Directors Guild of America prexy Martha Coolidge has promised the guild will boost its scrutiny of TV networks for not following through on commitments to improve hiring of minority and female helmers.
“There is both real unity and frustration among the DGA’s elected leaders over the networks’ failure to fulfill their obligation to hire more women and minority directors,” said Coolidge, who became the DGA’s first female prexy in March. “It’s stunning the statistics have not been getting any better even though we’ve been active on this front for many years.”
Earlier this year, the DGA looked at 826 episodes of the top 40 primetime drama and comedy series during 2000-01 and found Caucasian males had directed 80%, followed by women, 11%; African-Americans, 3%; Latinos, 2%; and Asian-Americans, 1%.
Coolidge’s comment came as the guild launched a campaign this week to highlight its commitment to closely monitoring upcoming hiring for episodic TV, along with hosting mixers during the post-pilot period between June and September. The events will be designed to reach out to showrunners and execs to help forge relationships with guild members, according to DGA special assignments exec Regina Render.
“We want the networks to hire the best people,” Render said. “Some of those happen to be women and minorities.”
The DGA’s latest push comes three years after a multiethnic coalition issued complaints about the lack of diversity in front of and behind the camera during the fall 1999 TV schedule, then secured pledges from the nets to increase diversity. Since then, the networks have contended they are making significant progress but admit they need to do more.
DGA assistant exec director Rodney Mitchell credited nets for tapping exec VPs for diversity as being helpful in launching changes in hiring practices. “I don’t want to suggest that it’s led to meaningful change yet, but it’s certainly a step in the right direction.”