DGA: Minority TV helmers losing ground

Report finds employment for non-white directors down in 2010-11 season

Episodic TV employed slightly fewer minority directors last season, according to the DGA’s just-released report on TV employment for women and minorities.

A tally by the Directors Guild of America shows that white males directed 77% of all TV episodes that aired during the 2010-11 season, based on a survey of more than 170 scripted series. That’s up from 75% in the 2009-10 season.

Employment for white female directors held steady from season to season at 11%. But minority male and femme helmers saw slight declines, from 12% to 11% for minority males and from 2% to 1% for minority femmes.

DGA officials said the stats indicate an urgent need for networks and studios to be more aggressive in fostering diversity behind the camera.

“It’s not enough to just give lip service to the idea of increasing diversity behind the camera,” said Paris Barclay, the DGA’s first VP and co-chair of its national diversity task force. “These programs are so far failing to live up to their promise. So we’re going to take the discussion straight to the people on each show who make the hiring decisions.”

Shows that failed to hire any minority or femme helmers in the 2010-11 season include Showtime’s “Weeds,” FX’s “Justified,” HBO’s “Curb Your Enthusiasm” and Nickelodeon’s “Victorious.”

“Burn Notice,” “House” and “Army Wives” had a strong practice of hiring diverse helmers in the 2009-10 season, but it didn’t carry over into the 2010-11 season.

Only three shows in the 2010-11 season, ABC’s “The Middle” and HBO’s “Hung” and “In Treatment,” hired minority or female helmers more than half of the time.

DGA’s study didn’t include shows whose maiden season was 2010-11. However, it made note of several new shows that hired women and minorities to direct more than one-third of the time, including BET’s “Let’s Stay Together,” AMC’s “The Walking Dead” and ABC Family’s “Pretty Little Liars.”

Minority first-time episodic directors are finding it difficult to obtain work, as well. In 2009 and 2010, of the 130 first-time helmers hired, 78% were white males, 13% were white females, 7% were minority males and 2% were minority females.

These stats reject a common excuse, said Lesli Linka Glatter, DGA board member and diversity task force co-chair.

“We’ve heard the excuses from those responsible for hiring that they don’t want to take a chance on a new director. But the truth is that the industry hires new directors all the time; it’s just that most of them are white males,” Glatter said.

Although several production companies have established diversity programs, the results of the programs are disappointing, according to DGA, which is why it’s scheduling meetings with individual shows in the hopes of creating more diversity behind the lens in episodic TV.