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.
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My Favorite Scene: ‘The Collection’ Creator Oliver Goldstick on the ‘Pretty Little Liars’ Moment That Still Haunts Him

My Favorite Scene: ‘The Collection’ Creator Oliver Goldstick on the ‘Pretty Little Liars’ Moment That Still Haunts Him
No one loves a great scene more than the person who first dreamed it up -- the writer. We're asking iconic shows' creators and writers to tell Et all about getting to see their most cherished moment on their series make it from script to screen.

For Oliver Goldstick, creator of Amazon’s new period drama, The Collection, it’s his work on an earlier show, Pretty Little Liars, which still haunts him to this day. The scene, from season two, plays on the fears that many of us have while serving as a template for the emotional and suspenseful moments to come in the five seasons to follow. While the story of five girls terrorized by a mysterious villain named “A” is very different from The Collection, which focuses on one Parisian family’s attempt to restore the city’s supremacy as the haute couture capital of the world, the two shows
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Greatest Series Finales: My So-Called Life’s “In Dreams Begin Responsibilities” is high school at its most honest

My So-Called Life (1994), Season 1, Episode 19, “In Dreams Begin Responsibilities”

Written by Winnie Holzman

Directed by Elodie Keene

Aired January 26th, 1995 on ABC

My So-Called Life celebrated its 20th anniversary this year, marking two decades of its influence as a cultural touchstone. It’s a small show, one that was canceled after one season by ABC, but the power of My So-Called Life continued on way past its initial airing to become a part of the way television tells stories about teenage life. Creator Winnie Holzman, armed with a cast of young newcomers led by the expressive, lip-quivering Claire Danes, made something timeless (apart from the ’90s fashion choices). My So-Called Life endures thanks to Holzman’s vision for the show, one that dared to treat its teenagers like people.

My So-Called Life is high school at its most brutal, and most arresting. The show follows Angela Chase, a 15 year-old girl
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New NCIS New Orleans Episode 20,Season 1 Official Spoilers,Description Revealed By CBS

Recently, CBS delivered the new,official synopsis/spoilers for their upcoming "NCIS: New Orleans" episode 20 of season 1. The episode is entitled, "Rock-a-Bye-Baby," and it turns out that we're going to see some very intense and interesting stuff as the team rushes into action to retrieve a Navy Commander's stolen baby, and more. In the new, 20th episode press release: When A Navy Commander's Car Is Stolen With His Baby Inside, The NCIS Team Races To Locate The Child. Press release number 2: When a Navy Commander's car is stolen with his baby inside, the NCIS team is going to have to determine if this was a random carjacking or a targeted abduction. Diane Neal returns as Coast Guard Investigative Service Special Agent ,Abigail Borin. Guest stars feature: Diane Neal (Coast Guard Investigative Service Special Agent Abigail Borin), Ramon de Ocampo (Navy Commander Josh Newman), Angela Lin (Chen Lin), David Tom
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CW Releases Jan 19th Week Schedule & Synopsis

  • Boomtron
CW is going back to normal schedule and they are excited to share what remains left of their seasons. Thus the glowing network has released their latest primetime line up for Jan 19th’s week and yes, it does include Jane the Virgin. Sadly it will all pretty be re-runs as the mid-season premiers will take place later on. However, that isn’t stopping CW from gushing. Here is the official line up so far.

Monday, January 19

The Originals

“Gonna Set Your Flag on Fire” — (8:00-9:00 p.m. Et) (TV-14, V) (HDTV)

When Two Sides Collide — With Vincent (guest star Yusuf Gatewood) on the loose and hell bent on revenge, Klaus (Joseph Morgan) brings Cami (Leah Pipes) to the safe house as he and Hayley (Phoebe Tonkin) return to the compound. Hayley and Jackson (guest star Nathan Parsons) devise a plan to bring the vampires and werewolves together to consider a truce,
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Glee, Ep 5.11, “City of Angels” a sweet, sad end to New Directions

Glee, Season 5, Episode 11, “City of Angels

Written by Jessica Meyer

Directed by Elodie Keene

Airs Tuesdays at 8pm Et on Fox

Glee‘s “City of Angels” is a sweet, sad end to the New Directions. What could be an underdog’s story of triumph is stripped away, leaving sadness and a sense of lost potential. Their loss at nationals is a pretty severe blow to fans and characters alike.

The continuity of the Finn story arc is refreshing. Many fans were concerned there would be little mention of the clumsy quarterback after the tribute episode, but the writers have proven the doubters wrong, providing a bread crumb trail as we are allowed to watch all these characters, especially Carole, navigate a life cut too short and the joy of having known him at all. Even though I have no idea how Carole and Burt qualify as chaperones (maybe they are Sam’s guardians?
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New Mentalist Season 6,Episode 7 Intense Spoilers & Clips Hit The Net

New Mentalist season 6,episode 7 intense spoilers & clips hit the net. Last night, CBS released the new spoilers and sneak peek/spoiler clip (below) for their upcoming "The Mentalist" episode 7 of season 6. The episode is entitled, "The Great Red Dragon," and it appears that it'll get very intense and dramatic as an even bigger lie may get exposed, the army gets called to the scene, and more! In the new "The Great Red Dragon" episode, Following the shocking events at Jane’s house, the Red John list is going to get narrowed down even further, and the Cbi’s priority will be the remaining suspects. Cheat Tweet: Jane finally thinks he knows #RedJohn’s identity! Is he right? And will he find him in time? #TheMentalist 11/10 The episode was written by Jordan Harper, and directed by Elodie Keene. Episode 7 is scheduled to air on Sunday night,
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New Mentalist Season 6,Episode 7 Official Spoilers,Plotline Revealed By CBS

New Mentalist season 6,episode 7 official spoilers,plotline revealed by CBS. Recently, CBS served up the new, official,synopsis/spoilers for their upcoming "The Mentalist" episode 7 of season 6.The episode is entitled, "The Great Red Dragon," and it sounds like things will get even more intriguing as the Red John list will continue to get narrowed down, and more. In the new,7th episode press release: Following the shocking events at Jane’s house, the Red John list is going to get narrowed down further, and the Cbi’s priority will be the remaining suspects. Cheat Tweet: Jane finally thinks he knows #RedJohn’s identity! Is he right? And will he find him in time? #TheMentalist 11/10 The episode was written by Jordan Harper, and directed by Elodie Keene. Episode 7 is set to air on Sunday night, November 10th at 9pm central time on CBS.
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Eastwick: “Fleas and Casserole”—The Review

  • Starlog
Back in the distant past…when the Earth was still cooling and there wasn’t any cable television, the three TV networks could produce series that didn’t have to violently compete for that much attention, confident in the knowledge that their audience had little in the way of alternatives.

Unfortunately for the industry, the current entertainment scene is far more predatory. Shows such as My Mother The Car or The Double Life Of Henry Phyfe would have barely enjoyed even the tenuous hold they managed 40 years ago. Survival these days requires something in the way of an edge.

Eastwick could use a close arrangement with a whetstone—or, as the episode “Fleas and Casserole” demonstrates, writers and directors who are comfortable with a genre project. The series is in danger of becoming a property without an anchor. Rather than being offered a much-needed element of the “Dreaded Unknown,” viewers
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Television Tourniquet: We Play in the 'Dollhouse' -- Episode 10

Dollhouse Episode 1.10 "Haunted" Written by: Jane Espenson, Maurissa Tancharoen and Jed Whedon Directed by: Elodie Keene Original Airdate: 24 April 2009 In This Episode… Adele's friend, Margaret, dies mysteriously. The extremely wealthy woman sensed that someone was going to kill her, and had spent the last year and a half cataloging her brainwaves so that, in the case of her untimely demise, she could have herself implanted on an Active and solve her own murder. Which is exactly what happens here. Adele puts Margaret into Echo, and heads to Margaret's funeral as a very close friend. Echo is surprised to hear her children, Nicholas and...
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