DGA study shows diversity among primetime directors essentially flat

A new report released by the Directors Guild of America shows that the hiring rate of minority and women directors for primetime episodic television has not changed significantly in the past year.

The report analyzed more than 3,100 episodes from 190 scripted television series, spanning the 2011-12 network TV season as well as the 2011 cable TV season. Overall, the majority — 73 percent — of all episodes in this period were helmed by Caucasian males. Minority males directed 13 percent of all episodes while Caucasian females accounted for 11 percent. Minority females came in last with a mere 4 percent of the directing share.

These figures show very little improvement in diversity from last year’s report: the number of Caucasian male helmers was even higher this year than last, going from 72 to 73 percent. There was no change in the percentage of Caucasian female helmers and only slight variations for minority males and females (a decrease in 2012 from 14 to 13 percent and an increase in 2012 from three to four percent, respectively).

The DGA report also broke down the “best” and “worst” shows in terms of director diversity, showing that several big-name productions lack minority and female representation. Eight shows were pegged as hiring zero women and minority helmers over the analyzed timeframe, including “Dallas” (TNT), “The Inbetweeners” (MTV) and “Veep” (HBO). Other shows did only marginally better: Women and minority directors were hired for fewer than 15 percent of episodes on 21 programs, including “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation” (five percent), “Modern Family” (eight percent) and “New Girl” (13 percent).

Meanwhile, shows such as “Suits” (64 percent), “Nurse Jackie” (60 percent) and “The Walking Dead” (53 percent) were highlighted as part of a “best of” list, pointing out shows that hired women or minority directors for more than 30 percent of episodes.

It is still unclear why hiring rates for women and minority directors are stagnant, and the report suggests that diversity programs set up “years ago” by production companies have “not yet made any demonstrable difference.” DGA execs and Diversity Task Force members have met more than a dozen times with production companies over the past two years, and according to the report, these meetings showed that many companies rehire the same helmers for multiple projects — one possible explanation for why diversity among helmers is not increasing.

“In this day and age, it’s quite disappointing that so many shows failed to hire even a single woman or minority director during the course of an entire season — even shows whose cast and crew otherwise is notably diverse,” said Paris Barclay, the DGA’s first veep and co-chair of the Diversity Task Force of the DGA National Board. “And, ‘We just don’t know anybody,’ doesn’t cut it anymore — the pool of talented and experienced women and minority directors grows every year, and too many of these qualified, capable directors are still overlooked.”

The DGA has a curated list of experienced female and minority helmers, available to all production companies to assist producers in hiring decisions. The report did not include cancelled series and pilot episodes.

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