Universal Cable Productions has set four female directors to helm key pilots and new series for the studio — Steph Green, Ana Lily Amirpour, Laure de Clermont-Tonnerre, and Kari Skogland.
The hirings are significant, given continued industry trends toward underrepresentation for female directors. According to data from NBCUniversal research, of the 242 scripted pilots across broadcast, cable, and streaming that currently have directors attached, only 17% are women. For current series, the women make up 21% of all directors across television and streaming.
According to UCP co-president Dawn Olmstead, the studio has long seen pilots as an area of focus for female inclusion at the director level.
“This wasn’t a place where we needed to start an initiative to open people’s minds to giving more of these pilot swings to female directors,” Olmstead said. “It was kind of in the ether already — which for someone like me was awesome, or else I would have come here and started a bunch of initiatives.”
The increased volume and creative ambition that has come with the studio’s growth at a time of higher-than-ever demand for television programming has also been a factor.
“We have three times more shows at least since I came here,” Olmstead said. “Also I think we’ve broadened our reach out to other networks [outside NBCUniversal] and we’ve jumped way more into the premium space.” In the premium drama arena, she added, buyers want “to have very authentic, very special voices helming our projects. So we cast a way wider net than the normal ‘How do we find our pilot director?'”
Green will direct the USA Network pilot “Dare Me,” based on the novel by Megan Abbott, about volatile female friendships, jealousy, loyalty and the dynamics of power in a small Midwestern town. Green’s TV credits include “The Americans,” “The Deuce,” “Billions,” “The Man in the High Castle,” “Preacher,” “Luke Cage,” and “You’re the Worst.” Her 2007 Irish short film “New Boy” was nominated for an Academy Award. She also directed the independent feature “Run & Jump.” She is represented by Management 360, UTA, and Tara Kole and Annie Lee from Gang Tyre.
Amirpour will direct another USA pilot, “Briarpatch.” The project, from exec producer Sam Esmail, stars Rosario Dawson as a Washington, D.C. investigator who returns to her Texas hometown to find the killer of her sister. Amirpour made her feature directing debut with 2014’s “A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night,” which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival and was the opening selection for MoMA’s New Directors/New Films screening series. She is represented by CAA and attorney Alan Wertheimer.
De Clermont-Tonnerre will direct the debut episode of Nick Antosca and Michelle Dean’s “The Act,” a true-crime anthology that was ordered to series by Hulu in April. She recently completed her feature directorial debut “Mustang,” from a script she developed at Sundance Labs. The film is set to be released by Focus features. She is represented by WME, MGMT Entertainment, Rosalie Cimino at UBBA and Sloane Offer, Weber and Dern.
Skogland has signed on to direct the series adaptation of Kurt Vonnegut’s landmark novel “Slaughterhouse-Five,” which is currently being shopped by UCP, from Patrick Macmanus, Gale Anne Hurd, Jon Brown of Ensemble Entertainment, and Bradley Yonover of Brand Y Media. The CEO of Red Arrow company Mad Rabbit, Skogland has been widely acclaimed for her work on Hulu’s “The Handmaid’s Tale,” as well as TV dramas “Condor, “The Borgias,” “Penny Dreadful,” “Boardwalk Empire,” “The Killing,” “The Walking Dead,” “Fear the Walking Dead,” “Under the Dome,” “Vikings,” “Power,” “The Americans,” “House of Cards,” and “The Punisher.” She is represented by WME and Anonymous Content.