The Directors Guild of America has issued a report disclosing that work for women and minority directors declined in 1998 and that both groups face “severe underemployment.”
The findings were particularly dispiriting for women helmers, who, in their third year of decline, are working at their lowest employment levels since 1990.
Women helmers worked just 10.2% of the days worked by typical guild directors in 1998, down a half a percentage point from the previous year.
Minority directors, regardless of gender, likewise have little to celebrate: They worked only 8.4% of total days worked by typical Guild members, down two tenths of a percent from the previous year.
The news for Latino helmers was most grim, falling from 3.1% of total days to 2.3%.
“In light of the repeated assurances by employers that they have been working to address this problem, it is very disappointing that industry hiring practices remain virtually unchanged,” said Jack Shea, prexy of the DGA.
While the trendline for African American helmers was flat, at 4.4% of total days worked, the category has made painfully slow growth from a low watermark of just 2.1% in 1991.
Kweisi Mfume, prexy and CEO for the NAACP, called the report’s statistics “shameful” and described a “huge gulf of disparate opportunity” between minorities and the white majority.
Mfume blamed the lack of opportunity for minority helmers in part on a paucity of racial diversity among studio execs.
“At the highest levels, in the upper echelons, there’s no contrast. And so, at the studios and at the networks, they don’t hear anything but themselves. The result is a silence that’s deafening.”
The report also found that female and minority directors bore the brunt of an overall decline in TV taping days worked by all categories of DGA members: Women DGA members saw the number of taping days drop from 19.5% to 16.3%, and minorities dropped from 14.1% to 10.8% of total days worked.
“The mold has to be broken,” said Mfume, “because when you do get work, you’re ghettoized, especially in TV: Black writers account for 50% of all writers on ‘black shows.’ But when it gets to mainstream shows, that drops to 2%.”
In film, however, the news was marginally better: Female DGA film helmers saw their percentage of days worked increase from 7.1% of total days worked to 8.5%, while minority film helmers saw their total days worked climb from 6.4% to 7.7%.
Unfortunately, the gains in theatrical and nontheatrical film were more than offset by the marked reduction in employment of these groups in tape, resulting in a decline overall.
DGA exec director Jay D. Roth said the study highlighted “that the companies have an urgent need to do more” and that current results are “a grave disservice to the entire industry.”