Disney General Entertainment’s directing program is putting its money where its Mouse is: on the actual screen. For the first time, participants in the Disney Directing Program will be given guaranteed slots to direct episodes of some of the studio’s biggest shows, including ABC’s “Black-ish,” Freeform’s “Good Trouble” and FX’s “Snowfall.”
That’s in addition to the program’s offerings of mentorship, shadowing assignments and advanced professional development. Aspiring directors in the program, which launched in 2001, have never before additionally been promised such directing slots. The announcement was made by Tim McNeal, senior vice president, creative talent development and inclusion.
“We are proud to evolve our directing program this season into a dedicated pipeline that will guarantee episodes to first-time TV directors, a critical stepping stone for professional advancement and opportunity,” McNeal said. “We are grateful for the support and partnership of our participating Disney productions, showrunners and producers, as well as our creative executives and senior leaders, who are all helping accelerate our participants’ careers and ensuring that diverse directing talent is fostered and championed at our company.”
Other shows where program participants will direct episodes include ABC’s “The Good Doctor,” Disney Channel’s “Raven’s Home,” Fox’s “The Resident” (produced by Disney’s 20th TV) and ABC’s “The Rookie.”
“The guarantee to direct an episode of television for these worthy and diverse candidates ensures they will truly be able to demonstrate their talent, which is just waiting to emerge,” said Thomas Schlamme, executive producer of “Snowfall” and outgoing president of the Directors Guild of America. “It is a benefit not only to them but to our industry as a whole.”
Here’s how the 2021 DGE directing program cohort will be assigned: actor-turned-director Iona Morris (“Black-ish”); Emmy-winning documentary director Cayman Grant (“The Good Doctor”); indie filmmaker and production coordinator Jade Holmes Christian (“Snowfall”); cinematographer/director Stephanie Martin (“The Resident”); branded content/commercial director and indie filmmaker Carla Dauden (“Good Trouble”); writer/actor/director Jade Jenise Dixon (“Raven’s Home”); and filmmaker Lanre Olabisi (“The Rookie”).
Alumni of the program include Regina King (“Insecure”), Pete Chatmon (“black-ish”), Jude Weng (“grown-ish”), Zetna Fuentes (“Jane the Virgin”), Jaffar Mahmood (“Young Sheldon”), Tessa Blake (“A Million Little Things”), and Nzingha Stewart (“Little Fires Everywhere”). The program also merged with the former Fox Directors Lab/Fox Global Directors Initiative after Disney’s acquisition of Fox, whose notable directing alumni include Maggie Kiley (“Riverdale”), Alexis Ostrander (“Cruel Summer”), Marcus Stokes (“9-1-1”), Marta Cunningham (“Modern Love”), Bert and Bertie (“The Great”), Sydney Freeland (“Reservation Dogs”) and Steph Green (“Watchmen”).
“It’s our pleasure to participate in the DGE Directing Program this year, which has introduced us to talented first-time television directors not already on our radar,” said Joanna Johnson, showrunner and executive producer of Freeform’s “Good Trouble.” “On ‘Good Trouble,’ we’ve given many directors their first episodes of TV and have had great results in doing so. We completely support our company’s action to be more inclusive behind the camera and encourage all Disney series to consider participating in the DGE Directing Program in future to give greater voice and opportunities to up-and-coming diverse talent, which enriches our storytelling and work environments.”