special archive showcases pioneering women

September 29, 2010 | 10:00 am

With women shattering some of the last remaining glass ceilings in Hollywood -- take Kathryn Bigelow's best director Oscar last March, for example -- it's interesting to look back at those who paved the way. Women in Film's Legacy Series, housed at the UCLA Film and Television Archive, is a unique interview- recording project aimed at preserving the stories of influential women in Hollywood.

Since the project was launched in 1988, 32 women have participated in the series, including Oscar-nominated actress Piper Laurie of "The Hustler" and "Carrie" fame. The 78-year-old recounted some of her memorable moments for this week's Classic Hollywood column, but more of her story is available through the Legacy Series.

Besides Laurie, other subjects have included screenwriter Anna Hamilton Phelan ("Mask"); actress/producer/director Debbie Allen; Oscar-winning editor Anne V. Coates ("Lawrence of Arabia"); Fay Wray of "King Kong"; and actress Gloria Stuart, who died this week at age 100.

Producer Ilene Kahn Power has been the chair of the series for the last decade. "When I came on board, the material wasn't accessible," she said. "So I thought to myself, 'We have to have these wonderful interviews somewhere.'" That's how the UCLA Film and Television Archive got involved in 2004. Panavision loans crews, and the subjects are filmed on the Panavision stage over two days. "We make little documentaries," Power said.

The interviews are available for public viewing at UCLA by appointment. For more information, click here

-- Susan King

Memo to all women: No half for you in Hollywood

February 23, 2010 |  5:04 pm


OK, we’re not just imagining it.

Women may make up 51% of the population, but actresses nabbed only 29.9% of the 4,379 speaking parts in the 100 top-grossing films of 2007, or so says a new study released by University of Southern California's Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism, which was conducted by professor Stacy. L Smith. 

According to Smith’s study, 83% of all directors, writers, and producers on those films were male. Not surprisingly, the number of female characters grew dramatically when a woman directed a film -- up to 44.6% from 29.3% if a man was behind the camera.

That number would probably be even lower if Smith and her team had to factor in "The Hurt Locker," from filmmaker Kathryn Bigelow, who many believe will be the first woman to win an Academy Award for directing come March 7. The number of parts for females in her movie? According to IMDB, only three of the 34 actors were women, which means they accounted around 9% of the characters on screen.

A few more numbers to consider: Smith said these statistics about women directors and female actors should be interpreted with caution -- only three of the top 100 films of 2007 had a female director.

-- Rachel Abramowitz

Photo of Kathryn Bigelow by Jonathan Olley / Summit Entertainment.


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