Film isn't perfect, but it's bending towards progress. A new report from the USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative which studied the top 1,200 grossing films from between 2007 and 2018 found that the percentage of women directors helming top movies hasn't changed over time, staying steady at 4%. However, in the past year, the number of Black directors has significantly increased. The Annenberg Initiative has named 2018 the most intersectional assessment of directors to date.
“Sixteen of the directors of the top 100 movies last year were Black—this historically high figure is nearly three times greater than the 6 Black directors working in 2017 and twice as many as the 8 Black directors working in 2007,” said Dr. Stacy L. Smith, the author of the study and the director of the USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative.
Of the 100 movies from 2018 surveyed for the report, 16 were helmed by Black directors (14.3%). In the total time frame sampled — 2007 to 2018 — 2018 had the highest percentage of Black directors. This percentage is more than twice as high as 2017's numbers. However, this percentage is almost solely male. Ava DuVernay is the only Black woman to have directed a top-grossing film in 2018.
In fact, there were only four women directors in charge of top-grossing movies in 2018. DuVernay (A Wrinkle in Time), Kay Cannon (Blockers), Susanna Fogel (The Spy Who Dumped Me), and Abby Kohn (I Feel Pretty) are the sole four. This percentage (3.6% of directors surveyed) is almost half of 2017's 7.3%.
Clearly, women from underrepresented groups are still suffering. Of the 42 Asian American directors in the study (there were 1,335 directors), only 3 were women. Of the total 80 Black directors surveyed, only 5 were women. There is only one — one! — woman from an underrepresented group working as a film composer for every 301 composers. In 2018 alone, only 4 movies had Asian American directors, and all of those directors were men.
The USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative, established by Smith, works to ensure that film becomes increasingly diverse. The department conceived the "inclusion rider," a clause that actors and filmmakers can use to ensure their production teams are inclusive. Frances McDormand brought inclusion riders to Hollywood's attention in February of 2018, when she shouted it from the stage during her Oscars acceptance speech.