Celluloid ceiling

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The term celluloid ceiling is a variant on glass ceiling, and refers to women being statistically under-represented in creative positions in Hollywood. Celluloid was the material used to make the film stock that was originally used to make motion pictures in the late 1880s.


The 2013 Celluloid Ceiling Report conducted by the Center for the "Study" of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University collected a list of statistics gathered from "2,813 individuals employed by the 250 top domestic grossing films of 2012."[1]

Women accounted for...

  • "18% of all directors, executive producers, producers, writers, cinematographers, and editors. This reflected no change from 2011 and only a 1% increase from 1998."[1]
  • "9% of all directors."[1]
  • "15% of writers."[1]
  • "25% of all producers."[1]
  • "20% of all editors."[1]
  • "2% of all cinematographers."[1]
  • "38% of films employed 0 or 1 woman in the roles considered, 23% employed 2 women, 28% employed 3 to 5 women, and 10% employed 6 to 9 women."[1]

In a New York Times article it was announced that a recent study found that only 15% of the top films in 2013 had women for a lead acting role.[2] The author of the study noted that, "The percentage of female speaking roles has not increased much since the 1940s, when they hovered around 25 percent to 28 percent."

Notable women in filmmaking

According to Dr. Martha Lauzen, the executive director of the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film, "If (white) men are directing the vast majority of our films, the majority of those films will be about (white) males from a (white) male point of view."[3] The female presence in filmmaking is more significant than just employment, it contributes to a greater cultural issue. Even though there is a huge gender disparity in filmmaking, there are notable exceptions, women who have figuratively broken through the celluloid ceiling and become pioneers in their field. Leni Riefenstahl, Kathryn Bigelow, Jane Campion, Gina Prince-Bythewood, Claire Denis, Sofia Coppola, Catherine Hardwick, Amy Heckerling, Julie Taymor, and Nora Ephron are some significant female names in filmmaking today and in history.[4]

Alice Guy-Blaché

Alice Guy-Blaché is considered to be the first ever female film director, as well as the first director of a fiction film. Blaché directed her first film in 1896, La Fée aux Choux and founded Solax Studios in 1910. Over her lifetime, "she directed between 40 to 50 films and supervised nearly 300 other productions".[5]

Kathryn Bigelow

Kathryn Bigelow is an American film director, producer, screenwriter, and television director. She became the first woman to win an Academy Award for Best Director for The Hurt Locker, the Directors Guild of America Award for Outstanding Directing, the BAFTA Award for Best Direction, and the Critics' Choice Award for Best Director as well as the Saturn Award for Best Director.[6]

Jane Campion

Jane Campion is a New Zealand film director, screenwriter, and producer. She is the second of four women directors to ever be nominated for an Academy Award for Best Director, and was the first female director to win the Palme d'Or, the most prestigious award at the Cannes Film Festival.[7]

Catherine Hardwicke

Catherine Hardwicke is best known as the director of the film Twilight, with the highest grossing opening weekend of $69.6 million, the highest-ever opening for a female director.[4]

Amy Heckerling

Amy Heckerling is best known for the films Fast Times at Ridgemont High, European Vacation and Clueless. She has been awarded the Franklin J. Schaffner Medal from the American Film Institute as well as the Crystal Award from Women in Film (WIF).[4]

Amy Pascal

Amy Pascal is the Sony studio chief and is the only female head of a major studio.[8] In 1988, Pascal joined Columbia Pictures; she left in 1994 and went to work for Turner Pictures as the president of the company. In her first years at Columbia she worked on films such as Groundhog Day, Little Women, and A League of Their Own. When Pascal first started her career she was the Vice President of production at 20th Century Fox in 1986-1987. Before Pascal joined Fox, she was a secretary for Tony Garnett who was an independent producer with Warner Bros..[9]

Advocacy and awareness raising

Women in Film

Women in Film (WIF) is "a non-profit organization dedicated to helping women achieve their highest potential within the global entertainment, communications and media industries and to preserving the legacy of women within those industries. Founded in 1973, Women In Film and its Women In Film Foundation provide for members an extensive network of contacts, educational programs, scholarships, film finishing funds and grants, access to employment opportunities, mentorships and numerous practical services in support of this mission."[10] WIF is a huge organization, offering bi-monthly networking breakfasts for women in the industry, internships, classes, competitions, a PSA production program, scholarships, and much more.[11]

Women in Film and Television International

Women in Film and Television International (WIFTI) is a "global network comprised of over forty Women In Film chapters worldwide with over 10,000 members, dedicated to advancing professional development and achievement for women working in all areas of film, video and digital media."[12] The organization was founded in 1973 in Los Angeles by Tichi Wilkerson Kassel and grew quickly worldwide, hosting their first Women in Film and Television International World Summit in New York City in September 1997.[13]

Women's International Film and Arts Festival

The Women's International Film & Arts Festival (WIFF)is a "unique, cultural event featuring films, visual and performance arts and other artistic expressions by women." "Designed to promote women in the film industry and celebrate women’s accomplishments, the festival consists of panel discussions, workshops, and symposia. WIFF’s goals include empowering women of all ages to see themselves in a broader context."[14]

WITASWAN and International SWAN Day

In 2002, Jan Lisa Huttner began an organization known as WITASWAN - Women in the Audience Supporting Women Artists Now, a grassroots movement to eliminate the celluloid ceiling. Combining efforts with the WomenArts Network, WITASWAN hosts and promotes International SWAN (Supporting Women Artists Now) Day annually, beginning in 2008. Over 700 celebrations worldwide take place on the last Saturday of March, bringing people together to celebrate women artists and filmmakers. The event is designed to promote awareness of women in film and the ways that people can support them by being educated film consumers.[15]

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 1.7 Lauzen, Martha. "The Celluloid Ceiling: Behind-the-Scenes Employment of Women on the Top 250 Films of 012" (PDF). The Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film. San Diego State University. Retrieved 2013-05-20. 
  2. Buckley, Cara. "Only 15 Percent of Top Films in 2013 Put Women in Lead Roles, Study Finds". New York Times. Retrieved 2014-03-12. 
  3. "Women Face Celluloid Ceiling in U.S. Film Industry, Study Finds". The Chicago Tribune. 23 January 2013. Retrieved 3 June 2013. 
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Seldon, Laura. "10 Top Female Directors". Huff Post Women. The Huffington Post. Retrieved 27 May 2013. 
  5. "Alice Guy-Blaché". Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Encyclopædia Britannica Inc. Retrieved 30 May 2013. 
  6. "Kathryn Bigelow". The Internet Movie Database. IMDb.com Inc. Retrieved 27 May 2013. 
  7. "Jane Campion". The Internet Movie Database. IMBd.com Inc. Retrieved 27 May 2013. 
  8. Silverstein, Melissa. "Sony Head Amy Pascal on Women Directors: The Whole System is Geared for Them To Fail". Women in Hollywood. A SnagFilms Co. Retrieved 30 May 2013. 
  9. "Amy Pascal| Senior Management Team". Sony Pictures. Sony Pictures Digital Production. Retrieved 30 May 2013. 
  10. "Mission Statement". Women in Film. Women in Film. Retrieved 27 May 2013. 
  11. "Women in Film Programs". Women in Film Los Angeles. Women in Film. Retrieved 30 May 2013. 
  12. "Mission". Women in Film and Television International. Women in Film and Television International. Retrieved 27 May 2013. 
  13. "Overview". Women in Film and Television International. Women in Film and Television International. Retrieved 30 May 2013. 
  14. "Our Mission". The Women's International Film and Arts Festival. Women's International Film and Arts Festival 2013. Retrieved 3 June 2013. 
  15. "Join Us for the Seventh International Support Women Artists Now Day!". WomenArts. WomenArts. Retrieved 4 June 2013. 

External links