More women and people of color are starting on the path toward making movies by entering their works into the Sundance Film Festival, a new analysis of the festival’s submission data found.
Among submissions for the 2017 and 2018 festivals, 28 percent of the feature-length films and episodic works submitted to Sundance had at least one woman director, according to an analysis created by the USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative and announced Friday at a panel discussion at the festival.
Women directors who had films at Sundance in 2017 included Dee Rees (“Mudbound”), Zoe Lister-Jones (“Band Aid”) and Amanda Lipitz (“Step”). In 2018, Sundance debuted works from such women directors as Debra Granik (“Leave No Trace”), Betsy West and Julie Cohen (“RBG”), and Cathy Yan (“Dead Pigs”). Yan is signed to direct a DC Comics movie centered on the cult character Harley Quinn.
Among short films submitted in those two years, the USC Annenberg study found, 34.1 percent had at least one woman director.
Sundance organizers calculated that the numbers for the submissions for this year’s festival showed more improvement. Among the submissions, 31 percent of the feature films had a woman director, and 35 percent of the episodic programs and shorts did.
Of the feature films and episodic works that were accepted into the 2019 festival, Sundance reported, 41 percent had a woman director, and 52 percent of the short films did — for a combined total of 45 percent.
The USC Annenberg team, led by Stacy L. Smith, also looked at the numbers for women and people of color taking part in Sundance’s other programs. For example, the study found 55 percent of the participants in Sundance’s Filmmakers Lab were women, and 60 percent were people of color.
“This study shows us where the pipeline for women and people of color is robust and where more support is needed,” Smith said in a statement. “The gains we saw for women over the past decade reveal that change is possible and where more support is needed.”
The full report is available online.
The festival’s new director of programming is Kim Yutani, one of the few women and people of color to hold such a job at a major festival. Among the 56 films in the festival’s four main competitions at the 2019 festival now underway, 42 percent of the 61 directors are women, 39 percent are people of color and 23 percent identify as LGBTQIA. In the U.S. Dramatic competition, the festival’s most buzzed-about program, there are more women directors than men.