Calling the Shots: Women and Contemporary Film Culture in the UK, was a research project that investigated what is distinctive about the work of women in British cinema and what obstacles women face in the industry.

This innovative research project ran for 15 years, conducting primary research through a detailed statistical analysis of British films from 2000-2015.

Partnering with major stakeholders within the British film and television, including the BFI, Women in Film and Television UK, BECTU, Birds Eye View, and Harbour Lights Cinema.

Project Outcomes

Calling the Shots’ research makes it undeniably clear that women are widely and consistently excluded from key creative roles in the British film industry. Analysis of the data showed that

In 2015:

  • Only 20 per cent of people working as directors, writers, producers, exec-producers, cinematographers and editors on films in production in the UK during 2015, were women.
  • Of all British films in production in the same year, 25 per cent had no women at all in any of the roles.
  • Women are under-represented across all six key production jobs, comprising only 13 per cent of directors, 20 per cent of screenwriters, 27 per cent of producers, 18 per cent of executive producers, 17 per cent of editors, and just 7 per cent of all cinematographers.
  • Of those women who are working in production roles, only seven per cent were of black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) identity. This makes BAME women less than 1.5 per cent of all key personnel on UK films in production.

Furthermore:

  • Effectively, no improvement in gender inequality was made between the years 2003 and 2015.

  • Between 2003 and 2015, only 48 BAME women directed a film out of the 3,452 made in those twelve years.

  • Comparing British data with data on American films shows that the British film industry is not any better at gender equality than Hollywood.

  • Films with women in senior decision-making roles, such as directors or producers, are more likely to have females in other key positions. The latter report, for example, found that 74 per cent of films with a female director also had a female producer, and that 69 per cent of female screenwriters worked on a film with at least one female producer.

Click to view the full details of the reports

Project Impact

Women are a drastically under-utilised resource for the UK film industry. This project investigated three interrelated areas that have distinct impacts:

  1. Detailed the precise nature of women’s employment status across different roles in the industry, relevant to funders, financiers and policy-makers.
  2. The project highlighted the importance of promoting equality in the film industry through analysis and celebration of the interesting work which is produced when women are enabled to flourish in areas of production in which they are commonly under-represented.
  3. Our research provides UK-specific information which will feed into the work of charities and organisations promoting women’s film making in the UK

The data collected produced annual reports detailing how many women worked in key production roles on British films released between 2000 – 2015, you can view them in more detail on our Reports page.

Project Interviews

We conducted interviews with 50 women in six key film making roles. The interviews were recorded and helped to build a story of women’s varied experiences in British film in the first part of this century. All recordings will be made available to future scholars through the BECTU History Project archive and on our Filmmakers Interview page.

Impact Data

The data generated by the project’s research, is frequently referred to in press coverage of inequalities in the film industry, including a Guardian piece by Ben Roberts, Director of the British Film Institute’s Film Fund.

The reports became part of the case that led to organisations such as the BFI Film Fund to support measures such as targets of 50-50 gender balance and 20% BAME representation among supported filmmakers.

Impact Events

The project hosted a range of impact events at prestigious film festivals and various universities within the UK :
Screenplay: Shetland Film Festival
The Aesthetica Short Film Festival
Southampton International Women’s Week
The Institute of Contemporary Arts
The British Film Institute
BBC Woman’s Hour
Harbour Lights Picturehouse Cinema
Bird’s Eye View Films
Women in Film and Television.

Screenplay Shetland Film Festival
Shelley and Linda interview Joanna Hogg and Clio Barnard at Screenplay in Shetland

Funding through Arts & Humanities Research Council
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Funding was achieved through a grant from the Arts & Humanities Research Council totaling £589,710.