It seems Ryan Murphy’s Half foundation is making big changes for female directors, seven of whom gathered to speak on a panel at FX’s TCA day to express how their careers had been affected. The foundation, launched last year, aims to have 50 percent of all directorships filled by women, people of color and members of the LGBT community and to then help with outreach efforts and provide connections for and mentors for directors.
“Ryan Murphy and the Half foundation have literally changed my life,” Alexis Ostrander said. “I want to be Christopher Nolan with a vagina, and I can’t go off and do that in a feature when someone won’t give me the money,” she added. “I don’t know if I’d be directing right now, and I have three episodes this Fall because they gave me my first shot.”
Maggie Kiley recalled an experience echoed by most of the other women present, saying when starting out, she was always told, ‘We can’t be your first.’ “They kept saying, ‘We’ll call when you have one under your belt,'” she said. “When I went to meet with the Half foundation, if felt like there was someone at the beginning who was willing to be your first. I felt completely ready and completely supported. Half is what has now launched me into this really exciting episodic adventure.”
Rachel Goldberg agreed, having had the same setbacks in the beginning before approaching Half. “Every meeting, they were like, ‘We can’t be your first.’ But I would watch my male counterparts get opportunities I wasn’t getting, and I don’t move through space like that, I’m like, ‘Just do the work,’ but I was thinking, ‘Something’s not right here.’ Fortunately Murphy was attempting to turn the privilege and dominance of the older white male on its head. “He told me, ‘50 year-old white men make chances, and I’m now a 50 year-old white man, so I’ll make changes,'” Goldberg said. “And he did. He shows you can give these women opportunities, and they won’t fuck it up. It’s ok to take the risk.”
But diversity needs to come from across the board of course, and Murphy’s foundation can’t do it all without a general change in attitudes. “In a way it does go back to this question of confidence,”Liza Johnson said. “What does it take for a showrunner to believe that those skills translate, or what does it take for a network to believe the showrunner, and somehow this foundation has easily streamlined that path that allows the confidence to go all the way up the food chain.”
“It’s true in Hollywood, you do either need an advocate or a group of advocate,” Steph Green said. “This [Half foundation] is major change really fast. It’s advocacy and it’s power.”