The statistics for the female share for 2017 are now ready. Like in earlier years, we see great fluctuations from year to year, but this is not necessarily an indication of real or permanent changes in the film industry as a whole. The Norwegian Film Institute works towards a better gender balance in the Norwegian film industry: the goal is 50/50 within 2020.
Gender balance in Norwegian films for 2017 – brief summary
- Theatrically released films: the female share in projects granted production support for films for theatrical release (feature films and documentaries) in 2017 is 33.6 percent. This is an increase from 2016 when the female share was 31.7 percent. If we disregard documentaries and look at feature films only, the female share is 40.6 percent. This is a strong increase compared to 2016 when the female share for feature films was 31.1 percent.
- Documentaries: the female share in projects granted production support for documentaries in 2017 is 35 percent. This is a decrease from 2016 when it was 53.9 percent.
- Short films: the female share in projects granted production support for short films in 2017 is 55.6 percent. This is an increase from 2016 when the female share was 43.3 percent.
- Premiering films: the female share in theatrically released films (feature films and documentaries) premiering in 2017 is 30.8 percent. This is a decrease from 2016 when the female share was 33.3 percent. If we only look at films with advance funding from the NFI, the female share is 35.7 percent.
- Premiering films: the female share in leading parts in feature films premiering in 2017 is 27 percent. This is a decrease from 2016 when the female share was 30 percent.
Statistics on a short-term and long-term basis
As regards the statistics for the share of women and men in the film industry, it is necessary to emphasize that there might be big fluctuations from year or year, but this does not necessarily indicate real or permanent changes in the film industry as a whole. A relatively low number of films are produced per year, and the figures are therefore very sensitive to random variations. In several areas 2014 was a top year so far as regards the number of women in key positions, but this did not seem to signal any permanent change. Conversely, 2016 saw the lowest female share in feature films with production support since 2011, but fortunately this was not repeated in 2017. Looking at documentaries only, however, the picture is the opposite: in 2016 the number of women in key position was the highest ever recorded (53.9%), while in 2014 it was the lowest (36.4%), for the five-year period 2012-2016. All of these figures can each in themselves provide valuable information, but figures for a single format or year say little about how the situation actually is developing. In order to reach our goal, the gender balance has to improve and be maintained for a period of time for the total mass of both applications and funding for all formats.
The female share in films is measured on three levels
1) The female share in the key positions of director, screenwriter and producer in projects granted production support (for films for theatrical release, short films and documentaries) in the pertinent year.
2) The female share in the key positions of director, screenwriter and producer in films premiering in the pertinent year, and
3) The female share of leading parts in films premiering in the pertinent year.
Female share on the funding level
Films for theatrical release
The female share in films for theatrical release (feature films and documentaries) that received production funding in 2017 was 33.6%, an increase from the previous year and on the same level of 2015, but far lower than the record year of 2014. The share is about the same in the total number of applications as in the total funding. Contrary to most of the earlier years, the share is higher for the director role (37.5%) than the producer role (33.3%), and a bit lower for screenwriters (30.0%). Excluding documentaries for theatrical release, the total female share in key positions for films for theatrical release increases to 40.6%, with 42.3% female directors and 48.6% female producers.
Because 2017 was the first year when moderate gender quotas was practised in the market initiative, it becomes especially interesting to follow the figures for these films in the future. For 2017 the female share was 37.4% – with a clear margin the highest figure measured so far for this initiative. Among the applications the share was more than 30%. In addition to noticing that the figures are almost double the average for the earlier years, we must not forget that we are talking about very few films. Therefore it is necessary to wait for a while before we decide how well the initiative is working, even though it looks promising at first glance.
For documentaries the figure is the lowest since 2011, with 35% women totally for all key positions. The figure is considerable higher for the films that received funding than for the total number of applications, where the female share was 27.6%.
Short films, on the other hand, show good figures, with 55.6% women in key positions for films that received production support. This is twelve percent points higher than for the total number of applications.
Female share in premiering films – key positions
There are no big changes to see in the figures for women in key positions among premiering films in 2017, which can be found in table 5. In total, the female share is higher than 30%, a bit lower than for 2016. If we disregard documentaries for theatrical release, the figure sinks to 24%. For films that received advance funding from the NFI, the share is still around ten percent points higher than for films without advance funding. For films for theatrical release with advance funding the figures have been fluctuating between 35% and 45% for the last five years, while for films without advance funding there has been a bigger change, mainly in a negative direction (table 6). This is to be expected, since it is through the granting of advance funding that the NFI can perform prioritisations to increase the female share. There are considerably more female producers than directors, which has been the case for premiering films in the previous years, and the same goes for projects that received production support in 2015 and 2016.
The female share in premiering films – leading parts
2017 was the second year for which statistics were compiled for the gender balance for leading parts in Norwegian films for theatrical release. As table 7 shows, there is no meaningful difference between the total figures for 2016 and 2017. The statistics confirm what earlier investigations have found, that it is still the case that females are under-represented on the big screen. Of a total of 27 feature films, only six films have a female protagonist, while three more films have both women and men in the leading parts. The last 18 films have male protagonists only.
For children's films the picture is nevertheless somewhat better than in 2016: three of the eight children's films with theatrical premieres in 2017 had one or more female protagonists, even though none had female leading parts only. Three of them had male protagonists only, while the last two films had vessels with distinctly male features in the leading roles.
The share of women behind the camera and on the big screen is lower than the gender balance in both the population and the workforce should indicate. So it seems that women are systematically under-represented in the film industry, and in the stories produced by it. The last few years have seen a cautious development in a positive direction, which has to be maintained and strengthened in order to reach the goal of full equality.
With full equality we mean an industry where film-makers are free from negative reactions on the basis of gender, have an equal power to influence matters regardless of being men or women – and that women and men fully experience being operators of equal weight within the industry. We think this is necessary to achieve a lasting and stable gender balance, with as many women as men in positions of power, as many women as men both before and behind the camera – and a diversity of films telling stories that both girls and boys, and women and men, can identify with. The NFI's goal is 50/50 within 2020!
There is still much work left in order to understand the reasons for a relatively low female share in the film industry, and to identify and further develop the initiatives that help us to reach a better gender balance. In order to secure a thorough knowledge about the situation and following up on the work to make things better, 2018 will also see a special report about the gender balance of Norwegian films with a more detailed statistics that what is presented here.
During the fall of 2017 the NFI organised a seminar discussing the consequences of the fact that large parts of the population are under-represented in and on film, and the measures that ought to be implemented to do something about it. A recording of parts of the seminar can be seen here: "Let's talk about sex! How can we achieve a better gender balance in Norwegian films?"
In the NFI action plan for a better gender balance (2016) you can read more about the NFI's work towards a better gender balance within the film industry.