Rosenberg discussed the all-female directing roster during her panel at Transforming Hollywood 7: Diversifying Entertainment, a conference held Friday at University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism.
Rosenberg said that in the second season of the superhero show, she had wanted to increase the number of female directors — a goal that Marvel was completely on board with, she noted. Given how in-demand many women directors are these days, she and her fellow producers had set their sights on booking women first, she said, and contracting male directors later in the pre-production process.
But then someone else involved in the production — she didn’t specify who — floated the idea of booking only women as directors. Rosenberg was honest about the fact that she hadn’t contemplated that concept prior to that conversation, but she said she quickly jumped at the opportunity.
When it comes to behind-the-scenes personnel, hiring an inclusive array of people was “a conscious decision and it’s very important that showrunners do that,” she said.
That directing roster puts “Jessica Jones” in very rarified company, as one of the few one-hour dramas to have an all-female list of directors. Ava DuVernay’s “Queen Sugar,” which airs on OWN, also had only female directors during its debut season.
Rosenberg didn’t divulge any details about the second season of “Jessica Jones,” except to tell Variety before her panel that scripts were in the midst of completion and shooting was set for next year. With Henry Jenkins and Stacy L. Smith of USC, who moderated her panel, Rosenberg freely discussed drawing on a variety of perspectives when coming up with the story arcs of the New York-set Marvel drama.
“When I interview a writer, I’m less interested in what you’ve been doing professionally than I am in where you’re from, what your parents do, what’s your life experience, what are you bringing to the table personally?” Rosenberg said. “I don’t want a bunch of people who look and sound [like me] and have the experiences I have.”
Rosenberg, who also penned the “Twilight” movies, in addition to her experience writing for other TV and film franchises, told her audience that persistence was one of the key attributes that aspiring creatives should bring to Hollywood, whatever their background, gender, or culture.
“I think the only reason I’m sitting here is because of tenacity. It’s a tough business. You really have to be able to take a hit,” noted Rosenberg. “I’ve gotten fired so many times, I can’t even count now.”
“That’s the nature of the business, it’s really hard,” she added. Rosenberg said that “delusional optimism” had allowed her to survive. On the bad days, “you have to be able to pick yourself up and say that tomorrow is going to be better than today.”
The all-day conference featured an array of producers, writers, academics, and activists. Producer Effie T. Brown (“Dear White People,” “Project Greenlight”), Desmin Borges (“You’re the Worst”), Melissa Silverstein of Women in Hollywood, Javier Grillo-Marxuach (“The Middleman,” “Lost,” “Xena”), and Dodai Stewart, editor-in-chief of Fusion, were among the panelists discussing where Hollywood has made progress on screen and behind the scenes — and where that progress has stalled.
But as Rosenberg and DuVernay proved — as has FX— changing directing stats is far from impossible.
In an earlier panel, Melissa Goodman, director of the LGBTQ, Gender and Reproductive Justice Project, ACLU of Southern California, noted that there were methods of increasing inclusion that have a strong track record of effectiveness in many industries — not just in Hollywood.
The strategies revolved around setting targets for hiring, and revisiting the progress toward those measurable goals at regular intervals. “Track the data and pay attention to it,” Goodman said. “It’s actually pretty simple.”