Female representation, from boardrooms to film sets, remains low in the entertainment industry. On-screen, around 45 percent of films and series had low representation of women, according to a report by media consulting firm Ormax Media and entertainment platform Film Companion.
The report which analysed 150 theatrical films, streaming films and series released in 2021 across 8 Indian languages noted that only 55 percent of the films and series passed the Bechdel Test.
The Bechdel Test is a measure of the representation of women in fiction such as films and series. A film is considered to have passed this test if it has at least one scene in which two named women are speaking, and the conversation is about something other than men or a man. In the report cited above, the criteria was modified for streaming series to include three scenes, given their longer runtime.
Even in promotional trailers that were analyzed through the Trailer Talk Time Test, women had only 25 percent talk time with 48 titles even allocating 10 seconds or less to female characters.
Trailer Talk Time is a test that was created for the above report titled O Womaniya! 2022. In this test, the main trailer of the film or series is analyzed and classified by the speaking time allotted to the male and female characters.
At 75 percent trailer talk time being controlled by male characters, the results suggest that properties (films and series) are being pitched from a male point of view during marketing.
Along with on-screen, female representation off-screen also remains low, the report said.
The report has looked at representation and participation of women across three major categories including content that includes female representation on-screen and behind-the-camera, marketing that studied female representation in promotional trailers of films and series, and corporate that analyzed female representation in board rooms of top 25 media and entertainment firms.
Only 10 percent head of department (HOD) positions across key divisions including production design, writing, editing, direction and cinematography were held by women. Even in media and entertainment corporate houses, only 10 percent of senior leadership roles were held by women.
Out of the 56 theatrical films analyzed across languages, not even one was directed or edited by a woman, the report said.
“While it’s no surprise that female representation in mainstream entertainment is low, the degree of skew, such as 10:90 on some key parameters, should be a wake-up call. While streaming titles, especially series, are more women-inclusive in on and off-screen representation, theatrical films continue to perform very poorly, and in fact, have shown no positive growth at all since the previous report, which covered content released in 2019 & 2020," said Shailesh Kapoor, Founder-CEO, Ormax Media.
Streaming services to some extent are bringing a change in terms of more female representation both on and off screen.
According to the report, representation of female HODs in streaming films and series was five times higher than theatrical films. In addition, 64 percent of streaming series and 55 percent of streaming films passed the Bechdel Test, as opposed to more than half of theatrical films failing it. Streaming films and series provided more talk time to female characters in trailers, leading theatrical films by 10 percentage points and 14 percentage points, respectively.
"Streaming has given voice to more female storytellers resulting in an increase in stories that are driven by female characters with agency," said Aparna Purohit, Head of India Originals, Prime Video.The report also pointed out that percentage of female HODs doubled when a woman greenlit a series or a film. And a higher percentage of films passed the Bechdel Test at 68 percent and women had higher trailer talk time at 35 percent if the title was commissioned by a woman.