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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