TIME’S UP launches new film diversity challenge

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Daphnelly Delacruz | The Ticker

Victoria Merlino

The newest Hollywood trend? Working with female directors.

Launched at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival, the #4PercentChallenge urges those involved in Hollywood’s movie industry to commit to a feature film project with a female director within the next 18 months, as part of an attempt to double the number of women in film leadership positions.

The brainchild of women’s rights organization TIME’S UP and the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative, the challenge came about after a January 2019 initiative study revealed that over the past decade, only 4 percent of directors from the top grossing 1,200 movies were female — or 46 women.

The challenge also comes on the heels of the 2019 Academy Award nominations, where no women were nominated for the best director award. Since the turn of the century, only three women have been nominated for the award.

Tessa Thompson officially announced the #4PercentChallenge at Sundance, later tweeting out, “Last night in a keynote speech at @sundanceorg I announced that I will join the @TIMESUPNOW #4percentChallenge. I will work with a female director in the next 18 months … Which male actors are with us?”Stars like Reese Witherspoon, Rashida Jones, Constance Wu, Kerry Washington and Brie Larson have already signed onto the challenge, as has Universal Pictures, through president of production Peter Kramer.

“I’m in. Wish my film ‘Paint it Black’ had a support network like this when it came out in 2016. I have many horror stories about trying to get it made and sold and seen. I bet many women filmmakers could say the same thing. Happy it’s happening now,” actress and director Amber Tamblyn wrote on Twitter about the challenge. “You know I’m in!!!!” tweeted director Jordan Peele.

“I officially accept the #4percentchallenge to announce a project with a female director on a feature film in the next 18 months. No better time to start than now with my new film #Hustlers directed by @lorenescafaria,” actress and former Baruch student Jennifer Lopez wrote on Twitter.

Other findings from the Annenberg study touched on the intersection of gender and race in the film industry. The study saw that out of the 46 female directors of the top 1,200 films, 39 were white, four were African American, two were Asian and one was Latina. Women of color were also found to comprise less than 6 percent of C-Suites, boards of directors and executive teams.

Opportunities for female directors past their first films decreased at a higher rate than male directors, the study also found.

The Annenberg Inclusion Initiative studies diversity and inclusion in entertainment through research, advocacy and action, according to its website. The initiative is affiliated with the University of Southern California Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism.