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Women Behind the Camera in Germany, by Belinde Ruth Stieve

Germany has a huge and influential film industry, but till very recently there has been very little information available about women's participation in it, as storytellers. The state funders – as in New Zealand – appear not to record gender statistics and certainly do not make them public. The European Women's Audiovisual Network (EWA) is aware of the lack of data in Germany and is working with the relevant authorities to change this situation. But in the meantime, Belinde Ruth Stieve has published a series of articles in her blog SchspIN, about women's participation in the industry, in German and in English. 

Here's an edited version of two of Belinde's posts about women behind the camera and about the need for a German version of France's Charte d'Egalité (links below). Many thanks to her. 

For weeks I've been planning it and now finally it’s done. Here are some statistics on female filmmakers behind the camera in commercially successful and award-nominated German movies and television films.

I've evaluated four groups of German fictional films from 2012: top-grossing films in German cinemas, nominations for the German Film Awards, top audience TV productions and nominations for the Grimme TV Award. And I've recorded the participation of women in 11 departments: direction, script, production, cinematography, sound, production design, costume design, make up, editing, casting and music. To do this, I've used the websites of Deutscher Filmpreis/German Film Award, Grimme TV Award, ARD-Tatorte (these are the most successful TV productions every year, a crime investigation series), Crew United, IMDB, the websites of individual films and Wikipedia. From these sources alone it was not possible to discover all the participants, but all gaps were closed after mail or telephone inquiries, except for one position: that of the set production of one TV film.

The total number of people named for the 748 positions in the 11 divisions is 954–
217 and 212 for the TV productions; and
255 and 266 for the feature films.
Six sets of data are compared–
  1. The 17 films mentioned in nominations for the German Film Awards 2013 in all categories
  2. The 17 films mentioned in nominations for the Grimme TV Awards in all fictional categories (disregarding tv series)
  3. The 17 top grossing German films in German cinemas during 2012
  4. The 17 fictional productions with the highest TV audience in 2012
  5. The Berufsverbände – the professional associations or unions
  6. The 11 departments within Crew United's database of professional filmmakers involved in professional productions 
There is a total of 4 x 17 x 11 team positions for the four groups of films and the 11 divisions to be looked at.

To get the shares of women as heads of departments in the film productions into some sort of perspective I took the share of women in the divisions as a reference point. I checked the database from Crew United with the help of Frau Heike Matlage and of course also the members of professional associations and unions (Figure 1). These are the statistics for the people ready to do the jobs.

One detail is missing: the number of producers organised in unions. The reason for this is due to the way the Produzentenallianz (Alliance of Producers) and Verband Deutscher Filmproduzenten (Association of German Film Producers) are organized: production companies are allowed to join but not individual producers. I could have evaluated the heads of these 300+ companies but that is a task still waiting to be done some day.

The two largest groups of filmmakers are directors and cinematographers (both with 1250 filmmakers at Crew United), followed by editors (958). As was to be expected the number of members in associations is smaller than the number in Crew United; the script department is the only exception.

When I started I had of course expected to find that some departments would be predominantly male and others predominantly female. This assumption has been confirmed, although I thought editing would be a female department. But, as a member of the editors union told me the other day, men have discovered editing in recent years, more or less since films and therefore editing have gone digital. Three of the 11 departments are women dominated: costume design, make up and casting. Four departments have less than 25% women (direction, cinematography, sound and music) and four departments have a share of women roughly between 25 and 50 % (script, production, set production, editing).

My second hypothesis was that the fewer women would be employed in commercially successful (selling lots of tickets) than in the artistic films (being nominated for film awards), which is a wild generalization of course.   I expected a similar trend for the TV productions, especially since the top 17 (or even top 20) TV films were crime stories.

So who was in the teams? Figure 2 shows the results of this crew check. The blue columns are the cinema films and the orange ones are TV. Darker colours are the ones with the big audiences and the lighter colours are the award-nominated films. The little green circles represent the shares of women from the professional associations and the pink diamond represents the value from Crew United data base.

Figure 2

No woman was chief editor for any of the top-grossing films and no woman was cinematographer for the top-grossing feature films, but a relatively large number filmed the TV films. No woman was head of a sound department, not really that surprising considering the low percentage of women in this line of film work: 2.5 % in the professional associations and 4% in the Crew United database.

There is still room for improvement in directing and script writing, i.e. the percentage of women in the film productions is below that of the associations  and Crew United. There is a single exception where women's participation is above their professional representation: there are 6 female and 14 male directors in the nominations for the German Film Awards.

It seems to be a nationally and internationally known phenomenon that films with a high budget aren’t given into the responsibility of a female director – the reasons for this are something we need to talk about. But how can the low number of female directors for TV productions be explained? Are there people who think that a male director will be better at directing a crime story, because that is a man’s world (90% of all murder and homicide crimes in Germany are committed by men). But would this go for the other divisions as well? Even the share of women for makeup is much lower than in the other three groups of films.

And finally: film music, original scores etc. What is going on there? A woman is named as responsible for the music in only one production: Nicole Piovani (Sams im Glück). Are women less interested in (practising) music? Aren’t they interested in composition or are they incapable of creating music for films?

Numbers and statistics are one thing. The effects that the low involvement of women in the majority of film departments has on the films we see in the cinemas and on television is something else. What does it mean if films are being written and directed by men, if they are being filmed from a men’s point of view and being edited by men? Or by women? Or is there no difference at all and they are just 'filmmakers'? Well, if it does not make the slightest bit of difference, how come there have been no female cinematographers, no female editors involved in the top grossing films? What is the atmosphere like on a film set that has only men doing the technical and women doing the ornamental stuff? Are men really not interested in costumes and women really not interested in sound design? Or are men unable to dress others and women unable to hear? Or is it just that all film divisions have been separated into men’s and women’s for so long that it is just nearly impossible for someone of the opposite sex to get into the other department? Is there a hierachy among the film departments? And by the way, what are the average wages like for all 11 fields of work?

How many men and women are actually trained, how many make it to a professional level and get jobs, and if they fail, what are the reasons? Maybe there are professions that a majority of girls / women respectively boys / men will be interested in. But – looking across the frontiers of the film world – it is something to think about when you take the money being made into consideration as well.

Due to some strange coincidence typical women’s jobs are often paid less than typical men’s jobs, and they sometimes have a lesser reputation. When women enter the world of men’s jobs these jobs experience a decline in image and possibly in pay as well. In Germany we can see this in the field of teaching. Traditionally – because women weren’t allowed to teach in the old days – teaching was a man’s job. So being a teacher was a socially highly valued profession. Nowadays things have changed, especially for the schools for younger pupils. There is a majority of female teachers who earn less than the (female and male) colleagues at schools for older pupils, gymnasiums (grammar schools) etc. Talking of schools, is this the place where the seeds are planted that 'naturally’ boys are more interested in technical topics? Well, that is another matter.

To wrap this up and in case you are interested: here are the lists of the four groups of 17 films: titles, directors, production companies – and for the TV productions also the networks.

After we have evaluated reliable statistics, we will be able to answer whether we need something like the French Charte d'Egalité in Germany. After we know how many men and how many women exist in the industry, how many are being trained and find work, what are the productions they work in, how they are being paid, which awards and grants they win and get, and after we get the break-downs on how the films are cast – then as a next step we can see if things are alright or if we need to talk about causes, consequences and possible countermeasures.

Charte D'Egalité

The Charte d'Egalité has five points, starting with a gender statistics requirement. Signatory organisations must
  1. gender their statistics
  2. prioritise male/female representation in decision-making
  3. encourage projects that subvert traditional representations of women and men 
  4. sensitise their teams to parity issues so that they fight against stereotyping 
  5. apply equal pay principles
 With gender statistics in place we could start implementing the other four demands of the Charter.

The Grundgesetz, the German constitution (article 3 (2) GG) says 'The State promotes the actual Implementation of Equality'. So based on this, regional ministries and funding bodies could start by conforming to the standards of the Charter, and by inviting national film schools, public TV broadcasting corporations, publically funded festivals and film productions to pledge to the agreement as well. Other organisations from the industry (e.g. unions) and private broadcasting corporations could follow.

As far as the genderized statistics are concerned, this would not be something new, but something that has been neglected quite a bit. Two detailed investigations are over 10 years old. In 2004 the Kulturrat (cultural council, a central association) published the survey Women in Art and Culture II, 1995 – 2000. Ten of the 92 pages deal with the film industry. In 2002 Angela Haardt and the Friends of the German Cinematheque (now: Arsenal, Institute for Film and Video Art) published So Far and No Further: Hearing on the Situation of Women in the Film Professions Directing, Cinematography, Sound and Composition. I have not so far been able to find a systematic analysis of the casts of German cinema and TV productions.

The second item on the Charter – the composition of decision making bodies – is on the agenda in Germany already. A large number of committees and juries have female members, although their represantation is sometimes way below 50%. But boards – also from unions etc. – are occasionally quite male dominated, so it does not come as a big surprise that they don’t push forward discussions on the situation of female filmmakers. And furthermore, an equal representation does not automatically solve all problems, as we can see from this French example–
The funding committees of the CNC (Centre National du Cinéma et de l’Image Animée) show a nearly balanced set-up by gender. Nonetheless in 2012 only a quarter of the funded feature film debuts were directed by women, and this despite the fact that the output of male and female directors at La Fémis, the French State Film School for Image and Sound, is split evenly.
There is no national Minstry for Culture in the federal government since according to the German constitution, culture and education are regional responsibilities but I looked at two national film funding bodies and their decisions in 2012 – the Federal Appointee for Culture and Media, the BKM, and the Film Funding Body, the FFA.

The BKM and the FFA both have balanced juries, like France's CNC. The BKM’s has 4 women and 5 men, and the FFA’s 6 each.

There is some data about the distribution of funding but I could not find genderised statistics on how many directors had applied for funding. Last year the BKM funded 13 full length feature films with a total of €2.7m, and the FFA granted funding for the production of 49 films, with a total of €15.9m  (often as a loan). Films by male directors received the bigger part of the funding and female directors who were funded on average received some 12% less money per film.

As I mentioned cultural issues are dealt with by the regions, so the film funding by the different Länder (regional states) plays a major part. The only summarized and genderized statistics on this are old, from the Women in Art and Culture II, 1995-2000 and unfortunately do not distinguish between documentaries and feature films.

Here we see two distinct phenomena–
  1. The financial share for female directors is lower than their share of the number of funded films e.g. from the regional funding in Hamburg, films by female directors made up 28 % of the funded projects, but in total they only received 15 % of the €.  
  2. Half the regional agencies gave only  20% or less of the total funding sums to films by female directors.
I could not find any mention of the (gendered) composition of the juries, but it was stated that in 11 (of 16) Länder (regions) the film funding institutions are led by men. Also again I could not find the numbers for the total amout of film projects that applied for funding.

Again (as seen in the BKM/FFA comparison) the share given to women-directed projects is bigger when the funding is smaller. In Bremen female directors received 45% of €47.9000. In Schleswig-Holstein they received 37% of €134.700.  On the other hand in Bavaria only 9 % of  €4,05m and in North Rhine Westphalia only 15%  of €6.85m went to projects with female directors.

Prizes and awards can be considered as another type of film funding. Women in Art and Culture II, 1995-2000 states–
Film prizes given to women were very often small or without prize money. Awards that were different, i.e. with prize money, were mostly awards for actresses.
All these findings are of course only snapshots. And again loads of questions arise–
What was the funding like in the years before and after the study? Are there changes? How many female and male directors actually work in the industry? What was the directors’gender ratio for all films that applied for funding, and indeed for all films that were produced? What’s the distribution by age and gender among directors? Is the female/male ratio the same for each age group or do we find a bulge of men in the older generations? How many women and men attend and finish the film schools each year?
On this, Women in Art and Cuture II, 1995-2000 states that the share of women [studying Performing Art, Film and Television, Dramatics] was 44 % in 1998 as in 1995, rose via 47 % (1999) to 53 % (2000).  The committee on cultural affairs of the Berlin regional parliament stated in 2005 that at all artistic universities of Berlin (UdK, KHB, HfS and HfM) the share of female students was 58–59 % in the autumns of 2002, 2003 and 2004, when the university courses started. (Genderized statistics on the students according to the branch of study for the national film universities were not given.) So maybe female directors are underrepresented when they account for only one fifth of the 50 top grossing German films of 2012. Maybe their share in their profession is larger than the 24% in their union and in the data base of Crew United (please refer to Give Me Art, Give Me Money Female Filmmakers Part 1: Behind the Camera for further information). At this point we just don’t know.

We don’t really talk about money
Item 5 of the Paris Charter, with its call for equal pa,y breaks the unwritten law that no one speaks about wages in public. I don’t know of any detailed evaluations of salaries in the film industry. In public conversations and of course in the tabloids you sometimes hear or read of the top-earning people in the business. Behind closed doors you sometimes find out about unequal pay, of a slope not only when you compare typical male and female crew positions but also within one crew department, and of course in front of the camera. Agents talk about differently paid jobs for acting beginners depending on their gender, the same sometimes goes for leads in TV series, and we even find sometimes on an audition call-out for a new TV show. All these can be the exceptions to the equal pay rule. We will only know for certain when serious research is being done. In any case, it might be a good idea for professional organizations / unions to start or to once again engage in this topic.

Last month negotiations were started on the renewal of the Labour Agreement for Film and TV Technicians (Tarifvertrag für die auf Produktionsdauer beschäftigten Film- und Fernsehschaffenden); the current is valid only until December 31. Maybe in the negotiations the topic of possible gender-related wage discrimination will be brought up.

The acting union BFFS unfortunately missed an opportunity in their negotiations with the producers, the recently completed Produzentenallianz  that resulted in the first ever Labour Agreement for Actresses and Actors, which will come into effect on January 1, 2014. This describes the current situation: there are fewer parts for women, and they probably earn less. A statement that gender may not be a criterion for diverging role offers and 'different current values' cannot be found in the agreement.

Instead, in the Preamble for Pay and Wages (3.1.) we read:
The parties of this labour agreement are aware of the fact that actors and actresses are very distinct, individual artist personalities, that among other things are employed among other things based on their (…) gender (…) very differently and that have very different current values. (…)
It is the believe of the parties of this labour agreement that the practice within the film and TV industry, to individually negotiate the basic pay (…) shall remain unchanged.
In another three years this document will be renegociated. So until then there is enough time for a thorough survey of the wage reality of actresses and actors in Germany.


Belinde is a German film, television and stage actress, and blogging since early 2013. In SchspIN she looks into the situation of women filmmakers in German and international film and television productions, in German and English. 

Belinde on Twitter

This post is drawn from two longer posts on Belinde's blog, Female Filmmakers Behind the Camera 
and Vive la Nouvelle Révolution du Cinéma!

Her Well Done, Sister Equity! is an interview with Jean Rogers of Equity (UK), about its Equal Representation of Women petition.


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