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Guest Post: Plenty of Qualified Women Directors Are Ready to Fill the Ranks

Rachel Feldman

Guest Post by Rachel Feldman

If asked to imagine a film or TV director, most people conjure the image of a man. Sadly, this is true for those who work in the film and television industry as well. In fact, research from USC Annenberg’s Media, Diversity & Social Change Initiative confirms that zero percent of Hollywood executives have any women director’s names at the top of their minds. Of course, those in the know have lists that include Kathryn Bigelow, Patty Jenkins, or Ava DuVernay in features and Lesli Linka Glatter or Reed Morano in television — but there are also hundreds, if not thousands, of highly skilled women directors who have been invisible for way too long.

The statistics for women directing stagnates at four percent in feature films and at 17 percent in television, and although the 17 percent in TV may initially sound like forward momentum, when statistically analyzed it proves to be an illusory number because it doesn’t represent the number of women directing, only the number of episodes directed by women. In other words, it is often the same few women doing all the work. But the fact is that there are over 1,300 experienced women directors in the Directors Guild of America (DGA), many with decades of experience in high-quality broadcast and cable television. So why do only about 50 of these directors appear and re-appear on network hiring lists?

Last week NBC announced a new “Female Forward” program that will train 10 new women directors a year through a shadowing program. NBC President Jennifer Salke says that the pool of available directors is “too small” and she’s excited about the idea of having 30 new directors in three years. Of course it’s fantastic that NBC is going to create a program in support of women directors, but it would be a mistake not to correct an insidious false assumption that continues to undermine real progress.

Salke is by no means alone in her thinking: it is a predominate belief throughout the entire industry that one of the reasons why gender employment statistics are so low is because there just aren’t enough qualified women directors to fill the ranks. But this is patently untrue.

The fact is that NBC could have 100 highly skilled directors tomorrow. If our industry truly wants swift, equitable gender equity in the director ranks, the answer is not simply to train new directors and hope for the future. We need to find and hire the large pool of already trained, highly accomplished women directors who have been toiling in the trenches for decades. We need to make the change now.

The employment mechanism for hiring directors is, no doubt, complex. There are many levels of executives, all who need to vet a director. That’s why directors with hot credits and repped by top agents are easy to notice — and those who may not have a recent credit, or who are not represented by a high-profile agent or manager, become invisible.

Women’s careers also look different from their male counterparts’. Women often step away from thriving careers to raise children and care for family members. Add in the gender bias that makes each and every job a Sisyphean hurdle and it’s simple to see how women lose their reps and fall off rosters. But these women are indomitable. Many have thriving careers in allied fields as writers, producers, editors, ADs, or teachers. Some make independent features. All of them are eager to be making an honorable living, with goldstar health insurance, using the masterful skills they have taken a lifetime to hone.

In life, and certainly in the movie business, we are taught that we will be rewarded for tenacity and determination, but so far this has not proven true for an army of women directors.

Meryl Streep sponsors a program for mid-career women writers through New York Women in Film & Television, the Writers Guild of America has made enormous strides supporting the careers of their experienced female members with a variety of initiatives and programs, and The Ravenal Foundation and The Jerome Foundation have long supported mid-career female feature directors. But in the television director landscape the continued focus on new, untrained directors as the sole way to ameliorate a widespread problem is both an unimaginative solution and an enormous injustice to women who have already been injured by decades of gender exclusion.

DuVernay, Oprah Winfrey, and Ryan Murphy are trendsetting new formulas in hiring television directors. They understand that the status quo is not serving directors who are not white men and they are hiring both veteran directors who’ve fallen off hiring lists as well as promising talent. But a handful of progressive thinkers is not enough. The entire industry — networks, studios, producers, and agencies — must create avenues of opportunity for mid-career women directors. It may require a bit of work to discover this gold mine of talent but just below the surface are literally hundreds of brilliant women directors who deserve a break.

This past presidential election was a disgraceful example of how accomplished, highly experienced women can be disregarded. Hiding behind excuses of: “It’s our [pick one] first/second/third season,” or “We have [pick one] stunts/VFX/finicky actors/cross-boarding/a tricky tone…” is as misogynistic/patriarchal as men who think they can grab women wherever they want. We must continue to ask why men are regarded with great potential and women are seen as needing to have a continuing education. Mid-career women directors are trained to figure out what they need to tell a story and it’s high time for the film and TV machine to support and nurture this valuable resource.

Create your own programs and initiatives or search for us at The Director List and the DGA.

And here is a just-a-tip-of-the-iceberg list of experienced television directors — not intended to be exhaustive or comprehensive — to illustrate the bounty to be discovered. There are also hundreds more accomplished women in the independent world:

Victoria Hochberg, Gloria Muzio, Neema Barnette, Debbie Reinisch, Hanelle Culpepper, Martha Coolidge, Amy Heckerling, Tanya Hamilton, Tessa Blake, Kat Candler, Shannon McCormack Flynn, Ellen Pressman, Leslie Libman, Vicky Jenson, Stacy Title, Linda Feferman, Matia Karrell, Maggie Greenwald, Deborah Kampmeier, Debra Granik, Darnell Martin, Anna Foerster, Heather Cappiello, Nicole Rubio, Leslie Libman, Beth Spitalny, Daisy Von Scherler Mayer, Jan Eliasberg, Elodie Keene, Diana Valentine, Jessica Landaw, Julie Hebert, Julie Anne Robinson, Katherine Brooks, Martha Mitchell, Nicole Kassell, Nzingha Stewart, Rachel Talalay, Rose Troche, Stacey Black, Alexis Korycinski, Allison Anders, Ami Canaan Mann, Amy Redford, Anna Mastro, Anne Renton, Catherine Jelski, Claudia Weill, Dee Rees, Helen Hunt, Jessica Yu, Donna Deitch, Kasi Lemmons, Lily Mariye, So Yong Kim, Tina Mabry, Tanya Hamilton, Rachel Feldman

Rachel Feldman has directed more than 60 hours of television and is in development to direct her award-winning screenplay “Fair Fight,” a political thriller based on the life of Fair Pay activist Lilly Ledbetter. She is a former chair of the DGA Women’s Steering Committee. Go to her website for more information. #WomenCallAction

Guest Post: Plenty of Qualified Women Directors Are Ready to Fill the Ranks was originally published in Women and Hollywood on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.
See full article at Women and Hollywood »

'Hell Or High Water', 'Deadpool' score WGA nominations

Writers of Hell or High Water, La La Land, Arrival and Deadpool are among the nominees for this year’s Writers Guild Awards.

Writers of Hell or High Water (pictured), La La Land, Arrival and Deadpool are among the nominees for this year’s Writers Guild Awards, set to be presented at ceremonies hosted by the West and East branches of the Writers Guild of America (WGA) on Feb 19.

Also nominated in the WGA’s original screenplay category are the writers of Loving, Manchester By The Sea and Moonlight. Fences, Hidden Figures and Nocturnal Animals produced the other nominations in the adapted screenplay category.

Documentary nominations went to Author: The Jt Leroy Story, Command And Control and Zero Days, while dramatic TV series getting nods were The Americans, Better Call Saul, Game Of Thrones, Stranger Things and Westworld.

Full list of feature nominees and selected TV nominees:

Original Screenplay

Hell or High Water Taylor Sheridan

La La Land [link
See full article at ScreenDaily »

'Hell,' 'La La,' 'Arrival,' 'Deadpool' score WGA nominations

Writers of Hell or High Water, La La Land, Arrival and Deadpool are among the nominees for this year’s Writers Guild Awards.

Writers of Hell or High Water (pictured), La La Land, Arrival and Deadpool are among the nominees for this year’s Writers Guild Awards, set to be presented at ceremonies hosted by the West and East brances of the Writers Guild of America (WGA) on Feb 19.

Also nominated in the WGA’s original screenplay category are the writers of Loving, Manchester by the Sea and Moonlight. Fences, Hidden Figures and Nocturnal Animalsproduced the other nominations in the adapted screenplay category.

Documentary nominations went to Author: The Jt Leroy Story, Command and Control and Zero Days, while dramatic TV series getting nods were The Americans, Better Call Saul, Game of Thrones, Stranger Things and Westworld.

Full list of feature nominees and selected TV nominees:

Original Screenplay

Hell or High Water Taylor Sheridan

La La Land [link
See full article at ScreenDaily »

Quote of the Day: 'American Crime' Writer Julie Hébert on Why Diversity in the Writers Room Matters

Quote of the Day: 'American Crime' Writer Julie Hébert on Why Diversity in the Writers Room Matters
"American Crime Story," the limited series that explores issues of race, class and justice through the lens of one story per season, received 10 Emmy nominations for its debut year. Season 2 premiered on ABC on Wednesday, January 6, and in a new profile of staff writer Julie Hébert, she credited the show's strength to its diverse writers room. “After having been in so many writers rooms with not only white guys, but straight white males, not a lot of women, and certainly not a lot of people of color, the writers room for ‘American Crime’ is incredibly diverse,” said Hébert. “The room has a completely different tone, and it’s so interesting to me that there’s actually diversity in the stories and the experiences and the point of view of the writers. Eventually, all of that makes it into the show. It was striking to me, the controversial subjects we were discussing.
See full article at Indiewire Television »

New Nashville Season 2,Episode 18 Intense Spoiler Promo Clip Hit The Net

  • OnTheFlix
New Nashville season 2,episode 18 intense spoiler promo clip hit the net. Last night, ABC released the new promo/spoiler clip (below) for their upcoming "Nashville" episode 18 of season 2, and it appears to be extremely dramatic and intense as Maddie talks smack to Rayna, Deacon resorts to more violence, and more. The episode is titled, "Your Wild Life's Gonna Get You Down." In the new episode 18, Rayna will end up, playing a mini-set on Luke’s tour, and her girls are going to meet his son, Colt, who is a moody teenager that has a big social media following. Juliette is going to get very jealous of Avery’s connection to Scarlett and will take it out on her while they tour together to help raise awareness of Highway 65. Will and Layla are going to make a plan that Gunnar will refuse to support, and Teddy is going to forbid Maddie
See full article at OnTheFlix »

New Nashville Season 2,Episode 18 Official Spoilers,Plotline Revealed By ABC

  • OnTheFlix
New Nashville season 2,episode 18 official spoilers,plotline revealed by ABC. Recently, ABC released the new,official,synopsis/spoilers for their upcoming "Nashville" episode 18 of season 2. The episode is entitled, "Your Wild Life's Gonna Get You Down," and sounds like it'll get pretty dramatic as Juliette takes out a jealous Avery rage on Scarlett, and more! In the new,18th episode press release: Rayna will play a mini-set on Luke’s tour, and her girls will meet his son, Colt (Keann Johnson), a moody teenager who has a big social media following. Juliette is going to grow jealous of Avery’s connection to Scarlett and will take it out on her while they tour together to help raise awareness of Highway 65. Will and Layla are going to make a plan that Gunnar will refuse to support, and Teddy will forbid Maddie from attending Deacon’s latest concert. Guest stars will
See full article at OnTheFlix »

New Nashville Season 2,Episode 4 Official Spoilers,Plotline Revealed By ABC

  • OnTheFlix
New Nashville season 2,episode 4 official spoilers,plotline revealed by ABC. Recently, ABC dished out the new, official, synopsis/spoilers for their upcoming "Nashville" episode 4 of season 2. The episode is entitled, "You're No Angel Yourself," and it sounds quite intriguing and drama-filled as Teddy actually proposes to Peggy, Maddie ends up getting very upset about it, and more. In the new,4th episode press release: Rayna will cancel the tour with Juliette ,and Maddie is going to be at the center of a dramatic turn of events when she discovers Teddy plans to marry Peggy. Press release number 2: Rayna will leave Juliette in a lurch when she decides she needs to cancel the remainder of the tour. Teddy will propose to Peggy and asks her to be discreet around the girls, but when Maddie sees her grandmother’s ring hanging from Peggy’s neck, the charade is up. She is
See full article at OnTheFlix »

Boss, Eps 2.08-9: “Consequence” and “Clinch” give us the best and worst of Boss

  • SoundOnSight
Boss Season 2, Episode 8: “Consequence”

Written by Paul Keables

Directed by Jean de Segonzac

Boss Season 2, Episode 9: “Clinch”

Written by Julie Hébert

Directed by Mario Van Peebles

Airs Fridays at 9pm (Et) on Starz

Closing in on the finale, “Consequence” and “Clinch” have some heavy lifting to do. The loose strands and split ends of the season so far need to be woven and trimmed to allow for a finale unburdened by exposition, mystery, and plot games. The first of these episodes is a let down: mostly functional (save for its climax), “Consequence” acts on its obligation to present the return of Kane as a brilliant puppet master, healthy and lucid. As storytelling goes, it’s a fine plan, yet the execution is clunky. Boss is clearly too big for its boots: it has a full hour to do its job, but the more it packs in, the more
See full article at SoundOnSight »

Boss Season 2, Episode 4: “Redemption” suspends us between optimism and cynicism

  • SoundOnSight
Boss Season 2, Episode 4: “Redemption”

Written by Julie Hébert

Directed by Phil Abraham

Airs Fridays at 9pm (Et) on Starz

Perhaps there’s no better way to evoke sympathy for a character than to have his newfound sense of good doubted by those closest to him. There’ll be no sympathy without the viewers’ trust in Kane’s motives, though, and “Redemption” is Boss’s fourth attempt to establish it. There are, predictably, complications: as Meredith tells Kane, there’s reason to believe that his sudden “shift towards the sentimental” is a consequence of increasing mental decline. We’re thinking the same, obviously, but hoping otherwise.

In “Redemption”, we watch as Kane confronts his past directly in a fairly impromptu and Media-free visit to Lenox Gardens, in which he admits past sins and tries to convince residents that he’s now trustworthy. It’s a success – a fairly incredible one
See full article at SoundOnSight »

Dylan Walsh To Headline FBI Drama For CBS

Fresh off his acclaimed run as Dr. Sean McNamara in the series “Nip/Tuck,” actor Dylan Walsh signed on to headline a new FBI drama for CBS. According to “Deadline,” Walsh agreed to play an agent at a Washington D.C. government agency in a pilot written by Julie Hebert and produced by Sarah Timberman and Carl Beverly and CBS Television Studios. Walsh played the lead in the previous CBS drama pilot from Timberman/Beverly Productions called “The Line,” about an Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms agent and his father.
See full article at Upcoming-Movies.com »

Dylan Walsh To Headline FBI Drama For CBS

Fresh off his acclaimed run as Dr. Sean McNamara in the series “Nip/Tuck,” actor Dylan Walsh signed on to headline a new FBI drama for CBS. According to “Deadline,” Walsh agreed to play an agent at a Washington D.C. government agency in a pilot written by Julie Hebert and produced by Sarah Timberman and Carl Beverly and CBS Television Studios. Walsh played the lead in the previous CBS drama pilot from Timberman/Beverly Productions called “The Line,” about an Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms agent and his father.
See full article at Upcoming-Movies.com »

CBS Sets FBI Drama Starring Dylan Walsh

  • Deadline TV
Exclusive: Former Nip/Tuck star Dylan Walsh is reuniting with CBS and producers Sarah Timberman and Carl Beverly for another procedural about  an agent at a Washington D.C.-based government agency. CBS has ordered a script for an untitled FBI drama project set in D.C. from veteran drama writer Julie Hebert, with Walsh attached to star. Timberman/Beverly Prods. and CBS Television Studios, where the company is now based, are producing. Hebert, Timberman and Beverly are executive producing, with Walsh and Kerry Schmidt serving as producers. Last development season, Walsh played the lead in The Line,  a CBS drama pilot from writer-director Michael Dinner, Timberman/Beverly and Sony TV, which centered an Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms agent and a father. Walsh, repped by Gersh and manager Bob McGowan, recently co-starred in Secretariat. CAA-repped Hebert serves as a consulting producer on the CBS/CBS Studios freshman cop family drama Blue Bloods.
See full article at Deadline TV »

Ladcc Reveals Theater-Award Nominees

The Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle, which consists of L.A.-area theater journalists in various media, has announced nominees and special awards for its 41st annual awards ceremony, to be held March 22 at Burbank’s Colony Theatre.Awards will be given in 20 categories, honoring excellence in theater over the past year. Eight special awards will include a special citation to actor Kirk Douglas for his lifetime contribution to Los Angeles theatre, as well as the new Milton Katselas Award for career or special achievement in direction, sponsored by Camelot Artists.The 2009 Special Awards include:– The Ted Schmitt Award for the world premiere of an outstanding new play: Julie Marie Myatt for the bittersweet domestic drama "The Happy Ones," which premiered at South Coast Repertory. The award is accompanied by an offer to publish and a $1,000 check funded by Samuel French, Inc.– The Polly Warfield Award for an excellent season
See full article at Backstage »

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