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Pilot Season: Female Directors See More Representation Gains

After a landmark year for female pilot directors in 2018, the 2019 season has seen further movement in representation for women behind the camera

With execs at the major broadcasters making decisions on the fate of pilots at this very moment, it’s worth noting that of the 63 pilots ordered this season across the five major broadcast networks, 25 were directed by women , or 40%.

Compare that with last 2018’s figure of 24 female-directed pilots out of 75, or 32%, and it appears that progress is continuing to be made, especially when put in context with the 2017 season which had only 9% female directors across its pilots.

The question still remains, will the progress instigated by the Time’s Up and Me Too movement and the push for female representation ever translate into full parity behind the camera on broadcast TV?

Despite two notable breakthroughs in Jude Weng and Jessica Yu, who are two of the first Asian-American women to direct broadcast pilots in TV history, the proportion of female pilot directors of color has stalled, sitting at 5 out of 63 or 8%, the same proportion as last year.

Weng directed the untitled Jessica Gao project for ABC, while Yu helmed the pilot for the NBC legal drama “Bluff City Law,” which was very recently picked up to series by the network.

The number of African-American female directors has dropped from three in 2018 to just one (Victoria ‘Vic’ Mahoney for CBS’ “Under the Bridge”) in 2019, while the number of Latina directors has also fallen from three last year to one (Eva Longoria for the CW’s “Glamorous”) this year.

Also worth noting is that of the 25 pilots directed by women this year, more than half (13) are dramas, a departure from previous years where female pilot directors were overwhelmingly in the comedy arena.

Breaking the numbers down by network, The CW and Fox tied for the highest proportion of pilots being directed by women at 50% (albeit The CW only had six pilots to Fox’s 12). One of those CW pilots is the “Riverdale” spinoff “Katy Keene,” which was directed Maggie Kiley and was picked up to series Tuesday. While at Fox, one of the more notable directors is “Russian Doll” co-creator Leslye Headland, who helmed the first episode for the untitled Annie Weisman-Jason Katims drama.

CBS has the most female directors overall, with seven of their 16 pilots directed by women. Among them is Beth McCarthy, who directed the pilot for the Chuck Lorre comedy “Bob Hearts Abishola,” and Pam Fryman, who ended up directing two pilots for the network in “Carol’s Second Act” and “Super Simple Love Story.” Fryman also directed the “Friends-in-law” pilot for NBC, which meant that the in-demand director equaled her tally of three total pilots from the 2017 season.

Meanwhile, the number of female pilot directors at ABC remained stagnant at six out of 16. Francesca Gregorini directed the much-anticipated “Hypnotist’s Love Story,” an adaptation of a novel by “Big Little Lies” author Liane Moriarty. “Life In Pieces” star Zoe Lister-Jones (pictured) was also among the female directors at ABC, as she wrote, directed and exec-produced her own project “Woman Up.”

Finally at NBC, only three of the network’s 13 pilots were directed by women, or 23%. Other than Yu and Fryman, the other woman to direct a pilot for the Peacock this year was Julie Ann Robinson, who helmed “Like Magic” with Jee Young Han and Rory O’Malley.

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