Women have low representation behind-the-camera with only 10% head of department (HOD) positions across key divisions (production design, writing, editing, direction and cinematography) held by women, according to a report by media consulting firm, Ormax Media and entertainment platform, Film Companion titled O Womaniya! 2022. The report is supported by Prime Video and highlights on-screen and off-screen representation of women, by analysing 150 theatrical films, streaming films and series released in 2021 across eight Indian languages (Hindi, Telugu, Tamil, Malayalam, Kannada, Punjabi, Bengali and Gujarati).
Out of the 56 theatrical films analysed across languages, not even one was directed or edited by a woman. Even in media and entertainment corporate houses, that are at the center of decision-making, only 10% of senior leadership roles were held by women, having a cascading effect on inclusivity through the production and execution chain.
Only 55% of the films and series passed the Bechdel Test. Even in promotional trailers analysed through the Trailer Talk Time Test, women had only 25% talk time with 48 titles even allocating 10 seconds or less to female characters. The Bechdel Test, conceptualised by Alison Bechdel in 1985, is seen as an internationally-accepted yardstick on gender representation in content. A film is considered to have passed the Bechdel Test if it has at least one scene in which two named women are speaking, and the conversation is about something other than men/ a man. For streaming series, the criterion was modified to include three scenes, given their longer runtime. While Trailer Talk Time is a test created exclusively for O Womaniya! In this test, the main trailer of the film or series is analysed and classified by the speaking time allotted to the male and female characters. The test reports % speaking time that was owned by female characters. The test gives an insight into how producers and platforms are marketing content. At 75% trailer talk time being controlled by male characters, the results suggest that properties are being pitched from a male POV in their marketing.
According to the report, the percentage of female HODs doubled when a woman greenlit a series or a film. Similarly, a higher percentage of films passed the Bechdel Test (68%) and women had higher trailer talk time (35%) if the title was commissioned by a woman.
The report has received collaboration from multiple entities within the media and entertainment industry. This includes industry bodies like the Producers Guild of India and Active Telugu Film Producers Guild, streaming services like hoichoi, SonyLIV, Voot and ZEE5, along with film studios such as Clean Slate Filmz, Dharma Productions, Emmay Entertainment, Excel Entertainment, Purple Pebble Pictures, RSVP and Sikhya Entertainment.
The report studied the representation and participation of women across three major categories – ‘content’ that included female representation on-screen and behind-the-camera, ‘marketing’ that studied female representation in promotional trailers of films and series, and ‘corporate’ that analysed female representation in board rooms of top 25 media and entertainment firms.
It also highlighted that streaming films and series performed better than theatrical films across all parameters indicating the change the sector is ushering in representation on and off-screen. For instance, representation of female HODs in streaming films and series was five times higher than theatrical films. Similarly, 64% of streaming series and 55% of streaming films passed the Bechdel Test, as opposed to more than half of theatrical films failing it. Likewise, streaming films and series provided more talk time to female characters in trailers, leading theatrical films by 10 percentage points and 14 percentage points respectively.
“While it’s no surprise that female representation in mainstream entertainment is low, the degree of skew, such as 10:90 on some key parameters, should be a wake-up call. While streaming titles, especially series, are more women-inclusive in on and off-screen representation, theatrical films continue to perform very poorly, and in fact, have shown no positive growth at all since the previous report, which covered content released in 2019 and 2020. We hope that this report serves as a starting point for the industry to come together and discuss ways to address the evident imbalance,” Shailesh Kapoor, founder-CEO, Ormax Media, stated on the launch of the report.