August 17, 2016
Hiring of Minority First-Time TV Directors Remains Flat; Hiring of Women Gaining Slightly
TV Director Development Cultivates Diversity
Los Angeles – Building on its efforts to analyze and bring awareness to the critical role that a “first break” plays in increasing diversity, the Directors Guild of America (DGA) today issued the results of an annual study of the gender and ethnic diversity of directors who received their first assignments in episodic television. The report this year precedes the DGA’s annual TV director diversity report, covering the 2015-16 season, which will publish later this summer.
In the 2015-16 season, 153 directors who had never worked in episodic television were hired by employers (studios, networks and executive producers) – 15% were ethnic minorities, and 23% were women. A comparison of season-by-season data shows that hiring of minority first-time TV directors has remained flat over the past seven seasons. At the same time, there was a slight upward trend in the season-by-season hiring of women first-time directors – though it has fluctuated within the same range since 2012. For example, in the last three years alone, hiring of women first-time TV directors fell from 23% to 16%, then rose back up to 23%.
When examining the data by season, it is important to note the small group size, which is more sensitive to fluctuation. With just 99 total first-time directors in 2009-10, and 153 in 2015-16, a handful of individual hires can impact the percentage in either direction. In aggregate, the study revealed that 81% (619) of all first-time episodic directors during the seven-year span were male and only 19% (144) were female; 86% (656) were Caucasian while just 14% (107) were minority directors.
“To change the hiring pool, you have to change the pipeline. Year after year when we put out our TV director diversity report, the media and public are stunned that the numbers remain virtually the same,” said Bethany Rooney, co-chair of the DGA Diversity Task Force. “But how can it change when employers hand out so many first-time director assignments as perks? If they were serious about inclusion, they would commit to do two simple things: First, look around and see that there’s already a sizable group of experienced women and minority directors ready to work and poised for success – and they would hire them. And second, they would more carefully consider these first-time directing jobs, and – with an eye toward director career development. In the end it’s all about who is a good director.
The study also followed the career trajectories of first-time directors initially hired in the 2009/10 – 2013/14 seasons, tracking whether they were subsequently hired for directing jobs (outside of the series for which they were originally hired) through the 2015-16 season. The purpose of this closer look was to determine which new entrants to the pipeline were moving on to develop TV directing careers. In this group, 26% (124) of the first-time directors were “experienced directors,” meaning that they were already directors in other categories (e.g. feature films, commercials, online). The majority – 66% (318) – were “affiliated” hires, meaning they were individuals already affiliated with the series for which they were hired (as actors, crew, editors, producers, writers, etc.)
The data showed that not only were the experienced directors more likely to develop TV-directing careers, they were more diverse. Additionally, women and ethnic minorities in this category exhibited a far greater degree of success than their affiliated counterparts – with 96% of women (24 out of 25) and 56% of ethnic minorities going on to direct on other series, compared with just 44% of women and 34% of ethnic minorities in the affiliated group.
“Employers should be thinking about their role in shaping and developing the talent pool,” added DGA Diversity Task Force co-chair Todd Holland. “After all, it’s the Platinum Age of television. The profile of the television director is rising as series rely more on stylistic and visual choices in storytelling, and audiences demand greater inclusion – on both sides of the camera.”
It all begins with respect.
Treat female directors with the respect that comes from their sheer numbers – 51% of the population. We are not diversity, we are not minority. We are half of the people who have been treated with condensation and called “little woman”, women who were told to takes care of the house, the kids and themselves, so they could wait for the hard working husband and mix a martini for him.
It’s a process because we need to change people’s minds.
Change is hard, people like consistency, they like “we’ve always done it this way”. Especially when the sentiment is industry-wide.
They don’t trust us, women, with big budget movies. Why? They just can’t believe they can put a woman at the helm of something so expensive. As if she’ll squander the money, take it and buy… I don’t know, shoes.
So it’s going to be a process, but, I believe we have already taken the first few steps.
What can we do moving forward?
- Continue talking about it in the press, highlight women’s work. Talk about it. Don’t let it die down.
- The federal authorities are already checking into it, thanks to our activity. No industry like the federals snooping around their business. That puts pressure on the big guys.
- We need more producers talking about it, the likes of J.J. Abrams and Paul Feig. In television Greg Berlanti who, according to Lexi Alexander, asked all his show runners to look for more women directors. John Wells did it years ago – the best fellowship program ever existed – but no one else followed suit.
- We need something like the Rooney Rule in football. Find a way to implement it with women. Make the producers meet women before the beginning of the season. Let them be exposed to the numbers and the different kinds of women that exist in our world. They just might find someone they like.
- We all know that quotas are not allowed. But for years, until very recently, there was some kind of self-imposed quota – 2 women per season, out of 23-24 episodes in most network shows. How come, I asked myself, that different shows have the same number – 2. Not 3 or 1, but 2. Year after year, show after show. I believe that this was a self-imposed quota, not to appear gender bias. Increase that number to 6 a season and then we’ll see what happens.
- We have 2 generations of women who missed the boat; I believe we need a fund of some sort, at the DGA, to enable women with prior experience in directing to update their resume by doing short films financed by the fund.
- Create a fund for first feature for women. Most countries around the world have some kind of government fund that helps finance movies. Canada just announced that 50% of the funds will go to women. We have to create a similar program to increase the number of women coming into the field.
- Agents don’t like to represent women because it’s a lot of work and very little in return. When women will start to work more, and earn, more agent will want to jump aboard.
- The DGA needs to do a bit more for their women. I know they are dealing with mostly male membership, but women were underemployed for so long that it’s time to throw some money at the problem.
Warner Bros. program for directors is open for submission.
It’s a short window 6/20/16 – 6/30/16.
You should have a short script you want to work on because for the first time this program is different!
Not only lectures but the 5 lucky ones will get to work on their script, budget it, cast it, shoot it, and post it – all financed by Warner Bros.
Go here to get more information.
Although statistics are published by the DGA in September, the guild found it necessary to issue a press release in May that tells us the numbers.
In the 2015-2-16 season, women directed 17.1% of episodes – up from 15.8% the previous year.
There was a marked difference in hiring patterns between the major networks which were the clear leader in diversity hiring.
In this article, you can find why there are so few women directing features.
Well, it looks like the ACLU letter about female director’s employment was exactly what was needed.
We wanted to rattle the industry.
We wanted to open it wide and drain the abscess.
We opened it wide, but the drainage is yet to come.
My dear friend, Maria Geise, showed us the way and did most of the work. we, a handful, helped as much as we could.
We didn’t do it alone.
In a coincident that no-one could foresee, the Sony Hack happened. It showed the world how the big studios think about women in front and behind the camera. Not only there were only a few female directors mentioned in those emails, it became clear that female stars are routinely getting paid less than their male co-stars.
Once the trumpet sounded, many other film organizations that were doing their work quietly, became vocal.
Women in Film got together with The Sundance institute to do a research about post-festival career path for women directors. Not surprisingly they found that a win in Sundance does not guarantee employment. Whereas men go to bigger and better-paid projects, women are expected to do more by themselves. The Geena Davis Institute for gender balance is doing a lot of work researching the number of women and girls in front of the camera, which usually shows that women have fewer lines and less character in most films, even in television programs for kids.
Many websites were built to show them all that the number of women director’s working is but a small fraction of what’s out there. The more sites were built and attention to the subject given, the excuse “I don’t know any women directors” seem to vanish. Google the term “women TV directors”, and you’ll find pictures at the top of the search result page.
But there is much more to be done.
A dear friend wrote this post about her experience in trying to mount a feature production.
Read it and weep.
I received an invite for a screening of a movie I worked on 2 years ago. I am curious about this movie, how it came out? why it was delayed, but… what the hell, I want to see how things cut together, and if you can really light a scene with 2 candles…
Yet I’m sitting here, on the day of the screening, debating if I even want to go.
This production was one of the worst in my professional career. Everything was wrong – from the way I was hired – 3 days before the start of principal photography when they suddenly realized the script supervisor they’ve hired has never worked on a feature or television, only commercials. How is it possible? You prepare a movie for months. No one bothered to ask her until 3 days before you start shooting what has she done before?
To the shoot itself – full of contention, people being fired or quitting, replacing themselves. In 18 days we had three or four sound crews, makeup people, wardrobe…
And that was a production on which I did something I’ve never done before. I cried in public.
For all the years I worked in the movies, for all the positions I occupied, I have never cried in public. I hardly cried at all. There were insults, and false accusations and I always dealt with them head on. Even when a writer/star of a show I was directing got under my skin, I confronted him, talked to him and told him to lay off. He agreed. The 1st AD came to me later and said I have the biggest balls in the business, and here I was reduced to crying.
I was reduced all right. The director said time and time again that “continuity is for sissies”. When I corrected an actor’s line he said it’s not important. When I didn’t correct he yelled that the dialogue is the most important thing. When I did off-screen lines – at the other end of a phone conversation for example – the actress was cutting me off instead of leaving room for the editor to cut my voice out and the real actress voice in. She did it time and again until I heard his voice, yelling “Don’t step on the actress lines!” It was obvious to all around she was stepping on mine. We looked at each other, not understanding what brought that about.
At the end of the day, the director came by to tell me he wasn’t mad at me. He was trying to tell the actress to wait. “You understand how it is…” he said.
No, I didn’t. Yelling at me instead of asking the actress to wait is a devious way to do things. It’s not going to be fun.
And it wasn’t. At some point we had an altercation in front of the whole cast and crew. He belittled me, belittled my work, even hit me on the knees, jokingly, with a rolled up script because I dared to say a prop should be here in evidence because it plays in the next scene. All that just a day after we were talking how easy it is to lose the respect of the crew. It’s enough that one person belittles him/her, the whole crew will pick up on that and there’s no turning back.
And now he is doing it to me.
I was mad at myself, and that brought me to tears. A few years ago I would turn around and walk off the set, saying to the producer “find yourself another one to abuse. I’m done.” Instead, the older me started calculating how much money I won’t make if I walk away, and will I be able to make ends meet. That felt like a punch in the gut. My low self-esteem of the past few years has gotten the best of me.
It broke the momentum.
I turned and walked away, crying to myself. Made long circles around the crew to avoid their gaze and didn’t stand next to the director to watch the shot. At some point he saddled up to me, watching the shot from the Playback cart. “What’s going on?” He asked.
“You hurt me.” I said.
“I was only joking! You know that.”
“Maybe I do or maybe I don’t, but all those people around us don’t know for sure. You crossed the line this time. And this just a day after talking about losing respect.”
He turned a little paler in the light of the monitor at the IT guy’s cart. “I’m sorry. I didn’t think. I apologize. I’ll never do it again.” He said.
“Yeah, that does the trick, doesn’t it?… You abuse in public and apologize in private. Bet you feel good about yourself later.” And I walked away, crying.
I really had made my mind about quitting. Sitting down to finish my reports that night I was vowed by the UPM and by the Producer. “Please don’t leave, please. You should have seen what he’s done to me…”
I stayed to make the extra bucks. But my love for this project or the people who run it was lost forever.
Five days before the end of the shoot, the 2nd AD walked off the set when the director positioned himself 3 inches from her nose and yelled at her, laced with profanities, for long minutes for doing something that was logical and best for the overall production. She just looked at him until he turned away to go to the set, then whipped out her walkie-talkie, said goodbye to everyone and left.
So, should I go to the cast and crew screening or say fuck it?
p.s. I said what I said and did not go to the screening. You and I will probably never see this movie because, despite having a distribution deal with Universal, the movie will come out on VOD only. According to crew members who went to the screening, we won’t miss much.
So much heart-ache over something that will rarely be seen.
As the joke goes: “What, leave show business?”
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.
After many conversations, phone calls, meetings, statistics and more statistics, the ACLU of Southern California is taking action.