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Pilot Season: Female Creators, Directors Break Through

The 2018 pilot season is shaping up to be a landmark year for women behind the camera.

Female creators and directors saw gains virtually across the board, as networks ramp up efforts to include more women in the pilot process. As Variety previously reported, the Time’s Up and Me Too movements have played important roles this season, with the networks all looking for ways to increase female representation.

According to multiple TV literary agents who spoke with Variety, there was a clear shift within the networks this year to increase the number of women behind the camera, particularly in the director’s chair. One source also noted that the studios exerted “immense pressure” to increase the number of female directors this season.

ABC has 13 female creators on 9 of their 23 pilots this year, up from 9 creators in 2017. Of those, five are comedies, including originals from Liz Meriwether and J.J. Philbin, Diablo Cody, Sherry Bilsing-Graham and Ellen Kreamer, and Kristin Newman. In addition, Rachna Fruchbom will write the network’s reboot of “Greatest American Hero” starring Hannah Simone.

On the drama side, four ABC pilots hail from women, including one from former prosecutor Marcia Clark and the team of Liz Craft and Sarah Fain. Courtney Kemp is set to write the reboot of “Get Christie Love,” with Kayla Alpert and Pam Veasey also creating original dramas for ABC.

ABC also has 6 female directors this pilot season, up from just 2 last year. Pam Fryman, one of the most in-demand comedy pilot directors every season, will helm one pilot for the network. Christine Gernon, Regina King, Larysa Kondracki, Liz Friedlander, and Uta Briesewitz will also direct ABC pilots this year.

CBS’ pilot crop this year features 8 pilots created by women out of 18 total. Last season, the network had 4 female-created pilots. 5 of this year’s female-created pilots are comedies, which hail from Gloria Calderon Kellett, the team of Michelle Nader, Kristin Hensley and Jen Smedley, as well as Diane English, Corinne Kingsbury, and Hilary Winston. The remaining 3 are dramas from Amanda Green, Bridget Carpenter, and Caitlin Parrish and Erica Weiss.

Last year, Pam Fryman directed three pilots for CBS and was the only woman to direct any pilots for the network. This year, 4 women are directing 5 of CBS’ pilots, with Fryman set to direct two, including the revival of “Murphy Brown.” Rosemary Rodriguez, Victoria Mahoney, and Zetna Fuentes are also directing pilots for CBS.

Of NBC’s 14 total pilots this year, 4 were created by women, even with last year. This year’s projects were created by Aseem Batra, Suzanne Martin, Jessica Goldberg, and Moira Kirland. Batra and Martin’s pilots are comedies while Goldberg and Kirland’s are dramas.

NBC also made big gains in the hiring of female directors this year. The network had no female pilot directors last year but hired 7 this year, meaning women will direct 50% of NBC’s pilots. Fryman will also direct two pilots for NBC, along with Gail Mancuso, Julie Anne Robinson, Minkie Spiro, Kate Dennis, and Charlotte Sieling

Fox has 6 female creators on 5  of their 11 pilots this year, versus 7 female creators on 6 pilots last year. This year, Liz Meriwether and Lake Bell are behind the off-season comedy pilot “Bless This Mess,” while Ilene Chaiken and Melissa Scrivner-Love are the creators of the untitled drama starring Katie Holmes. Erin Foster is the creator and star of her own comedy as well, while Liz Heldens is the writer of drama “The Passage,” which was rolled from last year.

Fox also brought on 4 female directors this season versus just  one last season. Bell will direct “Bless This Mess,” while Kat Coiro will direct Erin Foster’s comedy. Sanaa Hamri will direct the Chaiken/Scrivner Love pilot and Patricia Riggen will direct the untitled David Elliot/Danny Strong legal drama.

Finally, The CW has 7 female creators on 6 of their 9 pilots, up from just 2 last year. Jessica O’Toole and Amy Rardin are writing the reboot of “Charmed,” with Jennie Urman receiving a story by credit in addition to executive producing. Rina Mimoun is a co-creator on “Playing Dead,” with Corinne Kingsbury also doing a pilot for this network. The others hail from Carina Adly MacKenzie, April Blair, and Katie Lovejoy. Rachel Goldenberg and Julie Plec will direct pilots for the CW this year, with the network having no female directors in 2017.

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