The percentage of women and minority directors of episodic TV shows hit record highs this year, continuing the TV industry’s recent trend towards diversification, according to a new Directors Guild report. In the 2017-18 season, women directed 25% of all episodic shows – up from 21% last year and nearly double their percentage from five years ago.
The percentage of minority directors also hit a new high, although their share of directing jobs grew at a slower pace than women’s. This year, they got 24% of all directing jobs, compared to 22% last year and 19% five years ago. African Americans directed 13%, the same as last year; Asian Americans directed 6%, up from 5%; and Latinos directed 5%, up from 4%. Men took the biggest hit – down from 79% last year to 75% this year. Native Americans weren’t mentioned in the report.
“It’s encouraging to see that the compass is pointing in the right direction, yet progress is mixed,” said DGA president Thomas Schlamme. “The bright spot here is that the doors are finally opening wider for women, who are seeing more opportunities to direct television. But it’s disappointing the same can’t be said for directors of color. The studios and networks who do the hiring still have a long way to go, and we are committed to continuing this important fight.”
Disney/ABC companies were the most diverse employers of women and minority directors. According to the report, they were the only ones among the industry’s 12 dominant employers who hired women and/or minorities to direct a majority (51.7%) of their shows. 20th Century Fox, at 47%, finished a close second.
Viacom Music & Entertainment Group companies finished dead last, with only 18.3% of their shows directed by women and/or minorities – and last in women directors (14%). Amazon’s Picrow finished second to last overall (31%) – fourth in women (30%), but distantly last in minority directors (5%).
Data contained in the report also indicates that so-called “Peak TV” may have peaked last year. The report analyzed nearly 4,300 episodes produced under DGA contracts in the 2017-2018 television season, which was down from the all-time high of nearly 4,500 episodes last season.
But even with 200 or so fewer total episodes to direct this year than last, women still managed to direct 131 more episodes than in the 2016-17 season. Men, meanwhile, directed 339 fewer episodes.
The guild said that the growth in the actual number of episodes directed by minorities was “stagnant.” Latinos directed 12 more episodes this year than last, and Asian Americans directed nine more, but African Americans directed 14 fewer episodes than last year. Caucasians directed 235 fewer episodes.
- The report found that women directed 1,085 episodes – a 14% increase over last year
- Caucasian women helmed 813 episodes, up from 714 last year; and their percentage increased to 19% from 16%
- Minority women directed 261 episodes, up from 236 last year, and their percentage increased to 6% from 5%. (The DGA could not identify the ethnicity of 11 female directors.)
- Minorities helmed 1,017 episodes, 11 more than last year, while minority males directed 756 episodes, 14 fewer episodes than last season
- Caucasian males directed 2,414 episodes, 335 fewer episodes than last season
- The percentage of episodes directed by Caucasian males decreased from 61% to 56%
- The percentage of episodes directed by minority males increased to 18% from 17%
The guild’s hiring data on 337 shows also found that 59 of them didn’t hire a single female director and that more than 100 of them didn’t hire any minority directors.
Six shows – Queen Sugar, Jessica Jones, Better Things, SMILF, Youth & Consequences and Outlander – hired only women directors, while nine shows – Maniac, The Chi, Insecure, Tales, Brockmire, Vida and three by Tyler Perry – hired only minority directors.
Contributing to this rising tide is the exponential growth in recent years of the number of first-time women and minority directors. In August, the DGA reported that 82 female directors accounted for 41% of all the first-time hires in the 2017-18 season, which was up from up from 33% in the prior season and nearly four times higher than the 11% hired in 2009-10. That study also found that 63 directors of color accounted for 31% of the first-time hires in 2017-18, compared with 27% the year before and only 12% in the 2009-10 season.
The downside of these impressive gains by first-time women and minority directors, the DGA said, is the practice of “insider hiring” or “gifting,” in which a show’s actor, writer-producer or crewmember is given a shot at directing instead of an unaffiliated newcomer who intends to make directing a career.
A recent DGA study found that in the seven TV seasons between 2009/10 and 2015/16, nearly 70% of the more than 720 first break directing assignments were given to insiders, 75% of which went to male Caucasians. Insiders went on to develop directing careers just 24% of the time, compared with 71% of career track directors, who were also more diverse as a group.
“The ongoing employer practice of giving out jobs to series insiders with little long-term interest in directing has created a challenge both to increasing future diversity and the incumbent workforce,” the DGA said. “Nowhere is that more clear than the ever-growing pipeline of new episodic television directors entering the pool. Not only does the practice act as a bottleneck to the pipeline of new directors, crowding out talented diverse directors – it also diminishes the available number of jobs for the increasingly diverse workforce of career track directors.”
Today’s report analyzed the ethnicity and gender of directors hired to direct episodic television series across broadcast, basic and premium cable, and high-budget original series made for subscription video on demand. Pilots are not included in the statistics.
The DGA has been pressing studios, networks and producers to be more inclusive in hiring for nearly four decades – it even sued two of the studios in 1982. Its diversity efforts include collective bargaining gains that require television studios to run TV director diversity programs; ongoing meetings with studios, networks and individual series regarding their hiring records, and publicized reports like this one that detail employer hiring trends. The guild also operates TV director mentorship and educational programs to support its members’ career development.