Women short changed at film festivals

Discrimination starts early for female directors.

by Jennie Kermode

Last year, only 17 of the 250 biggest films released were directed by women and women had only a third of speaking parts, so it's no secret that there's discrimination in the industry, but a new study has now emerged that has shocked many by revealing how early in their careers the problem can start. Stacy Smith looked at the short film selections at ten major film festivals and found that only a third of films included were directed by women.

Gender & Short Films: Emerging Female Filmmakers And The Barriers Surrounding Their Careers, published by the University of Southern California, looked at Cannes, Sundance, the Toronto International Film Festival, South By Southwest, the International Documentary Festival Amsterdam, the Venice Film Festival, the Berlinale, the International Film Festival Rotterdam, the New York Film Festival and Telluride. Smith examined their short film programmes between 2010 and 2014, totalling 3,933 films.

The study found that US festivals were significantly less likely to choose films by female directors, and that women were most successful in documentary categories. When women were interviewed about the problem, 61% said that finding finance had been a problem in their careers, and that this was still more difficult when their films focused on female characters or on subjects considered feminine.

Suzy Starke German of Lunafest, which partnered Smith on the study, said that the data could make it easier to identify ways of redressing the imbalance. Short films are particularly important because they are where most directors get started, and festival success with a short film can make it much easier to raise finance for a feature. Nevertheless, the disparity in figures reveals that even when women do get their short films noticed at festivals, they are six times less likely than their male counterparts to progress from there to directing big budget films.

Share this with others on...

The turning point Wendy Makkena on Tom Hanks, Chris Cooper and Matthew Rhys in A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood

Decisive moments Evelyn Schels on Marina Abramovic, Sigalit Landau, Shirin Neshat and Katharina Sieverding in Body Of Truth

Sense memories Robert Tinnell on Feast Of The Seven Fishes and family memories

Keeping his word Michael Apted in conversation on 63 Up

Talking about juxtapositions Thom Powers on dreams, fashion, identity, nature and bright spotlights in DOC NYC

Dedicated to DA Pennebaker Thom Powers on Martin Scorsese, Michael Apted, the Masters and Winner’s Circle in the tenth edition

More news and features

We're bringing you coverage of Tallinn Black Nights, Welsh horror spectacular Abertoir and the French Film Festival.

We've recently been at the London Korean Film Festival and DOC NYC, the Valencia Film Festival, New York's NewFest, the Cambridge Film Festival, the New York Film Festival, the London Film Festival, the Iris Prize Festival in Cardiff, and Manchester's Grimmfest.

Read our full for more.

Visit our festivals section.


More competitions coming soon.