Why is The DGA Included in the ACLU Letter About Women Directors

Posted by Rena Sternfeld on May 23, 2015 in The search |

So, the DGA is mad about being included in the ACLU letter.


“The ACLU has made no effort to contact the DGA concerning the issues raised in its letters. The ACLU’s assertions reflect this lack of investigation as to the Guild, and ignore its efforts to combat discrimination against women directors and to promote the employment of women directors.

“There are few issues to which the DGA is more committed than improving employment opportunities for women and minority directors, it is time for change.”


Here’s why the DGA found itself there:


  • Any thorough investigation of what is happening with female directors in Hollywood has to include the DGA, the strongest guild in the business.
  • For its own reasons the DGA chose not go public with diversity action and instead go about it in meetings and closed rooms without letting the membership know what is going on. We continuously have to ask for reports because they are not made public. We urged the guild, more than once, to take the issue head on and do something serious about it. Instead that is what we got:
  • We wanted to get women together and see how they feel. “The Summit” which was the idea of Rachel Feldman, Melanie Wager, Maria Giese and Sandra Milliner, almost did not happen. It was canceled by the higher ups (Jay Roth got involved in the program and who we invite) many times and resurrected by the tenacity of our organizers. They were told they can’t invite Dr. Martha Lauzen from San Diego University who is following the numbers for years. They were told they can’t invite Geena Davis because she is not a DGA member, and they were told to disinvite Dame Helen Mirren for the same reason.
  • At the very successful summit there were calls for a ‘revolution’, a ‘dramatic change’ etc. we were promised the email addresses of the participants as they signed in. Later the DGA decided they can’t trust us with that list and it is DGA property – not the organizers.
  • At the end of the summit, our President expressed the idea that as far as the DGA is concerned, we are in a good shape because of the number of episodes directed by women correlates to the number of female members. “We are in good shape,” he said.
  • We were then asked to sign “bylaws”. For 35 years the committees existed without them, and now was the time to put things in order. The main issue with the bylaws was the “work in trade” clause. It might suit the guild as a whole, but not committees which are designed to encourage employment for their members. It effectively put the members who were fighting for change out of any elected position.
  • Contract negotiations – We came up with a lot of suggestions. Maria came up with changing the wording in the agreements, for example. There were other suggestions such as a fund for women’s first films and many more radical things.
  • We have been saying for years that the directing programs are a sham. I personally said it more than once. What did we get? MORE PROGRAMS. With a promise to monitor them.

What do we have now? The ABC/DGA program is called “Talent Development” and includes 10 people, 5 of each gender. 1 woman is DGA member.

Fox has a “Global Talent Search” – Not only USA, not only DGA, not only women – Global… and so on.

  • Personally I was very irked by what our President said in the WSC meeting: “A change will happen, but it will take time.” If that is the leading attitude, and the president thinks the numbers are alright, there’s no hope the Guild will do anything.
  • “The lists” – they did exist and were openly discussed until Maria brought up the fact that they are illegal. Suddenly they disappeared. I’m not sure it is a bad thing for the union to distribute lists of their members for possible jobs. What I object is the cut-off date that was used – 18 months. If you didn’t direct in 18 months you were off the list. That is not inclusion. That is perpetuating the same situation. The same names appeared on those lists over and over again. I really don’t know how you increase the number of women directors if you agree to stipulations like these. Same goes to ‘breakfast with executives’ or a ‘weekend retreat’. As far as I can tell, there was nothing written or announced about it.
  • Again, there was a diversity event we didn’t know about just recently. A joint event of the WGA and the DGA. I understand the DGA wanted to fill the room with people who do the hiring and not preach to the choir, but at least they should have let us know about it and tell us this angle.

The feeling we have is that the DGA is blocking us in every move we make to change the situation. We have the feeling the DGA is an institution that believes in “what you don’t know won’t hurt you”.

The truth, most of the time, is bound to surface, one way or another.

I’m sure it’s not easy to practice what you preach when you worry about your own job. Only the great ones do. I believe Betty when she says she faced executives and bit their heads off. At least now they won’t be able to profess ignorance of the abysmal number of women directors.


As a closure: Last time it was tried (1983), a lawsuit was thrown out because the Judge believed the DGA is part of the problem and, therefore, can’t be part of the lawsuit.

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The ACLU Takes Action

Posted by Rena Sternfeld on May 12, 2015 in The search |

After many conversations, phone calls, meetings, statistics and more statistics, the ACLU of Southern California is taking action.


You can read the whole article in the NYT here, and the full letter here


The Celluloid Ceiling: Behind-the-Scenes Employment of Women on the Top 250 Films of 2014

Posted by Rena Sternfeld on January 15, 2015 in The search |

by Martha M. Lauzen, Ph.D.
Copyright © 2015 – All rights reserved.
In 2014, women comprised 17% of all
directors, writers, producers, executive
producers, editors, and cinematographers
working on the top 250 (domestic)
grossing films. This is the same
percentage of women working in these
roles in 1998 (see Figure 1).
Women accounted for 7% of directors,
up 1 percentage point from 2013, but
down 2 percentage points from 9% in
1998. In 2014, 93% of films had no
female directors.
The results are divided into two sections.
The first section reports the findings for
the roles traditionally included in this
study, offering historical comparisons
from 2014 with figures dating from
1998. The second section provides the
findings for three additional roles
considered this year including
composers, sound designers, and
supervising sound editors.


Read the whole article here.


2015 Oscar nominations show lack of diversity in a year when films didn’t

Posted by Rena Sternfeld on January 15, 2015 in The search |

Here is another article from The Washington Post
“Instead, as photographs of the nominees flashed behind the announcers, what emerged was a depressingly monochrome, uni-gendered visual tableau — reflecting the statistical realities of a steadfastly un-diverse industry. On Tuesday, Martha Lauzen, executive director of the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University, released her annual “Celluloid Ceiling” report tracking women’s progress within the film business. Her findings were underwhelming, at best.”


Read it all here


DGA Five-Year Study of First-Time Directors in Episodic Television Shows Women and Minority Directors Face Significant Hiring Disadvantage at Entry Level

Posted by Rena Sternfeld on January 15, 2015 in The search |

DGA First-Time Episodic Directors Study
January 8, 2015
Los Angeles – The Directors Guild of America today issued the results of a five-year analysis of the gender and ethnic diversity of first-time directors on scripted series.
In the five-year period studied (2009-2010 through 2013-2014 television seasons), 479 directors received their first assignment in episodic television. The study revealed that 82% of all first-time episodic directors during the five-year span examined were male and only 18% were female; 87% were Caucasian and only 13% were Minority directors.

These figures indicate that, despite the fact that the hiring of first-time episodic directors is a significant area of opportunity to broaden the diversity of the directing hiring pool, those with responsibility for hiring are repeating old hiring patterns and perpetuating the status quo that overwhelmingly favors directors who are white males.
DGA Episodic Directors by Gender“There’s a big opportunity here for those in charge of hiring to make a difference – but they’re not. Without change at the entry level – where women and minority directors get their first directing assignment – it’ll be status quo from here to eternity,” said DGA President Paris Barclay. “Every director needs a first shot to break into the business – and what this report reveals is that studios, networks, and executive producers need to challenge their own hiring practices and offer talented women and minority directors the same opportunities they are giving white males.”

Writers made up 28% of the first-time episodic director pool; actors made up 18%; assistant directors/unit production managers comprised 10%; cinematographers/camera operators were 8%; editors totaled 5%; other crew made up 5%; and non-writing producers were 1%. The remainder of the group was made up of people who had previously directed in other genres including independent film, new media, commercials, music videos, student films and documentaries.
DGA Episodic Directors by Ethnicity“Look, the data is clear. Even when hiring first-timers, the studios and executive producers are making choices that show they don’t actively support diversity hiring,” said Betty Thomas, DGA First Vice-President and Co-Chair of the DGA’s Diversity Task Force. “First-time TV directors are new to the game and come from all areas of the industry including film school – so why is a woman or minority any less qualified than anybody else? It seems clearer than ever that we need to see different points of view. Most of the industry claims to want a more diversified directing workforce – here’s their chance. It could all start here.”
This is the first in a series of DGA reports analyzing multiple aspects of the hiring practices for first-time episodic directors.
The DGA compiled the statistics for this report based on data from the 2009-2010 – 2013-2014 television seasons. The data excludes pilots. In cases where a first-time episodic director could have been assigned to more than one previous employment category, the DGA placed the director in the category for which he or she is most well-known. All figures were rounded to the nearest percentage.
Click here for the DGA’s most recent annual report on overall episodic director hiring was issued in September 2014 for the 2013-14 season.


“With A Smile”

Posted by Rena Sternfeld on July 21, 2014 in The search |


A genuine man left us. James Garner.


James Garner1


When he was asked by Barbara Walters how he would like to be remembered, he answered “With a smile”.

Just a mensch that made it a pleasure to be on the set for 12-16 hours a day. I heard it  from a 1st AD who was there, on his TV show and all the TV movies (more or less) he later made.


James garner


And now I found this:

From that experience, Garner developed a lifelong sympathy for the underdog. “I cannot stand to see little people picked on by big people,” he said. “If a director starts abusing people, I’ll just jump in.”



As I said, we will miss him dearly, in this industry that ‘throwing people under the bus’ is an every day occurrence.


james Garner 2


Another Open Letter from a Female TV Director

Posted by Rena Sternfeld on July 17, 2014 in The search |

This time from my friend Rachel Feldman. The fight to be recognized and employed continues. This article has a little bit more information about what is really going on inside the television and movie business and why female TV directors are so rarely employed.

An excellent open letter to showrunners who are at the neck of this bottle in television.

Showrunning is a very tough job, but hiring more women directors is not simply a labor/employment inequity that needs to be rectified — it’s an issue that has important, global social relevance. Film and television are our culture’s most powerful influencer and ambassador. All around the world, even in the most remote corners of our planet, men, women and children see how Hollywood movies and television present the human condition. Our media is a great proselytizer, and we have a tremendous responsibility to ensure that the images and ideas we disseminate represent the most enlightened aspects of culture and are not created with a single-gender perspective.


You can read the whole post here.

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Film Directing – Notes From the Trenches

Posted by Rena Sternfeld on June 30, 2014 in On the set |


Haven’t written for a long time, and with that crossed one of the “no-no’s” of blogging. You have to be dedicated and provide new content, all the time.

But when you work 70 hour weeks as script supervisor (yes, had to do that to make ends… closer), you get sucked into a new world, and it’s all consuming.

You live most of the day in that world – the world of filmmaking, of make-believe. There is another world order in this community, with a clear hierarchy of leaders and subordinate. Things you can do in another world – like go to sleep at approximately the same time every night – are dictated here. Today you sleep at night, tomorrow you sleep during the day. You’ll eat when you are told and spend long days in places you have never been before, in condition that do not promote health and well-being. You agonize over a shot, a mistake you might have made, and words and gestures directed toward you in the heat of the moment. Behaviors that are not tolerated in other environments strive here. There is not even an attempt to disguise it to be anything else but dictatorship.

There is a clear leader who tells everyone what to do. And the character of that leader sets the atmosphere in this world. I’ve seen actors become leaders and I’ve seen directors who think they lead, but do not. Unfortunately I also had my share of leaders who are tyrants, and some who verge on mental illness and are dangerous to themselves and their surroundings.


It takes time to realize that this world order exists in this world alone, and slowly put things in perspective.


For those who want to be directors, being on sets and seeing how others do it is a valuable education you will not get anywhere else, including film school. But – how you handle questions, how you handle problems, how you deal with pressures and not finishing the day’s schedule can’t be learned – it has to be experienced.

Since I have lived in both worlds – being a crew member – and understanding the dilemmas of a director, I have a few observations about directing from the trenches.

Sometimes directors are their own worst enemy. Getting involved in the workings of every department from start to finish seems like the right thing to do in order to have total control of the process, but watching from the sidelines I realized that it takes too much of the director’s time and attention.

Trying to do everyone’s job is a huge waste of the director’s time. If you like to bump the camera operator to get the shots yourself, you achieve two things: Everyone realizes you are not a better operator than the one that does it for a living and you are so busy with the frame, the light, not to see the c-stand, that you hardly have time to notice what’s inside the frame – you know, the important stuff.

If you dictate how the production works, you sometimes don’t see the forest for the trees. Example? A director asks the make-up department how long it will take to clean up an actor who was covered in blood. The head of the department (who was replaced later in the movie) told the director it can be done on the set without taking the actor to the makeup trailer 10 minutes away, and – it will take only 10 minutes to clean him up. That is an A.D. question. As a director you should concentrate on the performance, not on scheduling the day.

As we continued with the shoot, the director added more and more blood on and around the actor. The actor’s jeans were glued to his thighs, his hair was matted, covered in blood, sand and leaves after lying dead on the ground for a few hours… When the time came to clean him up, the makeup department came to the AD department and said they have to take the actor to the trailers to take a shower and wash his hair. The AD department approved and the actor hopped into a van to go to base camp.

20 minutes later the director was ready to shoot the cleaned up actor, and was told he is on his way from base camp and will be there momentarily.

All the director heard was that the actor was taken to base camp. He went ballistic, cussing everyone from the actor to the makeup to the A.D. department, blaming them for causing him to be behind schedule and sabotaging the production. While he was still ranting, the actor arrived, all cleaned up, ready to shoot.

What was the big deal? You ask. It shouldn’t have been a big deal. All went as planned and he really didn’t wait long for the actor, but he was mad as a hatter because he was not told that the actor goes to base camp and as far as he was concerned THEY DIDN’T DO WHAT HE ORDERED.

The atmosphere on the set changed dramatically. Cast and crew who watched the director scream, 5 inches away from the 2nd AD’s nose, were terribly put off. He lost the crew that night. If before they were giving 110% to make the director’s vision come to life, now they started walking a little bit slower, giving only the necessary minimum.

Surround yourself with people you trust and let them do their job. As I was taught in The Israeli Army’s – A good officer is the one who delegates authority. A bad officer is the one who tries to do it all by himself.


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“The World is Round, People!”

Posted by Rena Sternfeld on March 10, 2014 in The search |

And the articles, they keep coming.  WE managed to stir things a little bit.




Here’s an article by Maureen Dowd in the NY Times. She calls it “Frozen in a Niche?” in which she talks about Cate Blanchett becoming a challenger: “She chided industry colleagues “who are still foolishly clinging to the idea that female films with women at the center are niche experiences,” adding: “The world is round, people.”

Thank you Cate! Thank you Meryl Steep for talking about it. Thanks you Jodie Foster for combating the establishment at higher levels. As she told the Los Angeles Times: When men hire directors they say to themselves  “I’m gonna hand over $60 million to somebody I don’t know. I hope they look like me.” She also criticized “risk-averse” female studio executives who regard female directors as too much of a risk. In Vogue, Claire Danes said she stopped working for two years before she got “Homeland” because she didn’t want to play “the girl.”

Ms. Dowd continues to say:

The percentage of women directing, writing, producing, editing and shooting films has declined since 1998, according to an analysis of the top 250 grossing films of 2013 by the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University. (The anticipated halo effect from Kathryn Bigelow becoming the first woman to win a directing Oscar for 2009’s “The Hurt Locker” never happened.)

The center’s latest report had some stunning stats: Women accounted for 6 percent of directors, 10 percent of writers, 15 percent of executive producers, 17 percent of editors and 3 percent of cinematographers. And women are still more likely to be working on romantic comedies, dramas or documentaries than the top-grossing, teenage-boy-luring animated, sci-fi and horror movies.

“Every time that a female-driven film like ‘Bridesmaids’ makes boatloads of money at the box office, it is considered a fluke, a one-off. Women comprise 52 percent of all moviegoers. Yet there’s still an assumption that men will not go to see a woman’s movie, but that women will go to see anything.”

Sound familiar? I wrote it on this blog in the past.

The bluntest remarks came from co-chairman of Sony Pictures Entertainment Amy Pascal in Forbes. She talked about the “paltry” amount women make in Hollywood compared to men, about the “unconscious mountain” of rejection against female directors and how “the whole system is geared for them to fail.”


BUT ” … given this year’s crop of female protagonists, she feels more sanguine. “Between ‘Gravity,’ ‘Hunger Games,’ ‘Frozen,’ ‘The Heat,’ and others, that’s $4 billion,” she told the reporter. “That’s a gigantic change.” Now, when we are talking about money there’s something to fight for.


And the key phrase at the end of the article?: “Women have to help each other more. It’s our duty.”

Amen to that Amy Pascal.



A Female Director Speaks Out

Posted by Rena Sternfeld on March 10, 2014 in The search |


Maria Giese had enough.

She’s been working hard  trying to change the situation of women directors. After directing two features (“When Sunday Comes” – a British production, and “Hunger”) she tried to “break in” into television directing and found the same white, wide, tall wall I encountered, with no door in it.

She joined the Women Steering Committee of The Director’s Guild of America with the hope that the professional guild will spearhead the change we so desperately need.

She recently published an article called “After the Summit – Halfway There” in which she counts the actions of the leadership of the DGA in an attempt to put a muzzle on the women who are speaking out.

Here is what she wrote:

… Television directing, and the residuals that follow, is the bread and butter of the majority of DGA directors, and forms the bedrock of the Directors Guild’s health and pension plans. Yet when a female DGA director member attempts to gain entry to this regularly working group, entry is blocked— by habit, by design, by custom, and by the passivity of the DGA itself.  Could this be simply a microcosm of a larger primate gender war for resources?

In feature films, an art form that is the voice of our entire culture, America appears unwilling to accommodate any more women than can fit in a single-digit percentage. There are more women in the US Congress than there are women who direct US movies. Unless you are a movie star like Jodie Foster, Drew Barrymore, or Angelina Jolie, or a pop star like Madonna or Barbra Streisand, or the daughter of a famous director, like Sophia Coppola or Alison Eastwood, or an actress who is a regular on a TV series (that list is endless), you are out in the cold.”


Here’s another:

 “After a decade of being a DGA member, two years ago I began attending monthly DGA Women’s Steering Committee (WSC) meetings as a last resort effort to finding work.  What I found instead was a group of confused, frightened, and subservient women acceding to the unspoken demands of the DGA to be quiet and not make waves– not so different from Stepford wives, ironically.

Worse, it was every woman for herself.  The DGA women TV directors I met through the committee seemed hell-bent on keeping other women shut out and off their turf.  A few may allow another woman director to shadow on their shows, but they almost never make sure the observer can advance to actually directing an episode of her own.”

And here is what was happening behind the scenes of the Summit a year ago:

A few months after the vote, however, we had not gotten an official go-ahead from the Guild to start working.  I had lunch with the Guild’s diversity officer, Regina Render who told me, “The event is not going to happen.”   I ask her why.  She said the Guild perceived it as “negative.” According to her, they thought it might make the Guild “look bad”– it could be “embarrassing.”

We decided to write a letter to Regina. We wrote: “Jay Roth is not going to want to go down years from now as having been the guy in charge when the DGA is found to be in violation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Title VII.”   Two days later, the event was officially approved.  We had the go-ahead.  About 9 or 10 months later, on March 2, 2013 (almost exactly a year ago) the most important, fully inclusive event for women directors ever hosted by the DGA took place.”

“… The Directors Guild of America is the most powerful union in our industry. Guild leaders are always quick to boast of being the richest union in Hollywood, perhaps having in excess of $100 million in their coffers.  The membership pays Roth millions of dollars a year in deferred bonus alone– that’s on top of a $750,000 salary. Yet they can’t cough up ten or twenty thousand dollars to promote equal employment opportunity for women directors?  Something they are legally bound to do in accordance with Title VII?  There is something curiously awry in that valuation disparity.

Furthermore, American media seems to be talking about the problem of the under-employment of women directors every day— in print, on the radio, on TV.  It’s ever-present now.  I know we have made great strides in the past two years, but there is much, much work to be done.”

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