This year has brought many stories of the industrywide bias against female filmmakers, and now Deadline reveals that Hollywood’s gender gap extends to cinematography as well: The prestigious American Society of Cinematographers, a trade organization of the top DPs in the industry, has a current membership that’s only 4 percent women. The group only admitted its first female member in 1979, and since then, fewer than 20 women have been invited to join. (There have been around 800 ASC members since the group’s founding in 1919.) As Deadline says, “no other industry group has fewer women.”
The ASC is not a union, but with very rare exceptions, each of its members is also part of the International Cinematographers Guild, a broader association that also includes lower-ranked camera crew and perhaps for that reason touts a comparatively more equitable 15 percent female membership. But ASC critics says that the organization has been slow to include talented female DPs like Game of Thrones’ Anette Haellmigk and Cake’s Rachel Morrison. The problem, they say, is that membership to the organization is invite-only; as in many other facets of the industry, this emphasis on social connections only deepens the gender gap.
This disparity is bad enough on its own, but it becomes a bigger issue when you consider how this effects the pool for female filmmakers as whole. Cinematography is a standard pipeline into directing — around 10 percent of first-time TV directors were cinematographers or camera operators — and DPs like Wally Pfister (Transcendence) have recently made the leap into directing feature-length films. When women are afforded these opportunities, they take them, too; Reed Morano, one of the few female members of the ASC, just made her first feature film, the Olivia Wilde–Elisabeth Moss drama Meadowland, coming in October.
Today the ASC has a formal outreach program aimed at film students, but still only adds roughly one new female member a year. But, as in the rest of the industry, some female cinematographers say the organizations focus on diversity is making progress. “I think that today, there are so many more opportunities for cinematographers, such a great variety of projects being made, that there’s a lot more room for more people to shoot,” Chicago Fire cinematographer Lisa Wiegand, an ASC member, told film students at an outreach event last year. “And an increase in women cinematographers will just become part of that.”