Directors Guild President Calls for ‘Structural Changes’ to Promote Diversity

Paris Barclay DGA Diversity
Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP

Paris Barclay, president of the Directors Guild of America, has blasted Hollywood executives for failing to take enough action to address the lack of employment for women and minorities.

“The current Oscar controversy has put a spotlight on a condition that has long shamed this industry: the lack of women and people of color across all aspects of opportunity and employment,” he said. “The Directors Guild believes that the industry and the community should be responsible for telling all people’s stories and reflecting the diverse lives we lead.”

Barclay issued the statement Monday, four days after the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences took steps aimed at doubling the numbers of minorities in the Academy by 2020. The diversity issue has been at the forefront of Hollywood since the Jan. 14 announcement of Oscar nominations, which didn’t include a non-white actor.

“Many times, with the best of intentions, a subject that is a symptom of this industry plague, but not the root cause, is targeted,” Barclay said.

“The Academy’s decisions – to broaden its leadership and membership, and to limit voting rights for those no longer active in the industry – are important actions and may lead to greater acknowledgement of more diverse films and people who make them,” he said. “But this alone will do little to create more choices and get more films and television made that reflect the diversity we all deserve.”

Barclay is now serving his second term as the president of the DGA, which released its own surveys last year on the first-time hiring of female and minority directors in feature films and TV — with the latter showing a slight uptick on females in the episodic category. The DGA has about 16,000 members.

“Statements, statistics, pleas and calls for action have done little to move the needle,” he said Monday. “It is time to be clear – structural changes are needed. Those who control the pipeline and entryway to jobs must move beyond the ‘old boy’ network and word-of-mouth hiring. They must commit to industry-wide efforts to find available diverse talent that is out there in abundance, or to train and create opportunities for new voices entering our industry. Rules must be implemented to open up the hiring process and rethink the idea of ‘approved lists.'”

Barclay concluded by asserting that top executives have not done enough to address the problem.

“A small handful of executives had spoken of their intentions to improve – none have put forward a clear plan of action,” he said. “Only when those who control the pipeline decide to individually, or jointly, take concrete action will we see significant change.”

Barclay is one of the busiest TV directors in the business, having helmed about 150 episodes. He’s recently shot episodes of “Empire” and spent 10 months in Wales as exec producer of “The Bastard Executioner.”

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  1. Mr. Barclay,

    As irritated as you might be with the Industry, that’s how upset I am that our program STREETLIGHTS, which HAS BEEN PROVIDING DIVERSITY BEHIND THE CAMERA SINCE 1992 has never warranted a response from you. We approached you in 1996, in 2001 and 2013. With patience and hard work, we have been growing an ethnic minority talent pool that productions can access if they need crew. We over-train young ethnic minorities and place them in jobs as freelance P.A.s until they have a good group of contacts. Later, when they are experienced on the set and in the office they come back and we facilitate their advancement into Unions (with a unique apprentice program) if they choose, or into full-time staff positions.
    We have been successful over the years, with a grad that is Director of Studio Content Operations & Post Production at Turner, a Writer/Executive Producer for a Starz network show, another who directed the “Say Yes” Beyonce/Michelle Williams video, a 1st Asst. Camera, Wardrobe Stylist, Script Supervisor, and way too many to list.
    We have great supporters: NBCUniversal, HBO, Hollywood Foreign Press, AMPAS, networks and a good portion of Banks, Advertisers and Foundations. In the past we have had Sony, Paramount and Warner Brothers, the latter for 15 years until there was a shift in personnel. We would love to have their support once again – particularly since there are so many WB projects our graduates have worked on over the years.

    Annually, we read articles on diversity, but hardly see a change. I want people to know that we are helping to solve the problem. We don’t do research, or form committees or mentor. We have actual people getting into real jobs and advancing into real careers in Film and TV production.
    You stand so tall in the eyes of our students who are smart, ambitious young African-Americans, Latinos, Asian, Native Americans and Pacific Islanders, and I don’t disappoint them and say “Yes, he’s wonderful, but we can’t get him to notice us.” Because I remain hopeful that one day you will. And hopefully will pass the word along. We are not a prestigious major studio, nor do we have huge film stars supporting us, but a production could call us tomorrow and we would be able to provide a multicultural crew.

    Though we’re upset, we hope you know that this comment is being submitted respectfully.

    Dorothy Thompson
    Founder/Executive Director

  2. expanding academy membership is a good idea–for voting for the eventual winners.

    but oscar nominations should be made by much smaller groups of people: selected rotating committees of six-eight members, each of whom commits to actually watch and discuss the films which seek consideration.

    this is the kind of methodology, generally, used by other awards-granting institutions. a key is to avoid control of nominations by the studios and the massive ad campaigns that gross out the public every year, creating the impression that oscars are bought and paid for.

    of course, the primary issue is employment–how to increase employment of women and minorities. representation in the academy membership will help there, at least at the margins (“who you know” still governs initial employment; then talent and luck take over). but, also, it is incumbent on existing directors and producers to eliminate stereotypes, engage in a bit of “risk-taking”, and open up channels for new talent. some people are doing that already.

  3. Keith kroening says:

    A good friend, older female, has many producers that come to her to put together a schedule and budget for a proposed project or at the beginning of a TV series or movie. get that experience to set it up right. But when the production starts the studios bring in a favorite younger male to do the job.

    Her name could be male or female and she has actually gone on interviews or “met for coffee” only to be told they need a man to run a complex set. I do not see how they will ever make changes for minorities when the Studio system is still in the 1930s when it comes to female employees

  4. TheBigBangof20thCenturyPopCulture says:

    This has to apply to all minorities, otherwise it’s a band aid for what is more than a black and white issue.

  5. Geri313 says:

    It’s interesting that when the subject was older women not being hired, or women in Hollywood not being paid the same as men that he was silent. Oh well, at least he has finally spoken.

    • Kt. says:

      On the surface, it’s a combination of the Oscars being the biggest PR event of the industry, acting as a centripetal force. And that “token” nominations of older actresses like Blanchett, Rampling, Leigh, Winslet, and ~McAdams are harder to argue against, compared to the conspicuous race argument (always volatile topic in American history.)

  6. Bill says:

    It’s truly interesting to watch all the guilds show racial and sex-based quotas are more important than merit.

    • initeveryday says:

      @Bill Please favor us with your idea for a fair and just course of action. No one, least of all women and those in a racial minority group want to be hired because of a quota. Although we’re frequently accused of it anyway. As of the 2010 US Census, women, at 51% of the population were the majority gender in the US. Currently in the film business women – the majority gender – account for only 27% of producers, 21% of executive producers, 18% of editors, 13% of writers, 13% of directors, and 9% of cinematographers. According to your logic even these anemic percentages are most probably unjustly larger than they should be due to the quotas you infer exist. Further your thinking implies that men of white race who are much in the majority when it comes to leadership positions just happen to be intrinsically better, more deserving of merit than say…everyone else. And that everyone else will just have to wait until this minority group of vastly more talented and meritorious white men decide to stop awarding jobs, mentorships, opportunities and finally awards to each other before anyone else (the majority) gets a crack at this business.

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