A new study from the University of Southern California finds there has been no change in the number of Black movie directors in the past 10 years and Disney is at the back of the pack.
Researchers at USC’s Annenberg’s Media, Diversity & Social Change Initiative released a study Monday, Jan. 30, that reviewed 1,000 of the top-grossing films from 2007 to 2016. The report, covering 100 movies per year, revealed the lack of progress being made behind the scenes with nonwhite and female directors. With zero Black directors, Walt Disney Studios has room for the most improvement. It is attempting to change that by bringing in Ava DuVernay to direct 2018’s “A Wrinkle In Time” and Ryan Coogler to head “Black Panther,” due out that same year.
Other studios fared better thanks to one’s relationship with a Black director and the other creating several Black-focused movies through an imprint. Lionsgate released 16 movies by Black directors, largely because of its relationship with Tyler Perry, who headed 14 of those releases, many of them Madea films.
Sony Picture’s Screen Gems division came in second place with nine films by Black directors being released in the 10-year period. They included the Tim Story-directed “Think Like a Man” and its sequel “Think Like a Man Too.” Just 57 of 1,114 directors assessed were Black and Perry had the most work in the bunch, followed by Antoine Fuqua’s six movies and Story’s five. Out of that group, only three directors were female and none of them directed two or more of the top-grossing films in the sample.
The study was released days after the nominees for the 89th Academy Awards were announced, which saw several history-making submissions in the acting category, like Viola Davis becoming the first Black actress to be nominated three times. There also was a record established in directing with “Moonlight’s” Barry Jenkins being the first Black filmmaker nominated for Best Picture, Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay.