Some Thoughts on Methodology
Generally speaking, there are no boundaries to what data can be obtained, evaluated and analyzed. All is possible, as long as the analysis paths are open and comprehensible. Ideally presented results would show this, by giving e.g. the size of an investigated group – is it 10 films or 100? are they from the same year or from the same TV slot, from a similar category, is the data comparable etc.
In this blog I often look at female people in the film industry, behind and in front of the camera (cast and crew). The statistics I am drawing up can of course only show trends, no facts, since the data I am using are not standardized.
Most of my evaluations are based on publically available lists of casts and crews. It would be ideal to compare films using just one source for all relevant information, but these are rare. So I rely on the data from CREW UNITED, the official websites of the films (which in most cases only state the main characters and just a small amount of crew members), the data of IMDb, of websites of production companies and such (e.g.: as source of my evaluation of the 2012 „Tatort“ crime series I only used the ARD-(German TV) Tatort website), as well as information on the films from wikipedia.
As a rule cast lists don’t differenciate between leading and supporting characters, and the order and number of characters listed quite often don’t seem to follow an understandable system.
Regarding the crew sections I analyse direction, script, producers, camera, sound, set production, costume, make-up, editing and casting, or a portion of them (6-sections-check = direction, script, producers, camera, sound and editing). Unfortunately in the data bases mentioned above the listings of crew members are not always complete or identical.
For some sections more than one person in charge is named – e.g. with producers or in the make-up department – in others only one person is responsible – direction, editing, casting etc. – but even there exceptions are possible.
Example: Nominations for Best Director, German Film Awards 2013
As an example let us look at the nominations for „best directing“ of the German Film Awards 2013:
Jan Ole Gerster for OH BOY
Margarethe von Trotta for HANNAH ARENDT
Lana Wachowski, Andy Wachowski, Tom Tykwer for CLOUD ATLAS
On twitter somebody wrote „two female directors nominated“, which is true of course. But without the references (e.g. how many films in all, how many directors involved) this is not too meaningful, so presenting this information as percentage might make more sense. But there is more than one way of doing the calculation.
Method A – the mere involvement of women
Oh Boy would get a 0, Hannah Arendt and Cloud Atlas both a 1.
Total share of women: 66,7 % (in 2 out of 3 films a female director was involved)
Method B – die weibliche Alleinverantwortung,
Oh Boy gets a 0, Hannah Arendt a 1 and Cloud Atlas a 0.
Total share of women: 33,3 % (in one out of 3 films a female directors was in charge solely)
Method C – the 6-sections-check – looks at the overall percentaged involvement
of the 5 named directors 2 were female.
Total share of women: 40 %
This is no hair-splitting – or rather number-splitting – but as the following chart shows the choses method has a great impact on the resulting statistics. The 3 models are contrasted showing the share of women for the 6 sections direction, script, producer, cinematography, sound and editing in the 6 nominations per year, 2010 to 2013.
Figure C shows the method I prefer: the 6-sections-check, showing the share of women from the total number of mentioned filmmakers in a section.
Other than that I am doing these studies as thoroughly as is possible with a part-time blog.
Please also read Methodology: It’s Easy to Count Sheep (6.1.17)