LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA, UNITED STATES (A.M.P.A.S. POOL) – A year after best actress winner Frances McDormand used the Oscars stage to advocate for more women in front of and behind the camera, Hollywood is celebrating some progress but remains far from reaching parity with men.
McDormand urged powerful celebrities to insist on inclusion riders, contractual provisions that require producers to consider female candidates for jobs from director to gaffer.
In the aftermath of McDormand’s speech, one major Hollywood studio – Warner Bros. – adopted policies based on the idea, and A-list stars such as Matt Damon and Michael B. Jordan, who also work as producers, committed to pushing for inclusion riders.
The publicity around inclusion riders kickstarted a nascent effort to pressure filmmakers to boost female representation.
A study released this month showed some gains. Forty of the top 100 films in 2018 featured a female as a lead character, the highest number since tracking began 12 years earlier, according to USC’s Annenberg Inclusion Initiative. Those movies included best picture nominees “A Star is Born,” “The Favourite” and “Roma.”
And 28 percent of this year’s Oscar nominees are women, the highest percentage in history.
The industry also is taking other steps to promote gender diversity.
The 4 Percent Challenge asks for a commitment to announcing at least one feature film with a female director in the next 18 months. Four percent refers to the pool of women-directed films directed among the top 1,200 movies of the past 10 years.
“For decades directors have been viewed as a male job,” said Oscar-nominated “Vice” director Adam McKay.
But he said that attitude is changing, and his production company has made five feature films with female directors.
“I think you are seeing the whole town rally around the idea that there are voices that need to heard,” he said.
Still, the industry remains far below the 50/50 parity that advocates are pushing for among on-screen talent, behind-the-scenes workers and studio executives. The number of female cinematographers is particularly low, comprising just 3 percent of last year’s 100 top-grossing films, according to data from San Diego State University.
A common refrain across the movie business is that decades of inequality makes it hard to find qualified women to fill positions.
Betsy West, co-director of Oscar-nominated documentary “RBG” about Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, rejected that argument. Key jobs on “RBG” including editor, producer and cinematographer were performed by women.
“People say ‘how did you find the people?'” West said. “It wasn’t that hard. They are out there, and you just have to look.”