Busy TV episodic director Nisha Ganatra (Transparent, Dear White People) has landed her first pilot directing gig with Highland, TNT’s comedic drama starring Margaret Cho and written and executive produced by Cho and Lost alumna Liz Sarnoff, who also will serve as showrunner.
Inspired by Cho’s personal history with substance abuse, Highland, a co-production of Marty Adelstein’s Tomorrow Studios and Turner’s Studio T, will chronicle what happens when two extended, dysfunctional Korean-American families who share the same patriarch must come together after tragedy strikes. As it turns out, the most reliable person in both families is the one who just got out of rehab.
The project reunites Ganatra with Cho after Ganatra served as a field producer on Cho’s specials Margaret Cho: CHO Revolution, Margaret Cho: Beautiful and Margaret Cho: Dependent more than a decade ago.
Highland is a rare hourlong TV pilot featuring an all-female team of creators, showrunner, director and star, with both the director and star women of color.
It’s been hard for female directors to land drama pilots — this year, only one out of 41 broadcast drama pilots was directed by a woman, an all-time low. (Last year, two of 40 drama pilots had female directors). And for a second consecutive year, there were no women of color directing broadcast drama or comedy pilots.
Cable and streaming networks have been more open to giving female directors a chance. Another female episodic director of color, Victoria “Vic” Mahoney, is making her pilot directing debut with the Freeform drama Misfits, from Fake Empire.
Ganatra was working as an indie filmmaker — her first movie was the 1999 Chutney Popcorn — when she was brought in as a main director alongside creator Jill Soloway and a consulting producer on the first season of Amazon’s Transparent. That launched a career as a sought-after TV director for Ganatra, who helmed all 10 Season 1 episodes of Audience’s You Me Her and has directed episodes of a slew of other series over the last two years, including Better Things, on which she also served as co-executive producer, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Dear White People, Girls, The Mindy Project, Great News, Mr. Robot, Fresh Off the Boat, Red Oaks and Shameless.
Ganatra, who also has been developing and selling her own TV series projects with such producers as Amy Poehler and Michele Fazekas & Tara Butters, is repped by ICM Partners.