A Look at Germany’s Top 100 Films 2012 to 18
After recently having taken a look at six departments behind the camera at the TATORTE 2011 to 2018 (Crimes from a Male Perspective), I now present an analysis of the 100 most successful German cinema films of the last seven years, again with a special focus on the women and men heading the divisions director, screenplay, director of photography, composer, sound and editor. I have further divided the film groups, so there are studies of the Top 50 and Top 100 films, sometimes also of the Top 10 and Top 20 films. As source I used the film hit lists of the FFA, and researched the crew data at Filmportal.de, crewunited.com and IMDB.com.
That today‘s images are very colourful is because I assigned a color every year without a system as soon as it appeared in the investigations for the first time, and continued with these colours. And finally: the pictures are arranged as galleries, i.e. you can simply click on a picture, e.g. the first one, and then flip through the enlarged pictures.
What Sort of Films are there?
The first illustrations show the Top 50 and Top 100 films, divided into feature films, animated films and documentaries. It’s obvious that the largest group is made up of feature films, also including quite a few feature films for children, one of them was even ranked number one in 2018 (LUKAS DER LOKOMOTIVFÜHRER), in most other years they included the various editions of FACK JU GÖTHE. Animated films are similarly common among the top 50 and top 100, documentaries tend to appear more in the second half, but there are also documentaries in the upper ranks, the highest in the seven years being DIE MANNSCHAFT, a documentary about the German men’s national football team (2014, 10th place), POPE FRANCIS, A MAN OF HIS WORD (2018, 16th place) and the crowd-found travel documentary WEIT. DIE GESCHICHTE VON EINEM WEG UM DIE WELT (FAR. THE STORY OF GOING AROUND THE WORLD 2017, 17th place). For the animated films, DIE BIENE MAJA, DER KINOFILM (MAYA THE BEE 2014) and HAPPY FAMILY (2017) each took 1st place.
A 6-Divisions-Check for the Top 10, 20, 50 and 100
Four illustrations, self-explanatory. The percentages of women in the six departments directing, screenplay, camera, composition, sound and editing are shown for the seven years from 2012 to 2018. The reference value is the percentage of women among alumni (source FFA study Gender and Film). There is no reference value for composition, since there is no course in film music composition. When I asked several female composers at the Berlinale International Film Festival last month they said independently that one could assume 30 %, but that is not an official value, so I did not adopt it.
Two things are particularly noteworthy: nowhere, no matter in which top film group and in which trade women’s percentages of 50% are reached, ergo the film men are always overrepresented. Also, the proportion of women among the alumni is never reached, by far not. Only the figure for female screenwriters in the top 10 cinema films of 2016 (47.1%) is almost approaching it (alumni 48 %). So hurray for that?
I’ve already discussed it elsewhere in this blog, so here for any new visitors: If there were 5 of female directors and 5 of male directors in the top 10 films, the share of female directors is 50 %, if a total of 6 female composers and 12 male composers were involved in the 10 films, the proportion of female directors is 33.3 %, I di not calculate any mean values per film, the figures are nevertheless comparable and meaningful (compared some years back).
For the years 2017 and 2018, I divided the figures into script teams and individual authors respectively, which can be seen in the next four figures. The average share of women in the screenplay sector was 28 % in 2017 and 25.9 % in 2018. Not really surprising: there are significantly more male authors than female authors who wrote scripts on their own, significantly more male than female teams, and all scripts written by female authors, female and mixed teams taken as a whole are still less than the scripts written by single male authors:
Speaking of individual focus: the next six illustrations show the share of women for the departments individually, again subdivided into the top 10, 20, 50 and 100 film groups. In addition to the 50 % reference line, each figure shows the corresponding alumni values. The pictures speak for themselves again.
It would be interesting to have a list that correlates the proportion of women to the film budgets. We can probably assume that the top 10 films tend to have higher budgets, both for the productions and their marketing, and as a rule could have started with more film copies in more cinemas. The question remains as to why no female DoP are hired for these productions and only so little editors. Is the material too sensitive for women’s hands?
The year 2018 sticks out in almost all pictures, what was going on there? An evaluation of the corresponding project submissions and funding decisions could provide information, but that would also be a topic for another day.
Doing One Thing without Abandoning the Other
Apart from analyzing at the current situation and looking for possible explanations, e.g. for the blatant underrepresentation of women, I am also interested in looking ahead, and for ideas that can improve the situation.
It has been known for ages that women have less and more difficult access than men to management positions in almost all areas of society. In Germany, we have had recent discussions on how to raise the proportion of women in the Bundestag, our federal parliament, which should ideally reflect ou society. The share has declined following the last general election, which is partly due to the return of the liberal FDP to the Bundestag, the entry of the right wing AfD and the results of the conservative CDU / CSU (especially the latter), all of which have very low proportions of women among their MPs.
Is the film industry similarly conservative? Of course not, rather it aims at having its finger on the pulse of the times, and more. So we need to break new ground when it comes to film topics and the way in which and with whom films are produced. For example, the compatibility of film career and family needs to be improved, but that’s an issue for another day. One topic for today however is how we can ensure that women are no longer disadvantaged in the industry. Why accept the fact that film men are disproportionately represented in almost every division over and over again? And keeping women out of the picture over and over again?
Who pays the Piper calls the Tune
The vast majority of German films and co-productions receive public funding, for example regional film funding, funding from the BKM or the DFFF. Funding is provided according to artistic and / or economic criteria. The allocation of public funds could also be subject to equal opportunities and the Basic Law.
Article 3 GG Basic Law [Equality before the law]
(1) All persons shall be equal before the law.
(2) Men and women shall have equal rights. The state shall promote the actual implementation of equal rights for women and men and take steps to eliminate disadvantages that now exist.
(3) No person shall be favoured or disfavoured because of sex, parentage, race, language, homeland and origin, faith, or religious or political opinions. No person shall be disfavoured because of disability.
What would happen if public film funding were explicitly linked to the condition of not discriminating against women filmmakers.
Conditions are already attached to the allocation of funds, for example regional film subsidies being demanded to include regional effects, and for this purpose a script is sometimes rewritten, sceens relocated to other locations, or crew members recruited from specific federal states or even countries (a look at the foreign productions produced in Babelsberg and their public funding should confirm this).
So how about applying a model that I already proposed in connection with the publicly funded TV drama TATORT: #2v6pN. In this case allocating funds would be linked to the condition that a film production employed women in at least two of the six departments mentioned, it would not even be necessary to have these two departments completely in women’s hands, mixed teams would be eligible.
Of course, no one could be forced to follow this guideline, no female or maleproducer. Only if they want public money, they would have to.
This model would be for public film funding. But of course other fundings could follow the example and thus honour the Basic Law, like the FFA German Federal Film Board.
There are certainly or hopefully further suggestions around, since of course #2v6pN doesn’t integrate the complete width and versatility of a film production, when these – more or less central – six departments are in focus. But on the other hand, an approach that can be started immediately, basically at the next allocation of funding, could have a direct effect on improving an unequal situation. And you have to start somewhere. First the industry only discussed the discrimination of female directors, then they started to at least look at the authors and producers. With #2v6pN there will be six departments in the centre, plus the characters in the scripts. That’s a lot more, than is being done at the moment. And the clock is ticking. Every film that has no woman in the six divisions and casts of 3 times as many actors over actresses is anachronistic and a missed opportunity.
The next four images once again show the Top 50 and the Top 100 films of the seven years in question. This time the subdivision is based on the participation of women in the six departments. Zero means that no women were involved, six means that women were involved in all six trades. The third and fourth figures show the subdivision into all productions that would have had to be improved if they had been linked to #2v6pN for public funding (light colours) and those that had already passed the condition (dark colours):
If someone asks whether there would be enough females available as heads of department, I would like to remind you of the illustrations above, which show the proportion of women among the alumni as reference points or lines. We have them, only they don‘t get hired enough.
The next two pictures show a detail, again the participation of women in the six trades (for the top 100 films 2017 and 2018), but this time differenciating between films by male directors and films by female directors. Alarmingly high values for films without a single woman or with only one woman in the investigated departments! For female directors, directing is logically excluded, i.e. a production that appeared above, for example, in the category 2 (because there was a female director and a female DoP) will now be found in the category 1 in order to allow a direct comparison between director and director films. The observation that female directors apparently work with more women as heads of department (here: comparison of five) than male directors do is something I first described a few years ago.
On a side note: it was astonishing that a number of TATORT directors had no other women in their six department-team (see Crimes from a Male Perspective), perhaps TATORT newcomers in particular are not yet able to make team demands and female directors generally bring in less of their own material / scripts? But this would only be speculating.
To clear up a Myth
As said, hiring of a woman director increases the chance of more heads of department being occupied by women. But don‘t we always hear that more films by women (i.e. films by female directors) would have an effect on the content, resulting in more female leading roles and a higher proportion of women in the cast? I just heard this several times at the Berlinale International Film Festival in February and read about it in new research from the USA of their Top 100 or 200 films.
But I tend to strongly doubt that, because it doesn’t make much sense. Unless the directors are also the authors of the material. Or the female directors demand the use of my NEROPA method in production to increase the proportion of female roles. However, I have not yet heard of the latter. And the former is usually ignored, even in the study from the USA, as far as I can remember, this was not considered differentiated (I will add the link, I think it was a study by the Annenberg Institute).
The roles that appear in a film are mostly created by the scriptwriters, qualitatively and quantitatively – unless, for example, it’s a novel adaptation, a biopic “after a true incident” or a historical plot.
So let’s take a look at my analysis of the First Listed Roles in the top 100 films 2017 and 2018. Included are feature and animated films, as well as documentaries about one person.
The illustrations show that female authors create female main characters much more frequently than male authors. If a script is written in a team (whether by two or more women or two or more men), the proportion of women among the first mentioned roles decreases, i.e. teams write more masculine stories. Female directors are more likely to stage female first-mentioned roles than male directors, but the value is lower than if they were female authors. As was to be expected, the productions in which a female director films her own screenplay have the highest proportion of female first-listed roles, and when they direct others‘ scripts the lowest. So the assumption that the gender of the director is responsible for the occurrence of female protagonists and less male-biased casts is not quite convincing. The evaluation of the scriptwriters and directors (lower half of the picture) confirms my statements. Logically, the proportion of female leading roles is higher here if a male director stages someone else‘s project and not his own, because it may have been written by a woman. The two illustrations on the right show the same question as regards male first listed roles.
Hire more female directors and you will increase the proportion of women in the departments. Use more scripts by female authors and you will increase the proportion of female main characters.
If you want to achieve both: Make sure that in your productions, in the productions you direct or star in, in the productions you are supposed to give money to, the approach two of six plus NEROPA #2v6pN is applied. This means that two of the departments directing, script, camera, composition, sound or editing are (co-)awarded to women, and that my gender & diversity tool NEROPA Neutral Roles ParityNEROPA Neutral Roles Parity is used to potentially increase the proportion of women in bigger and smaller roles and to cast the roles more diversely to reflect the world in which we are living.
Those who prefer to go ahead in smaller steps: Start with ONE department, make sure that at least one of the six must be headed by a female film maker. That would also make a difference, because from 2011 to 2018 more than 35 % of the top 100 films did not manage to do so.
Comments, remarks, questions? Please feel free to add your comments to this text or send an e-mail. As always, you are welcome to share and quote my research, but please always quote the source. Thank you very much!
(I translated this text using deepl.com for a first draft and then correcting it paragraph by paragraph. Thanks go to my dear colleague Simona Theoharova for saving me lots of time by pointing the website out to me).