Stats Team Analyzes Screen Time Among Oscar Nominees
Bailey O’Keeffe '16 lent St. Lawrence University her statistical expertise again this year to analyze the amount of screen time male and female actors of Oscar-nominated films received in 2017.
O'Keeffe had worked with Michael Schuckers, Rutherford professor of statistics, on a similar project in 2016, as the #OscarsSoWhite dominated last year's Academy Awards. She had collected data from 12 years of nominees primarily to investigate gender discrepancies in screen time.
This year, they got together again and determined that films directed by men fell close to the overall averages 44 percent and 21 percent, respectively, but screen times in films directed by women were considerably more equal 31 percent and 30 percent, respectively.
O’Keeffe says the Academy often dismisses films that feature strong female leads in favor of the conventional, Hollywood-approved white male characters. But, she notes that strong female leads in several of this year’s and last year’s nominated films, for example "Room," "Brooklyn" and "Hidden Figures," could alter this long-term trend.
“Perhaps then the key to increasing female representation on screen — and thus character depth — is to hire more female directors who are more likely to distribute screen time evenly between male and female leads since most male directors seem to only be reinforcing this significant gender gap,” O’Keeffe said."
A total of 92 films nominated for Best Picture from 2006 through 2017 were viewed by the researchers, who watched each film and manually recorded the amount of time lead actors and actresses were on the screen. Leads were determined by raw minutes seen on screen (in any form, e.g. hands, face, arms) meaning those advertised as lead actors and actresses may not have necessarily had the most time on screen and were not included in this data. These metrics were combined with other information about these films including the genre of the film, the budget of the film, and critic’s scores for the films, which were obtained from rottentomatoes.com, imdb.com, metacritic.com, and boxofficemojo.com.
In 2016, O'Keeffe joined St. Lawrence's social media team in a "Twitter Takeover" event during last year's 88th Academy Awards.