An Actress's Thoughts

Film Professions in Germany 2017

Film Departments 2017: Share of Women

In 2014 I wrote about 32 teampositions behind the cam era for German film productions and 2 positions in front of the camera, analyzing information from the database of Crew United (Filmcrafts: Some with Women, Some with Men?). The text I‘ve finally completed today – literally after months – is an update with data from 2017, both for the team positions and the actresses and actors (including an age analysis – for which I used data from Filmmakers and the federal agency ZAV Künstlervermittlung).

  • Reference Values
  • 35 Film Jobs
  • Training
  • Acting
  • Population
  • Final Thought

Reference Values for Statistical Film Analyses

For past evaluations of groups of films, (e.g. the German Top 100 Films, TATORTE / Crime Scenes- TV movies, TV movie of the week, nominations for film awards) I‘ve used two points of reference aside from the 50 % threshold: the share of women in professional associations and that for the division in the data base of Crew United. In most cases / film groups these values were not reached, as the following graph demonstrates. It depicts the shares of women for seven team positions for the Top 100 German films 2012 to 16:

Women are underrepresented in each case. This is – perhaps surprisingly? – not only the case for those professions that have a low share of women, men are hired disproportionately for divisions like costume design (91 %) or casting (87 %) as well. I wrote about this three years ago, now it‘s time for an update. Vincent Lutz of Crew United in Munich kindly sent me the absolute figures of women and men in 34 film jobs.

34 Departments

In the next gallery you can see the percentage of women and men in all 34 jobs for 2014 and for 2017, and then the female percentage for the jobs arranged in 6 groups (Logistics, Idea, Image, Look, Tuning and Acts). There, the massive columns are for 2017, and the striped for 2014:

It is not possible to say if the differences between 2014 and 2017 are trends or not. However, we see the ratio between men and women in the different divisions. Unfortunately, due to the lack of age data, it is difficult to talk about career starters and leavers, and if the numbers are different for the sexes. We can only have a look at filmschools to find out something about the numbers for and ratio between women and men starting in a film job.


It is not so easy to get reliable figures on training for film professions. Luckily enough, two studies were published in February by the FFA German Federal Filmboard (Gender and Film and Gender and TV Movies, both in German) that provide some figures for the training for seven professions. Every year, roughly 250 people graduate from the film schools and film universites, 60 to 70 of them as directors. The next table contrasts them with the corresponding figures from the Crew United database, which are remarkably lower:

In Gender and TV movie – a study by the University of Rostock and the Fraunhofer Institute, commissioned by the TV networks ARD and ZDFthe figures are commented on in the following way (accentuations by me):

If you compare today‘s situation of the film industry with the the figures of the students that graduated 15 to 20 years ago,and who could be firmly settled in their professional lives, it becomes apparent that the numbers of alumni and of those studying today hardly differ. Both then and today there are predominantly men in the sound and camera departments. The share of women in directing and of the directing alumni is about 44 %. It‘s similar for production design. On the other hand there are more women studying to become producers today, and less for editing, 15 to 20 years ago their share was 82 %, but today it‘s only 51 %. (source).

On the other hand, the share of men woring in the film industry is higher than their share of students and alumni. As far as editing is concerned, editor Sabine Brose explains this through the digitalisation in this job which made it more attractive to men.
And what about all the other film professions and jobs that are not on this list? How many people start every year? What about independent film schools, and film makers without any formal training or those that change their profession within the industry? Take actors- or actresses-turned directors as an example, they usually do this without studying at any film school. By the way, is that something that actors tend to do more than actresses? Well, that‘s a topic for another day.

Here in Germany and of course in other countries as well, a lot is being talked about directors – not in the least because of the activism of Pro Quote Regie, a group of female directors, and the 42 – 44 % figure is widely know as the share of women among film school graduates for directing. It‘s also widely known that the share of female directors for film and television productions as well as for federal funding is much lower. This training-working-gap is something to be found for other film professions – behind and in front of the camera – as well.
It’s useful  to have data on the age distribution in film industry‘s workforce, and on their children etc. to start discussing if more women are trained today than 20 years ago or if women leave the industry when they start a family (also read:
Cinema, Career, Children: Can the Film Industry be called a family-friendly Workplace?)


It is often said that in the acting profession there is the same 1:1 women-men-balance  as in society. This idea is supported by the following table which shows the share of women and men for the data base of Filmmakers (a German casting data base) and for the film actresses and actors in the federal agency ZAV.

This is only half true though, since we encounter a similar phenomenon as in those film professions that were investigated by the FFA, directing, DoP, sound etc. The share of women among acting beginners is higher than that among all acting professionals. To back this up let‘s not have a look at acting schools, because tend to assemble their classes in a 2:1 ratio similar to that at German theatres – not only classical but also many modern plays have a vast majority of male roles. On top of this a lot of actresses and actors start with different backgrounds, some went to acting school (run by the state or privately), some had no training at all, others come from music TV, others were discovered in the streets. So it makes more sense to look at certain age groups to define the acting starters. In the Filmmakers database I took those between 24 and 27, and in the ZAV file – which is grouped in 5 year slots – I took the 22- to 25-year-olds and the 22- to 30-year-olds. This table paints a very different picture:

The share of women in the beginning years is much higher than the total average, the difference between 7,3 to 11,5 percentage points. And when we compare individual years we get the actual state of things. For those who are 30 the share of women is 58,5 %, but for the 55 year olds it‘s only 36,8 %. The next figures show the absolute figures for actresses (light blue) and actors (pink) according to their years of birth (left, source Filmmakers) and in sum for 5 year groups (right figure, source ZAV). What is quite remarkable are the male age groups from 1990 (who were 26 years old on Jan 1, 17) to 1963 (53 yrs) stay on a similar plateau of roughly 250 actors per year. The female age groups have their first decline for 1977 (39 yrs), this is were the colums fall below 300 actresses for the first time, and from 1971 (45 yrs) the drop below 250, and for 1968 (48 yrs) below 200 for the first time. When we look at the 5-year groups the decline at 40 is even more distinct:

In 2017, the average age of actresses was 35,5 years and of actors it was 40,8 years, in 2013 the figures wee 38,9 and 43,4 (own calculations from Filmmakers data. We can‘t call this a trend though as it is only comparing two years).

The next gallery pictures this in greater detail, we see the Filmakers data für 2017 and 2013 in 5-year-groups for women and men, together and separately. Again we see the drop at 40 years for actresses and the wide plateau for the actors (click to enlarge the images).

The other night, at the monthly meeting of the Berlin BFFS members (that‘s the acting union) a well-known casting director said that there were far more actresses than actors, stating that whenever she was searching for the right one in an age group there would be more women than men in the data base. One of the BFFS representatives contested this saying that the gender situation in acting was perfectly balanced.

To a certain extent and in their own worlds both of them were right. The BFFS roughly has the same number of female and male members, because apparently so far the union is not quite as attractive for actresses. And we can assume that the casting director probably had to mostly cast roles under 40, as that is where a female majority can be found.

We can assume that more women than men take up acting as a profession and that many of those women leave it halfway through their working life, around 40. Why? Because there is not enough work for them? For private / family reasons? Do actresses who are mothers have their children in their late 30s and then quit acting for good? This certainly is not normal among working women in Germany as we can see when we take a look at some other statistics.

Germany’s (Working) Population

The German population consists of 41.4 M women and 39.8 M men (source Statistisches Bundesamt / Federal Office for Statistics), the average age is 44 years and 3 months. The next figure shows a sort of balance, both gender curves run more or less parallel. Up to the 56 to 60-year-olds with a slight male, after that with a female majority. We can also distinguish the Baby Boomer Generation, in this case the 46 to 55-year-olds.

From a publication of the Statistisches Bundesamt 2016 (highlighting by me):

If we group the population by age and gender we see in 2015, that the 40 to 50 and the 50 to 60 year olds are the most dominant groups quantitatively. These are the Baby Boomer Generations from post-war years and the boom time of the “Wirtschaftswunderzeit“ (economic miracle), who have reached the higher end of their working year and who are going to transition to retirement in a few years.

We also see the aging of the Baby Boomers when we look at the average age of employees: currently it is roughly 43 years (43.4 for men, 43.3 for women). This is much higher than the average 25 years ago, when it was 39.4 for men and 37.9 for women (source 27.6.17).

Back to the “40 year abyss“ for actresses. Does employment of women outside the film industry also decrease or even cease quite as drastically? Would that be for structural reasons, connected to the division of responsibilities among couples as recards children or elderly dependents? No, quite the contrary! Even though less women than men go to work, the curves for female and male employees are nearly parallel, both have a slight decline in the group of the 36 to 40-year-olds which is constantly reversed in the following ten years. – this is the opposite of the working situation for actresses.

Final Thought

Of course we need to talk about the compatibility of work and family in the film industry and to improve the conditions for working parents. But we cannot assume that it is for personal, family biographies if female directors, DoP‘s, authors and actresses are hired less and leave the industry. Women in film are at a disadvantage, and the situation won‘t get better by itself.


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