An Actress's Thoughts

German Cinema 2015: Top 100 Films, 12 Team Positions

The 100 most successful German films 2012-2015

6- and 12-Team Positions-Check

(Figures at the end of the text)

I am regularly asked why I haven’t been to my local pub’s karaoke night any more since February.
One reason for this is the publication of a list with Germany’s 100 top grossing films 2015 by the FFA / German Federal Film Board during the Berlinale Berlin International Film Festival in February. Since then I have been evaluating the list in my spare time, assessing the share of women for 12 team positions, or rather the persons in charge. That shouldn’t be too many film people and they certainly all deserve a public mention (which would make my research easier at the same time). But unfortunately they are rarely listed completely in any of the film data bases I use – filmportal, crew united and IMBD. Sometime it’s even a little ironic when the first manager is missing but the put the names of the location and set manager and the assistant to the (not mentioned) unit manager. Luckily however I am able to close most gaps by checking the films’ official websites, calling the production companies or browse the archive of casting-network for missing casting directors.
In some cases the gaps remain empty, for example because animated films don’t use a costume designer or a unit manager, and documentaries don’t need casting directors. On the other hand there were cases with more than one person for a category, for example producers or script writers, DoP or music, so in the end I probably came up with more than 1,200 names.
(Sometimes the information on a team position would differ in the different sources, and despite working as dilligently as I can on all this I cannot rule out own errors, but I hope they are unnoticeably small, I do recalculate everything more than twice. Still, no liability assumed!)
Anyway, halfway through this data assembling I thought it would be nice to compare the 2015 with that of 2014, so I did some additional research because for that year I had investigated less team positions (The Top German Films 2014). And for 2012 and 13 (The Top Grossing German Films 2012: Comedy over Crime and A Bad Year for Female Directors – the 100 Top Grossing Films 2013) I raised the evaluated team positions from 3 (director, script writer, producer) to 6.

And therefore it’s now the end of May already.

The Evaluation

 Which team positions are investigated in the 6-, 11- or 12-departments-checks?

  • 6 departments = director, script, producer, DoP, editor, casting
  • 12 departments = director, 1st assistant director, script, producer, 1st unit manager, DoP, set design, costume design, editor, sound, music, casting.
  • 11 departments = 12 departments minus director.

The Figures

  • 2015 Top 20 and Top 100 German films: 12-departments-check
  • 2014 / 2015 Top 20 and Top 100 German films, 12-departments-check
  • 2012 to 2015 Top 20: 6-departments-check
  • 2012 to 2015 Top 100: 6-departments-check
  • 2015 Top 100: 11-departments-check, for female and for male directors
  • 2014 Top 100: 11-departments-check, for female and for male directors
  • 2015 Top 100: directors and scripts (own and others’)
  • 2014 Top 100: directors and scripts (own and others’)
  • 2015 / 2016 Nominations for German Film Awards: 12-departments-check

This time I hardly used light blue and pink, and instead five colours for the different years, in full for the Top 100 and striped for the Top 20.

Some Databases

Some Results

  • In 2015 the most films by female (46,2 %) and male directors (40,2 %) belong to the genre feature film / comedy. In second positions it’s feature film / drama (23,1 % / 22,0 %) followed by documentaries (15,4 % / 8,5 %). If we sum up all children’s film genres (adventure, animated, drama, fantasy-mystery, comedy) they take third place (15,4 % / 17,1 %).
  • The by far highest shares of women can be found in costume design and casting. At the same time these are the only investigated positions with a female majority. For casting it’s > 75 % for the Top 100 films 2012 to 15 and for costume design >70 % for 2014 and 15. In all other departments the female share remains below 40 %. For 8 of 12 departments the share of women for the Top 100 films remains below 30 % (director, 1st assistant director, producer, 1st unit manager, DoP, editor, sound, music).
  • Camera / DoP: here we find the most distinct difference when we compare the top 20 and top 100 films for all four years. Sonja Rom (SAPHIRBLAU, 2014) was the only female DoP to be found in the Top 20, for the four Top 100 groups the share of female DoPs is between 6 and 8,7 %.
  • Editing! Again, in 2015 the share of female editors is surprisingly low (Top 20: 4,2 to 18,2 %, Top 100: 29,4 to 31,5 %). As a reference we can take the share of female editors in their union (61,7 %) or in the crew united database (37,2 %). In some earlier investigations of groups of TV-films resulted in values between 45 and 60 % (Top 20 TV films and German TV awards nominations 2012 and 13). So what is going on? In analogous times film editing was traditonally a woman’s job (at least in Germany). So how come the men pushed them aside? Are men better at digital stuff, especially for commercially successful fllms? Do male directors prefer working with male editors? There is a difference between the share of female cutters in films directed by women (2014 / 15: 56,6 % / 38,5 %) and by men (22,2 % / 31,9 %). Definitely a topic for further investigation.
  • 10 women and 20 men are responsible for the scripts of the 20 top grossing films 2015. The share of women (33,3 %) is much higher than in preceding years and also higher than that of the top 100 films 2015. So indeed women are able to (co-)write successful stories. And not only scripts for children (children / adventure), they also turn up in the top 20 in the genres feature film / comedy, feature film / drama, children / anime and feature film / action (categories as used by FFA).
    In comparison: the share of female script writers in the crew united database is 36,9 % and 40,2 % in their union (also refer to It’s the Men that write the Scripts).
  • In films with a female director the share of female DoPs, editors and sound mixers is considerably higher, the share of female scriptwriters is more than 55 %. Female directors realized own scripts more often than male directors.
  • Male directors were involved as co-writers more often, frequently in teams of 3 or more. The share of female scriptwriters in male directors’ films for 2014 / 15 was as low as 20,1 % / 14,4 %!
  • In 2015 male directors had worked with female assistant directors in 74,2 % of their films (female directors: 36,4 %). In 2014 however, with only 26,3 % of it was way below the value for the female directors collaboration with female assistant directors (40 %), based on this no trends can be derived.
  • Of all films that were nominated in any of the categories of the German Film Awards 2016, in addition to costume design and casting the set designers and editors also had female shares of (roughly) 50 %. In 2015 other than costume design and casting only the female assistant directors reached more than 50 %. The shares of female script writers for all the films included in the nominations were rather low (2015 – 20,7 %, 2016 – 32 %), and below their average in the industry.
  • 29,5 % of the individuals nominated and 26,3 % of the winners of the German Film Awards 2016 were women.

Some Perspectives

We regularly hear and read from the UK or USA that women speak about being discrimanted against in the film industry, – this is something not happening in Germany. By that I don’t mean that women are not disadvantaged, but the don’t taok about this in public, neither about receiving less pay or having less working opportunities. This is understandable, since there is an undeniable risk that they might harm themselves by doing so. But it does not have to depend on the individual. There are groups and there are statistics.
First and foremost thanks to the great lobby work of Pro Quote Regie broadcasters are now talking about female directors being highly underemployed and first quotas and targets have been set. Film funding bodies are discussing ways to end the disregard of female directors in the distribution of funds. More films made by female directors will mean that more projects will employ women behind the camera, at the sound mixer or editing computer, and more female script writers. Films written by women will bring more female characters to the screen and raise the chances for more role diversity and less stereotyping. I am hoping for special funding programmes for female script writers and maybe something like a Pro Quote Script. But it goes beyond that. What will happen if the unions and associations – for example the Editors’ Guild – start engaging in a public gender debate? What would change if the female DoPs would get together?
The ‘generation smartphone’ has shown that technology, videos and sound aren’t something that only men do. How about starting something along the lines of STEM initiatives (science, technology, engeneering and mathematics) targeting girls and young women for the ’men’s domains’ camera, sound and light? And at the same time familiarize boys and young men with ’female fields’ like costume and make-up design?
Ideas and initiatives need statistics so that they can ask questions, demand and start changes and monitor them. With my research I want to contribute to this as there are hardly any gendered statistics available for the German film and television industry outside of directing. Of course my data can be used (please name the source!). The other day somebody was talking about actresses and actors in Germany and only qouted US data or statistics relating to the situation of female directors in Germany. This is not very comprehensible because the data is there (e.g. here: A Casting Tool called Neropa). But this is a topic for another day.

Last week at the German Film Awards, actress Iris Berben, president of the German Film Academy, called for “more money for courageous ideas“ and “more women!“ in the German film industry.
Indeed. Let’s employ more women behind and in front of the camera, let’s recognize their work! With all esteem for these two areas (and the casting directors are still waiting for their own German Film Award category): women are capable of a lot more than costumes and casting.