wtta silent era – AFI Catalog
Women writers, directors and producers

worked more prolifically
in the Silent Film Era

than at any other time in the first century
of American filmmaking

AFI’s Women They Talk About project, named after a lost 1928 film, is an educational initiative with a mission to document the widely unrecorded contributions of female filmmakers in the silent film era and uncover the true story of women’s pioneering role in the creation of American cinema. Women They Talk About was led by the research team at the AFI Catalog of Feature Films, the world’s most authoritative, freely accessible database of every American film released in the first 100 years of the art form and funded by The David and Lura Lovell Foundation and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

The initiative, using the AFI Catalog’s uniquely comprehensive and scholarly data on American film history, provides an unprecedented opportunity to illuminate women’s contributions to the creation of cinema and supports new conversations and discoveries about female filmmakers, ensuring that they are, indeed, talked about.

6,000+

Newly documented films
from the silent era

As part of a three-year study, AFI documented 6,000 feature films released in the silent era—many of which were written, directed and produced by women—that previously had little or no record in any book or online database. Through this process, AFI captured information about hundreds of women who had yet to be included in the historical canon and added their credits to the AFI Catalog, ensuring they will be part of film history.

10.9% of credits

attributed to

women working
behind the camera

Feature film credits attributed to
women writers, directors and producers

10.9% of feature film credits for films released from 1910-1930 were attributed to women writers, directors, and producers. In the decades that followed, that number dropped to 6.9%, even though the amount of writer, director, and producer credits increased 308%. There were more credited roles, but women were not employed in them.

Over twice as many

women writers In the Silent Film Era

Feature film credits attributed to
women writers and co-writers

From 1910-1930, women were credited as writers or co-writers in 27.5% of feature film productions. This number dropped to 12.2% in the release years 1931-1993, even though the average number of writing credits per movie increased 13%. Gender parity was not achieved in the silent era, but there were over twice as many women writers at that time than in the following years.

The ten most prolific

Women Writers In the Silent Film Era

Feature film credits attributed to women writers and co-writers

Frances Marion

June Mathis

Eve Unsell

Clara S. Beranger

Marion Fairfax

Hope Loring

Fanny Hatton

Beulah Marie Dix

Lois Zellner

Bess Meredyth

POWERED BY THE AFI CATALOG

19% of films based on literary sources

written by women

From 1910-1930, women writers were credited as literary source authors in 19.6% of feature film productions. This number decreased to 15.8% in films released from 1931-1993.

Films directed by women

were 31% more likely
to have female writers

Feature film credits attributed to women writers and co-writers in the silent film era

Top ten subjects

of films written by women

in the silent era

Top ten genres

of films written by women

in the silent era

800+

Women were working
behind the camera in
the silent era

We've got some
work to do

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