Study Says Female Filmmakers Made Major Gains in 2019

Lulu Wang, Lorene Scafaria, Melina Matsoukas and Greta Gerwig led Hollywood to a record year for women in film directing. In 2019, women directed more of the most popular movies than in any year before.

Women directed 12 of the top 100 most profitable films in 2019. That is the finding of a study released Thursday by USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative. That percentage of female filmmakers, 10.6, is greater than researchers have recorded before. It suggests change is finally coming to a film industry where inequality in directing has remained common.

The past high in USC’s yearly study was eight percent, in 2008. In 2018, only 4.5 percent of the year’s top films were directed by women.

“This is the first time we have seen a shift in hiring practices for female film directors in 13 years,” said Stacy L. Smith, a writer of the study. She noted that Universal Pictures alone had five films with women directors in the top 100 movies.

The success of several of these films had already made 2019 a historic one for women. Wang’s The Farewell is one of the year’s most popular independent releases.

Also on the list was Matsoukas’ Queen & Slim and Gerwig’s Little Women.

Frozen II with $1.2 billion in worldwide ticket sales, is close to setting a new box-office record for a movie directed by a woman. Jennifer Lee, who co-directed, set the record with the first Frozen film. Other notable films included Kasi Lemmons’ Harriet, Tina Gordon’s Little and Jill Culton’s Abominable.

USC researchers singled out Universal Pictures, where women directed 26 percent of the studio’s films last year. Universal’s chief, Donna Langley, is the only woman to lead a major movie studio.

Paramount Pictures, in contrast, has not released a female-directed movie in the last five years.

Films from the streaming company Netflix largely bypass theaters so they remain outside the study’s limits. However, women directed 20 percent of Netflix’s 2019 movies.

The Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University released a separate study Thursday. It examined women in the top films as not just directors but writers, producers, executive producers, editors, and cinematographers. Women accounted for 20 percent of all such work in 2019's top films, up from 16 percent the year before.

Study author Martha Lauzen suggested there is still room for improvement. She said in a statement, “While the numbers moved in a positive direction this year, men continue to outnumber women 4 to 1” in important non-acting positions.

Also of note, female filmmakers have been largely ignored in this awards season. The Hollywood Foreign Press Association’s Golden Globe Awards this Sunday is an example. No women are among the nominees for best director. No films directed by women are among nominees for the best picture, either.

Rebecca Goldman is the chief operating officer of the anti-discrimination group Time’s Up. She said the lack of women nominees is unacceptable.

“This year, there have been twice as many women-led features than ever, with more films by female directors on the way,” Goldman said. “Women — and especially women of color — continue to be pushed to the sidelines by a system that holds women back, on-screen and off.


Discuss the following vocabulary with your teacher

shift -n. to go through a change​

  • He asked if he could swap his shift with his colleague as he needed a day off.

practice -n. something that is done often or regularly​

  • The only way that I will get better at this is if I practice it every day.

ticket -n. a piece of paper that permits you to see a show, take part in an event, travel in a vehicle, etc.​

  • All the tickets for the 'Love Wins/ concert is sold out already

author -n. a person who has written something​

  • As a copy-editor I work with many authors to perfect their books.

on-screen -adj. in a motion picture or a television program​

  • Ryan Gosling admitted that she was his favorite on-screen kiss.



Answer the following questions about the article.

  1.  Name three of the best female filmmakers in Hollywood?
  2. From the top 100 profitable movies, how many of them were directed by a woman?
  3. How much money did Frozen 2 make?
  4. What are other notable films directed by female filmmakers?


Make a sentence

Make a sentence using the following words

  • shift
  • practice
  • ticket
  • author
  • on-screen


Have a discussion about the following questions

  1. What are some of your favorite movies?
  2. Do you know how many of them were directed by female filmmakers?
  3. Who is your favorite actress?
  4. Do you feel that this issue is in any other work environment as well?