Woman and minorities are still lagging among first-time directors in episodic television, a new study from the Directors Guild of America shows.
The study, released Wednesday, found that 81% — or 619 of 863 — of all first-time episodic directors were male during a seven-year span. Only 19% (144) were female and only 14% (107) were minority directors. The study period covered the 2009-2010 through 2015-2016 seasons, and results haven’t changed appreciably since the DGA released its findings on the 2014-2015 season.
The new study showed a gain in the 2015-16 season for the number of first-time women directors as 35 were hired out of the total of 153 directors who had never worked in episodic television. The DGA noted that the percentage of the total though it has fluctuated within the same range since 2012-2013 from 24% that season, 23% in 2013-14, 16% in 2014-15 and 23% in 2015-16.
But hiring of minority first-time TV directors has remained flat over the past seven seasons, dipping from 16% in 2014-2015 to 15% in 2015-2016. Bethany Rooney, co-chair of the DGA Diversity Task Force, said employers are not addressing the problem
“To change the hiring pool, you have to change the pipeline,” she said. “Year after year when we put out our TV director diversity report, the media and public are stunned that the numbers remain virtually the same. But how can it change when employers hand out so many first-time director assignments as perks?”
“If they were serious about inclusion, they would commit to do two simple things: First, look around and see that there’s already a sizable group of experienced women and minority directors ready to work and poised for success – and they would hire them. And second, they would more carefully consider these first-time directing jobs, and develop merit-based criteria for them – with an eye toward director career development. In the end, it’s all about who is a good director.”
The study also covered career trajectories of first-time directors initially hired and tracking whether they were subsequently hired for directing jobs outside of the series for which they were originally hired. It found that 26% (124) of the first-time directors were “experienced directors” in other categories (feature films, commercials, online) while 66% (318) were “affiliated” hires or individuals already affiliated with the series for which they were hired (as actors, crew, editors, producers, writers).
The data also showed that experienced directors more likely to develop TV-directing careers with 96% of women (24 out of 25) and 56% of ethnic minorities going on to direct on other series, compared with just 44% of women and 34% of ethnic minorities in the affiliated category.
“Employers should be thinking about their role in shaping and developing the talent pool,” added DGA Diversity Task Force co-chair Todd Holland. “After all, it’s the Platinum Age of television. The profile of the television director is rising as series rely more on stylistic and visual choices in storytelling, and audiences demand greater inclusion – on both sides of the camera.”