Two months ago, the Directors Guild of America heralded a major milestone in its long push for inclusion in the television industry.
The DGA’s episodic television director inclusion report found that half of all TV episodes in the 2018-19 season were directed by women or directors of color for the first time.
“Inclusion has been a priority of our guild for a very long time as we’ve pushed the studios, networks and producers to do better in their hiring,” DGA president Thomas Schlamme said. “While change had been glacial in past years, we’re pleased and incredibly encouraged to see the recent commitment undertaken by the industry.”
The DGA’s report noted that the overall percentage of women and people of color had increased from 2018’s prior high of 42.5%, and from 21% five years ago. The percentage of episodes directed by women grew to a record 31%, more than doubling in the past five years.
Additionally, the percentage of episodes helmed by directors of color rose to a new high of 27%, increasing more than 40% in the past five years. The report also found that 49% of first-time hires in the 2018-19 season were women, an increase from 41% in the 2017-18 season.
The DGA report also contained the cautionary note about employers giving “perk” directing assignments to series insiders — those employed on a series in another capacity —- who are far less diverse as a group than non-affiliated directors. Employers hired insiders for 55% of the first-time TV directing jobs last season and Schlamme called on producers to revise that practice.
The DGA also saw progress on the feature film front with three women among the first-time feature film nominees: Mati Diop for “Atlantics,” Alma Har’el for “Honey Boy” and Melina Matsoukas for “Queen & Slim.” There had been only two female nominees in the previous four years.
“New voices bring with them the fresh perspectives and unique storytelling that help drive our industry into the future. That’s the spirit of this award, and we’re proud to shine a light on the standout directorial achievements of these first-time feature directors,” added Schlamme.
The 72nd annual Directors Guild Award will be held Jan. 25 at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in downtown Los Angeles. Much of the attention will be focused on the five feature film nominees: Bong Joon Ho for “Parasite,” Sam Mendes for “1917,” Martin Scorsese for “The Irishman,” Quentin Tarantino for “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” and Taika Waititi for “Jojo Rabbit.” Bong, Mendes, Scorsese and Tarantino were nominated for Oscars on Jan. 13.
The DGA Award has been among the most accurate prognostication measures for the Academy Award directing winner with matches in all but seven years. “Roma” filmmaker Alfonso Cuarón scored both trophies last year.
This year’s DGA feature award is also unique due to a new eligibility rule that excluded films released on other distribution platforms on the same day and date as their premiere in theaters. The goal was to recognize the “unique cultural importance of the theatrical experience.”
Schlamme, who has won nine Emmys and three DGA trophies, is in his third year as president of the guild. He was reelected by the acclamation of 155 delegates at the DGA’s convention in June to a two-year term. DGA presidents typically serve for two two-year terms, as did Schlamme’s predecessor Paris Barclay. The DGA represents more than 18,000 members.
Focus in the upcoming months will be on the successor deal to the DGA’s master contract as terms of the DGA deal often serve as guidelines for the SAG-AFTRA and Writers Guild contracts. The current DGA pact expires on July 1. Jon Avnet and Todd Holland were named co-chairs of the negotiating committee last year.
DGA gains in the current deal included residuals on programs made for High Budget Subscription Video on Demand — covering such services as Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu — along with residuals payments for related foreign SVOD services and significant increases in the residuals for high-budget feature-length projects.