Stars and studios pledge to work with more women directors for 4 percent challenge


Universal Studios and a whole slew of celebrities are committing to increasing the number of women directors in Hollywood thanks to the 4 percent challenge.

Once again, the Oscar noms for Best Director this year are overwhelmingly male, but that might change in the future thanks to the new 4 percent challenge initiated by the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative (AII). The 4 percent challenge commits Hollywood to working with more female directors, especially women of color.

And the exciting part is that many big names have already accepted the challenge, including Universal Studios, which made history on Twitter yesterday as the first major film studio to acknowledge and commit to the initiative.

The AII is a nonprofit research organization with the University of Southern California (USC) that focuses on increasing diversity in entertainment. Their 4 percent challenge was announced by USC’s Dr. Stacy L. Smith at this year’s Sundance Film Festival during a panel titled “Making the (In)visible: Radical Transparency in the Data-Driven Age.”

The challenge gets its name from AII statistics. According to Inclusionist research, women accounted for just 4 percent of directors for the 1200 top grossing movies from 2007-2018. The 4 percent challenge requires Hollywood stars and studios to announce their commitment to work with a female director on a feature film during the next 18 months, which is a pretty generous timeline.

While Universal Studios accepting the challenge is huge, they weren’t the first to commit. Support from celebrities poured in almost immediately after the challenge went live on Twitter, and it is especially popular with female stars.

The list of actresses that have committed includes Brie Larson, star of this year’s widely anticipated Captain Marvel; Tessa Thompson, starring in Men in Black: International; and The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel‘s Rachel Brosnahan.

Actress and writer Amber Tamblyn shared a personal perspective in giving her public support for the project.

Susan Sarandon, Reese Witherspoon, Olivia Wilde, Kerry Washington, Bryce Dallas Howard, and others have shared their enthusiasm for the challenge over Twitter as well.

But it’s not just actresses showing up to support the idea of more women directors. Paul Feig, who has shown previously shown support for women in film by recasting Ghostbusters with an all-female cast in 2016, was one of the first to accept the challenge, and has encouraged other producers to do the same.

Wounds star Armie Hammer, along with his costar Zazie Beetz, also accepted the challenge via video while still at Sundance, where the challenge was first announced.

And hopefully this is the just the beginning of the movement.

As more stars and studios pledge their participation, this movement will continue to spread. The involvement of Universal Studios will hopefully motivate other big name studios to sign on as well (we’re looking at you Warner Brothers, Paramount Pictures, and Disney).

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And while it seems like the Inclusionists specific challenge — to work with at least one female director in the next 18 months — seems pretty generous, it could have some serious effects on the entertainment industry.

After all, 4 percent is a low bar. We can do better than that.