The share of episodic TV shows directed by women and people of color has reached “new highs,” according to the latest DGA Inclusion Report, with women directing more than a third of TV episodes in the 2019-20 season, and directors of color helming nearly a third of the episodes. Latinos and women of color, however, “continued to be severely underrepresented despite their sizable and growing presence in the population,” the guild said, noting that the employment of Asian American directors remained flat from the prior season.
“It’s hard enough to achieve success in the competitive world of TV directing,” said DGA president Thomas Schlamme. “Therefore, it is vitally important that no group should be disadvantaged when it comes to developing a career. That’s always been the driving force of our work to push this industry towards more inclusive hiring practices and a level playing field. Our most powerful tools to analyze the availability of opportunities have been these in-depth data reports. And while we see encouraging growth in some areas, we will not be satisfied until we see fairness for all. Inclusion is not about one group or another, inclusion means everyone.”
Of the more than 4,300 episodes produced in the 2019-20 season, the portion directed by women grew to 34% – up from 31% in the prior season, and more than doubling from 16% five seasons ago. The percentage directed by people of color grew to 32% – up from 27% the prior season, and from just 18% just five seasons ago. Men, meanwhile, directed 66% of the episodes, down from 69% in the prior season.
Here’s the breakdown by race and gender, compiled by the DGA from internal information and data provided by production companies pursuant to the reporting requirements of the guild’s various collective bargaining agreements. (Only shows shot under a DGA agreement are included.)
• African Americans directed 17.7% of the episodes – up from 15% the prior season.
• African American males: 12.5%
• African American females: 5.2%
• Latinos directed 7.2% of the episodes – up from 6%.
• Latino males: 4.8%
• Latino females: 2.4%
• Asian Americans directed 6.4% of the episodes – the same as the previous season
• Asian American males: 4.3%
• Asian American females: 2.1%
• Caucasians directed 66.7% of the episodes – down from 71%
• Caucasian males: 43.3%
• Caucasian females: 23.4%
• Native Americans directed 0.3% of the episodes
• Native Americans females: 0.16%
• Native American males 0.14%
• Ethnicity other/unknown: 1.8%
Of the eight major studios and networks, which oversaw the production of nearly three-quarters of the episodes covered in the report, Paramount had by far the highest percentage of women directors (47%), followed by HBO (44%) and Disney (41%). Disney, however, which hired far more directors than any of the others, actually hired more women than any of the others. CBS had the lowest percentage of women directors (30%).
Sony and WarnerMedia were tied – at 33% – for the highest percentage of directors of color, followed by Netflix and Disney at 32% – although again, by virtue of hiring so many more directors, Disney also hired the most directors of color. HBO had the lowest percentage of directors of color (18%), with Paramount next at 19%. (Companies that oversaw the production of fewer than 70 episodes were not included in the ranking, as hiring patterns were less conclusive since a few episodes or a single series could swing percentages far into one direction or another. The most recognizable of those studios that were not included in the ranking were Lionsgate, Amazon and Viacom.)
When looking at its data a different way – counting the number of each individual director, whether they worked on a single episode or many episodes in the season – the DGA found that there were 1,268 individual directors hired to work on last season’s 4,300 episodes. Counted that way, the percentages were slightly higher for women (35%), but much lower for African Americans (11%).
With respect to African American directors (18% of episodes vs. 11% of individuals), a footnote to the report said that this was due to a “very high number of episodes” directed by a single director – 150 episodes in the 2019-2020 season alone. The report doesn’t mention him by name, but it’s Tyler Perry.
The DGA, which since 2009 has been tracking trends in the hiring of first-time directors and their pathways into directing careers, said that “inclusion cannot truly be achieved until the pipeline changes.”
According to the report, employers hired 227 directors last season who had never directed episodic television before. The percentage of these first breaks going to women was 47% (slightly below last season’s 48%, but way up from the 11% they logged in 2009), while the percentage of first breaks going to directors of color grew to 30% (up from 27% last year, and triple the 10% they got in 2009).
The guild has long complained that too many of these first-time episodic directing gigs are being given to show insiders who often even don’t pursue directing careers. The DGA said that of these first break jobs, 105 were given to individuals affiliated with the series in another capacity, predominantly writer/producers and actors. The report calls these first-timers “affiliated hires,” but in past reports, the DGA has referred to it as “perk” hiring.
On the other hand, 115 of these first-timers who were hired for their experience as directors working in other genres, such as features and commercials. The DGA refers to these as “career-track directors.” (The DGA said another seven first-timers couldn’t be placed in either category.)
According to the DGA, career-track directors “significantly outpace” affiliated hires in developing TV directing careers. Of the 434 career-track directors hired from 2009-2017, two-thirds went on to direct on a series other than the one they were initially hired to direct. The percentages were even higher for career-track directors of color (77%), women (86%), and women directors of color (84%). Conversely, only 25% of affiliated directors went on to direct for a series with which they had no affiliation – a number that the guild says “continues to be a concern.”
The guild also pointed out that first-time career-track directors are a much more diverse group than those first-timers who were already affiliated with the show. The report found that last season, 55% of career-track directors were women, compared to only 39% of affiliated directors. And the same was true for first-time directors of color: 36% of career-track directors were people of color, compared to only 21% of the affiliated directors. The DGA noted, however, that it is “encouraging to see is that the portion of career-track director hires increased – up from 25% in 2009 – and because of that increase, the pipeline is more diverse.”
“Changing the pipeline is key to one day achieving an inclusive industry, and this data on first-time hires shows we are on the road to getting there,” said Schlamme. “The greatest tool that producers have toward that goal is in giving a first break. But to truly achieve the potential of that power, employers must be conscious of the weight and meaning of that incredibly valuable first directing job – which is not only for the enormous benefit of the individual, but for the industry at large.”
The DGA is also in the process of developing and refining methodology to track the hiring of members of the directorial team – assistant directors, unit production managers, associate directors and stage managers – for a new report will be released in the coming months.
In a statement, the DGA said that it “has been pressing studios, networks, and producers to be more inclusive in hiring for nearly four decades. The Guild’s efforts include: collective bargaining gains requiring television studios to operate TV director diversity programs; ongoing meetings with studios, networks and individual series regarding their hiring records; and publicized reports detailing employer hiring patterns. In addition, the Guild itself has initiated a variety of TV director mentorship and educational programs to support the career development of its members.”
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