Oscars 2017: How Does This Year’s Crop of Female Producers Fit in With the Best Picture Category’s History?
By: Carson Blackwelder
There was always a chance for the best picture category at the 2017 Academy Awards to feature solid representation for female producers and, with the nominations official, the numbers are in. Turns out there are five of the nine films in this year’s top category with women behind it — but how does that stand up to the rest of Oscar history?
As mentioned above, there are five out of the total nine films in the best picture category this year that took some girl power to get made. There’s Hell or High Water (Carla Hacken and Julie Yorn), Hidden Figures (Donna Gigliotti and Jenno Topping), Lion (Angie Fielder), Manchester by the Sea (Kimberly Steward and Lauren Beck), and finally Moonlight (Adele Romanski and Dede Gardner). This leaves out Arrival, Fences, Hacksaw Ridge, and La La Land as they were produced solely by men. That puts the rate of female producers this year at a little over half — or about 55.5% — which seems to be pretty average in a post-2000 world.
We previously examined how many films nominated for best picture in the 21st century had women behind them and found the following data: three out of five in 2000, one out of five in 2001, 1 out of five in 2002, four out of five in 2003, one out of five in 2004, four out of five in 2005, one out of five in 2006, three out of five in 2007, three out of five in 2008, four out of 10 in 2009, five out of 10 in 2010, four out of nine in 2011, six out of nine in 2012, six out of nine in 2013, five out of eight in 2014, and five out of eight in 2015. That, on average, is about 50% — making this year on par.
A little background in regards to women being producers of films nominated for best picture in Oscar history reveals that this is something that has become more prominent in recent years. The first female producer to take home a best picture Oscar came at the 1974 ceremony when The Sting won, putting Julia Phillips in the history books. And, luckily, it has only been uphill since then.
Since then — because there were none before this occurrence — and up until the turn of the millennium there have been 21 films that meet the aforementioned criteria. These include: 1976’s Taxi Driver (Phillips), 1979’s Norma Rae (Tamara Asseyev), 1982’s E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (Kathleen Kennedy), 1982’s Missing (Mildred Lewis), 1984’s Places in the Heart (Arlene Donovan), 1985’s The Color Purple (Kennedy), 1987’s Fatal Attraction (Sherry Lansing), 1988’s Dangerous Liaisons (Norma Heyman), 1989’s Driving Miss Daisy (Lili Fini Zanuck), 1990’s Ghost (Lisa Weinstein), 1991’s The Prince of Tides (Barbra Streisand), 1993’s The Piano (Jan Chapman), 1994’s Forrest Gump (Wendy Finerman), 1994’s The Shawshank Redemption (Niki Marvin), 1995’s Sense and Sensibility (Lindsay Doran), 1996’s Shine (Jane Scott), 1997’s As Good as It Gets (Bridget Johnson and Kristi Zea), 1998’s Shakespeare in Love (Gigliotti), 1998’s Elizabeth (Alison Owen), 1997’s Life Is Beautiful (Elda Ferri), and 1999’s The Sixth Sense (Kennedy).
What this tells us is that, after Phillips became the first female producer to be nominated for and win best picture, there was a steady increase in that happening for other women. This culminated in the ‘90s as more than half of the nominated films between Phillips and the year 2000 happened in that decade. Then, since 2000, there has been a continuation of ground being made up for ladies in this all-important role.
As for how many films have gone on to win best picture with having girl power in the producer’s role, that total would be nine. In addition to The Sting, Driving Miss Daisy, Forrest Gump, and Shakespeare in Love there’s 2003’s The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (Fran Walsh), 2004’s Crash (Cathy Schulman), 2009’s The Hurt Locker (Kathryn Bigelow), 2013’s 12 Years a Slave (Gardner), and 2015’s Spotlight (Blye Pagon Faust and Nicole Rocklin). Again, a little more than half of these wins happened after 2000 so there’s a tendency for this to be a more recent phenomenon.
Will we see which film takes home the top honors this year, be it one with a female producer or not, when the 2017 Academy Awards take place on February 26. That being said, having a film with a woman as producer win is something that is more likely to occur these days but is not a very commonplace thing that would dilute its importance. There are plenty of things that need to improve with the Oscars in terms of inclusion, but at least this is one thing that seems to be gaining ground.