When future film scholars look back on 2015, hopefully they will single it out as the Year of the Woman in Hollywood. That's not to say that it's the year that women hit their peak, by any means, or that women were in charge of the biggest and best films -- but the year that things finally started to change for women.
In May, the ACLU announced that it was launching a civil rights investigation into the lack of female directors in film and television, citing dismal statistics: only 1.9 percent of the 100 top-grossing films in 2013 and 2014 were directed by women, and only 14 percent of TV episodes were directed by women.
Further studies and reporting have only reinforced the grim reality for female filmmakers. Kathryn Bigelow, the only woman to ever win a Best Directing Oscar, called the scene for women in Hollywood a "horrific situation," with the ACLU adding that in some respects women are less represented in film than in the traditionally male-centric military.
Then a new study released in October expanded the data set, looking at the top 700 films of last year. By broadening the field to include more films and indies that didn't blow up the box office, surely there would be more women in charge, right? Yes, but barely: the study counted female crew members overall, and only 20 percent of the personnel were women, taking the whole field of films into consideration. Of the top 250 films, only 17 percent were staffed with women. So indie movies -- films with a traditionally smaller budget, or not as wide of a release -- are better about hiring women, but not by much at all.
With that in mind, if you've ever seen a movie with any kind of reporter in it, you've surely heard someone somberly advise a cub reporter to "follow the money." So in examining the dire gender gap in Hollywood, MTV News did exactly that. How much is Hollywood investing in women?
Not much at all, as it turns out.
In 2014, only 1.35 percent of the reported overall combined budgets of the top 100 highest-grossing films went to movies directed by women.
Out of approximately $6.3 billion shelled out on the top 100 films of 2014 (according to statistics from Box Office Mojo), only $85 million was spent on female-directed films.
Oh, and of the top 100 films of that year, only two, "Selma" and "Unbroken," were directed by women.
Investing in women doesn't just mean hiring female directors, either. It takes a small army to make any film, and, as it turns out, the leaders of those platoons are overwhelmingly not female.
In addition to the two films with female directors in our dataset, we crunched the numbers to find out about representation from what's generally considered a movie's senior staff: directors, as mentioned; producers and executive producers; writers; editors; and cinematographers.
Of those top 100 films, 70 films had credited female producers or executive producers, 17 had credited female editors, only 16 films had credited female writers and exactly none of the films of the 100 highest-grossing movies of 2014 had a credited female cinematographer.
It's safe to say that the gender gap in Hollywood extends much, much further than just the director's chair.
If having 70 films with female producers sounds not so bad to you, consider this: that statistic only reflects that 70 of the films had at least one woman in a producer or executive producer role, not that 70 films had an entirely female producing team. That means that 30 films had only male producers. And none of the films in last year's top 100 had a fully female producer roster.
Half of film school grads are women, so there's clearly no lack of credentialed female filmmakers around. The question lingers: why aren't they getting the top jobs? How is it possible that such a tiny portion of positions are going to women, and in the case of cinematography, none of the sample set. None of the top 100 films had a woman in every category (directors, producers, writers, editors and cinematographers), nor did any of the films have women in four of the categories. Three films ("Divergent," "Annie" and "About Last Night") boast at least one woman in three categories. And of the top 100, 45 had only one category with at least one woman on the job.
Twenty-seven films -- more than a quarter of last year's highest grossing movies -- had no women in any of the categories at all.
It's clear: Hollywood's woman problem is pervasive, and change is essential.
These are top-line positions, and the lack of women occupying them in the year's banner films is troubling. It's not possible to parse how much the women in these lead production roles are getting paid using public information, and we also can't know how that compares to the compensation for men in the same jobs. But one thing is clear: if the budgets being put into movies created by women are exponentially smaller, the compensation must, by default, be smaller as well.
No matter how many women are in junior roles, the dearth of ladies in charge proves that the celluloid ceiling is real, and that the issue goes way, way beyond directors. To make change, Hollywood needs to invest in women. This means hiring them for top jobs, entrusting them with the budgets to make good movies, and making gender diversity the new norm.
So, if the people who make these decisions are listening: here's to the Year of the Woman.