During the Year of “Barbie,” Female Filmmakers were Represented Less

Behind-the-scenes as a woman filmmaker works

Guest blog by Youth Advisory Council Member Rebekah Grace de Guzman

2023 was a record-breaking year for women working behind the scenes, with Greta Gerwig’s Barbie becoming the highest-grossing film with a female director, and other women-directed films (e.g., Celine Song’s Past Lives, Sofia Coppola’s Priscilla, and Emerald Fennell’s Saltburn) becoming points of discussion, along with Taylor Swift’s and Beyonce’s tour films. Sadly, despite all of this, statistics show there has been little progress in the advancement of women in key creative roles in the film industry.

According to a recently released study done by the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University, only 16% of the 250 top-grossing films of 2023 were directed by women, which is a decrease from 18% in 2022. Additionally, 22% of all directors, writers, producers, executive producers, editors, and cinematographers working on these same films were women– yet another dip from 24% in 2022. The study also found that when a women director is leading the charge in a production, there is a significant increase of female creatives involved.

Dr. Martha M. Lauzen, who is the Executive Director of the Center (and an expert featured in Miss Representation) writes, “It’s the ultimate illusion, Greta Gerwig’s well-deserved triumph belied the gender inequality that pervades the mainstream film industry.” This is underscored by the finding that only 4% of the top films employed ten or more women, compared to 75% that employed ten or more men.

As evidenced by the records set by Barbie, women’s voices and stories are wanted on the silver screens. We must take these statistics and continue to encourage and platform the women creatives in our lives so that we can see those stories told.

Rebekah Grace de Guzman is a high school student aspiring to become a filmmaker for social change. Growing up as a Filipino-American in northeast LA, she has always had a special interest in writing stories and has hopes to use those talents in video production. She wants to use these skills to fight societal issues and lift voices who don’t have the power to speak for themselves. In 2023, she was a part of Girls’ Voices Now and with her classmates created a short documentary called The Beauty in Being Different, which explores how the Western beauty standard negatively impacts young women of color. Later, she created The Pressure In-Between, a short documentary that chronicles the pressures teenagers experience, how they affect them, and how they overcome them.