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A Female Director Speaks Out

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

Speak-Out

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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