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Universal Becomes First Studio to Hire More Female Directors Through 4% Challenge

Universal Studios wants to be the first to help women get their deserved time in the spotlight. With Universal being the first of the studios in Hollywood to accept the “4% Challenge,” attention on sexism in the field of cinematics has never been more prominent. Time’s Up is the catalyst of this movement, leading to the “4% Challenge.” The movement is working alongside the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative, which calls on industry leaders to dedicate to creating one project with a female director in the next 18 months. The film industry is recognizing the lack of representation women have in the industry and are making moves to fix it. 


The challenge was officially announced last week at the Sundance Film Festival by Time’s Up, appropriately since this is an event that gathers thousands of aspiring and independent filmmakers that will likely be the future of the film industry. An executive team of Universal Studios including President of Production, Peter Cramer, Chairman of the Studio’s Specialty Label Focus Features, Peter Kujawski, and President of Dreamworks Animation, Margie Cohn, all recognized the Time’s Up Challenge announcement by taking to Twitter to tweet their approval to, “proudly join colleagues throughout the industry in accepting the #TimesUp #4PercentChallenge.”



Time’s Up waited little-to-no time to respond to Universal’s approval of the challenge saying, “Universal Filmed Entertainment Group, led by Donna Langley, just became the first major studio to sign on to the #4PercentChallenge. … We hope their commitment inspires more content producers to make the pledge and work with female directors.”

On searching for support in this Challenge and for it to be welcomed with open arms into other studios in the film industry, the statement continued, “Not only have a handful of the studio’s first-look filmmakers already announced their commitment to the 4% Challenge, many have already demonstrated their support to work with more female directors on an ongoing basis, and the studio will continue to support their efforts.”’

Tessa Thompson, famous for movies like Thor: Ragnarok, Creed, and Creed II, initiated and shed light on the TIME’SUPx2 challenge during her speech at Sundance on Jan. 25, using her time in the spotlight to ignite change. The TIME’SUPx2 movement that Tessa preached in her speech presses to double the number of women in leadership positions. Tessa, however, was not the only one verbally battling for equality. During the Golden Globes, Regina King took the stage to speak of the campaign during her acceptance speech, representing herself as one of the first to accept the challenge. The support does not stop there, like a chain of dominoes, many actors and actresses are using their voice to represent the challenge as well. Actors and actresses such as Nina Jacobson, Amy Schumer, Angela Robinson, and film executive Franklin Leonard also gathered to discuss the challenge on a panel at Sundance. Support has been noted by actors from all genders, shapes, and sizes including Armie Hammer, Brie Larson, Constance Wu, Janet Mock, Kerry Washington, Jordan Peele, J.J. Abrams, and Paul Feig, among many others.

But where exactly did this challenge come from? Looking back at a study from 2017, conducted by the USC Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism, a discovery was made that only 4% of the directors of the top 1,200 films were directed by women. With heavy Hollywood influencers, like Universal Studios, showing their support, there is a great chance that other studio giants will follow in their footsteps and that it won’t be too long before this 18-month campaign will become a way of life where female directors will be employed regularly and frequently by famous and industry-led studios.

With the idea of setting a quota being the center concept of the Challenge, people are concerned that this could cause issues, especially in the realm of gender equality. The concern with hiring more directors because of their gender is that people will argue “the current system of selecting a movie’s director solely on their talent is the best way to move forward.” 

Here’s how Twitter is reacting to the 4% Challenge:

As of Feb. 1, MGM Studios has also accepted the 4 Percent Challenge.

All images courtesy of Twitter.

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