A new report revealed racial diversity among directors hit a five-year low in 2017, while female director numbers increased. The call for more diversity has increased in recent years, with movie fans wanting to see more people of color and white women in significant creative roles like director, producer and writer. While there may be more high-profile films directed by non-white men – like Patty Jenkins’ Wonder Woman – 2017 actually saw Hollywood hit a five-year low in terms of diversity among movie directors.
The 10 highest grossing films of 2017 were Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Beauty and the Beast, The Fate of the Furious, Despicable Me 3, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, Spider-Man: Homecoming, Warrior Wolf 2, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Thor: Ragnarok and Wonder Woman. Warrior Wolf 2 was the only non-Hollywood produced film; of these movies only Fate, and Warrior Wolf 2 were directed by minorities and only Wonder Woman was produced by a woman. Now, a new report offers more insight into the actual breakdown.
According to the report from the Directors Guild of America, only 9.7 percent of films with a box office take of at least $250,000 were directed by minorities, down 46 percent since 2013. However, female director numbers increased as the number of female directors doubled since 2013. Twenty women directed 12.2 percent of films that grossed $250,000 or more last year. In 2017, women accounted for 22 directors, and minorities accounted for 14 directors. Also, minorities directed only one of the 13 films released by the major studios and their subsidiaries last year that grossed between $250,000 and $10 million.
However, for female directors, these numbers still are not representative of the population. Women only accounted for 16 percent of all directors for movies last year. None of last year’s 13 live-action feature films produced by major studios that grossed between $250,000 and $10 million were produced by women. Of the 67 directors who were on films that earned more than $10 million, seven were women. The survey did not account for documentaries or animated films.
But these numbers do not take into account the kind of stories being told, or the diversity of the characters on screen. Coco might have been directed by Lee Unkrich, who is white, but featured an all-Latino cast and focused on the Mexican holiday of Dia de Los Muertos and the movie was hugely successful. Saban’s Power Rangers featured a diverse group of teens who gain superpowers. Hidden Figures was the biographical tale of black female mathematicians who worked at NASA. And of course, Get Out, one of the most talked about movies of the year was horror movie about a black man who finds out his white girlfriend and her family are harboring a sinister secret.
And if this year’s box office is any indication, the diversity will rise: Black Panther, currently the second-highest grossing movie of the year, was directed by Ryan Coogler and is also the third highest grossing movie of all time; Ava DuVerney’s A Wrinkle in Time grossed $132.3 million. And there are still plenty of other movies to come: BlacKkKlansman, Crazy Rich Asians and Spider-Man: Into the SpiderVerse, which will be the film debut of Mile Morales.
This does not mean things are perfect, nor that women and minorities do not face exclusion behind the camera. The best way to ensure that films get more diverse, in actors, stories and directors is to support diverse films in any way possible.
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