Women are directing more movies, but minorities are still being left behind

Patty Jenkins directed one of the biggest films of 2017, “Wonder Woman.”
Patty Jenkins directed one of the biggest films of 2017, “Wonder Woman.”
Image: Warner Bros.
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The directors of major US films are still overwhelmingly white and male.

Just 10% of the movies that grossed more than $250,000 at the US box office in 2017 were directed by people of color, the Directors Guild of America found in its second study of diversity behind the camera of US-produced feature films. That’s down from 13% in 2016 and 17% in 2013, which is the farthest back the data published by the Guild goes. (The Guild only broke its analysis down into “Caucasian,” “minority,” and “unknown” categories.)

The share of films directed by minorities was even lower, at 8%, among the top-earning films, those that grossed more than $10 million at the box office.

The Guild analyzed the feature films that were made under Guild agreements—141 features out of the 175 that grossed more than $250,000 in the US last year—as those were the films for which it could verify the ethnicities of the directors. It was able to verify the genders of the directors for all 175 of these films.

Women gained some ground in the last year, though there’s still a long way to go before there’s gender parity. Women directed 12% of the 175 movies studied, up from 6% five years ago. They made up an larger share—16%—of the total box office studied by the DGA, which included 651 films from 691 directors.

“These numbers hit home how the chips are stacked against women and people of color,” said Thomas Schlamme, DGA president, in the report. “There is a misconception that things are better in the smaller, indie film world, but that’s simply not the case. From financing and hiring, to distribution and agent representation—every aspect of the entire system disadvantages women and people of color.”