Greta Gerwig, Ava DuVernay Among Directors Urging Changes in DGA Parental Policies

Greta Gerwig, Ava DuVernay, Reese Witherspoon and more than 40 other women directors are urging the Directors Guild of America to change its policies for new and expectant parents.

The directors have co-signed a letter by documentary filmmaker Jessica Dimmock seeking an extension of the qualifying period for DGA health insurance coverage to 18 months for new mothers to make the yearly minimum in earnings. Currently, the qualifying period is 12 months.

The letter was posted Wednesday on a newly created DGA Parenthood Penalty web page. The campaign announcement comes three days before the 72nd DGA Awards show.

“Here is our ask,” the letter reads. “New mothers should be afforded additional time to make their yearly minimum in the year that they give birth. This provides new parents the opportunity to take the time they need to physically care for their child as well as recover and recuperate. Women will return to their work better equipped to handle the challenges of balancing parenting and work and better equipped to delve into their future projects. This should apply for adoptive parents as well.”

The current minimum to qualify for insurance through the guild is slightly under $36,000 a year in income from DGA directing jobs in a 12-month period. An hourlong episode of broadcast television would make a minimum of roughly $47,000, according to the DGA.

A DGA representative said the guild had responded to Dimmock’s request by asking the DGA-Producer Pension and Health Plans, a separate entity that administers healthcare plans for guild members, to look at the issue.

“The matter was recently brought to the DGA, and we have asked the Plans to examine it,” said the representative.

Dimmock said she was pregnant while co-directing Netflix’s “Flint Town” before her daughter was born September, 2017. She noted that her partner, DGA member Zackary Canepari, was able to continue working.

“After the birth of my daughter it was necessary that I take some time to care for her and recover physically,” she said. “My partner was not faced with quite the same physical pressures. That first year, while my partner retained his yearly minimum, I did not. I needed to switch to Cobra with enormous monthly fees while he retained his healthcare.”

“Because my directing partner is also our child’s father, I was able to see in such a clear way the ways that having a child impacted me and not him, even though we were similarly situated,” Dimmock said. “Since then, I’ve spoken to other members of the DGA who have had similar experiences.”

Dimmock asserted that the DGA currently offers no form of leave for women in the lead-up and aftermath of childbirth.

“Failure to meet yearly minimums introduces economic and health care insecurity when it could be argued that it is needed most,” she added. “And, importantly, a lack of maternity leave will continue to be an obstacle in achieving parity in the field of directing unless corrected. It is imperative that in this moment of such positive gains that we work to clear this obstacle.”

Other signers include America Ferrera, Amy Poehler, Brie Larson, Elizabeth Banks, Eva Longoria, Julie Delpy, Kasi Lemmons, Kerry Washington, Lena Dunham, Marielle Heller, Rashida Jones and Reed Morano.

The proposal comes two months after the DGA heralded progress in its episodic television director inclusion report, which found that half of all TV episodes in the 2018-19 season were directed by women or directors of color for the first time.

But none of the five nominees announced this month for the DGA’s top feature film award included women and Gerwig’s exclusion was widely noted in light of the acclaim that her work on “Little Women” received.

The DGA saw progress on the feature film front with three women among the first-time feature film nominees — Mati Diop for “Atlantics,” Alma Ha’rel for “Honey Boy” and Melina Matsoukas for “Queen & Slim.” Ha’rel also signed Dimmock’s letter.


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