‘Homeland’ Director Talks Emmy Noms, Hiring Disparity For Female Helmers

Director Lesli Linka Glatter was in the middle of a tone meeting at the “Homeland” production offices in Berlin on Thursday when news of the show’s five hefty Emmy nominations landed.

“All of a sudden our phones started going crazy,” Glatter told Variety. She was “stunned” to learn that she was in the race for directing the “From A to B and Back Again” episode of season four. (In February she took home the DGA’s TV drama award for the episode.)

The recognition was cause for celebration by the “Homeland” team, which is knee-deep in production on season five. But Glatter, a “Homeland” exec producer, couldn’t help but notice that in the top narrative series categories, she and “Transparent” creator Jill Soloway are the only female contenders for Emmy directing honors.

The playing field is little more balanced in the limited series and telepic arena, where Lisa Cholodenko is nommed for directing HBO’s “Olive Kitteridge” and Dee Rees has writing and directing bids for HBO’s Bessie Smith biopic “Bessie.”

But the comedy and drama series writing and directing nominees are always a bellwether for the state of the art in the most active area of employment for TV helmers and scribes. As such, it’s disheartening to see only three women in total among 23 people nominated in those categories.

Glatter is a member of the DGA’s national board of directors and has been active in the guild’s efforts to foster opportunities for female helmers. She’s frustrated by what seems to by a lack of progress, as evidenced by the DGA’s annual study of how women and minorities are faring in episodic TV work. In the 2013-14 season, 12% of episodic TV directing assignments went to white women; 2% went to minority women. The numbers are virtually unchanged from 2010 through 2014.

“If you had said to me 20 years ago when I first started directing that this would still be an issue in 2015 I would have said that was absolutely impossible,” Glatter said. “There is no question that it is not an equal playing field and it should be an equal playing field at this point.”

Glatter noted that the pool of working female directors should be much bigger, given the number of women attending film schools, fielding independent films and in other areas that are traditionally stepping stones for helmers. The “disconnect” at the hiring level in TV is something that industryites should proactively address, for women and minorities.

As an exec producer of “Homeland,” Glatter is closely involved in director hiring decisions. Last season, the Showtime series tapped Danish director Charlotte Sieling for the episode “About a Boy,” in addition to the four segs that Glatter helmed. In planning for this season, “Homeland” went out to several female directors including Sieling, but scheduling could not be worked out — a process complicated by the fact that the show is shooting in Germany.

Glatter said she feels working female directors have a responsibility to “grab the hand of the next generation and bring them along.” Male or female, exec producers in charge of hiring “need to be looking a bit deeper than at the obvious choices.”

There’s no doubt that women have made strides — Glatter points to this year’s Directors Guild Awards where she and Soloway won the drama and comedy prizes, while Cholodenko won for “Olive Kitteridge” and Laura Poitras prevailed in documentary for “Citizenfour.” But awareness of the overall hiring situation is key, which is why statistics and studies are important.

“Anything that puts this issue out there to be discussed is a good thing,” Glatter said.

After taking a moment on Thursday to celebrate “Homeland’s” return to the best drama series race (it won in 2012 but was out of the running last year), and the acting noms for Claire Danes and F. Murray Abraham, the company went back to work on season five.

This season, Glatter is enjoying the luxury of being able to shoot Berlin for Berlin, in contrast to last year when South Africa served as a stand-in for Pakistan. The cultural environment in Berlin and surroundings has been invigorating, she added.

“This city is filled with energy and an incredible artistic underground scene,” she said.

Glatter wouldn’t give up any hints about the plot of season five other than to say that Carrie Mathison is in a very unfamiliar place when the story picks up two years after the end of season four.

“She’s no longer in the CIA, and for a very short while she is actually having some kind of a (personal) life,” Glatter said. “Sadly, it’s only for a very short while.”

(Pictured: Lesli Linka Glatter at the Directors Guild Awards in February.)

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