Do Female Director’s fair better in features? Nah

Posted by Rena Sternfeld on April 14, 2016 in The search |

In this article, you can find why there are so few women directing features.


Female Directors – Are we There Yet?

Posted by Rena Sternfeld on April 14, 2016 in The search |


are we


Well, it looks like the ACLU letter about female director’s employment was exactly what was needed.

We wanted to rattle the industry.

We did.

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.


are we 3


Posted by Rena Sternfeld on April 6, 2016 in The search |

A dear friend wrote this post about her experience in trying to mount a feature production.

Read it and weep.

I’m a Lilly – And You’re Probably One Too: All Women Face Gender Discrimination



Have a Cast and Crew Screening to Go to

Posted by Rena Sternfeld on February 1, 2016 in On the set |




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?”

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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

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