The MPAA chairman Chas Hartman called the heads of the six major studios to an intimate dinner Thursday night to discuss new changes the U.S. entertainment industry must face in the digital age. Under the shroud of darkness, the head of the Motion Pictures Association of America (MPAA) and leaders from Disney, Universal, Paramount, Fox, Sony and Warner Bros. made a key decision to establish wide-spread 12-step recovery programs for women directors, a source said.
The primary revelation to emerge from the recent North Korean Sony hacking scandal was that women directors are unlawfully shut out from the directing profession, and women across the board from stars to staffers receive lower pay than men in equivalent jobs. For the first time in 93 years, studio heads agreed unanimously with the MPAA to fund an unprecedented new effort to help support women in overcoming their compulsions to direct film and television.
In a major move, Hartman and Sony Pictures CEO Tom Layton teamed up to spearhead the development of hundreds of new 12-step recovery centers in Los Angeles and across the nation dedicated to serving the specific needs of women who believe for various reasons that, according to Title VII, they share the right to contribute their voices to America’s entertainment industry. The content produced by Hollywood studios is our nation’s most influential global export and some women argue that, as 51% of the U.S. population, the female perspective matters.
Layton spoke resolutely, saying “It’s long past the time we studio leaders step up to the plate and provide decent support to American women who need to recover from their grandiose obsession to compete with men in a field they are naturally ill-equipped to handle.”
Hartman followed with a pledge to dedicate millions of dollars per year to building and staffing 12-step recovery centers for women directors, as well as opening thousands of public spaces to self-run meetings for women based on the time-tested model of Alcoholics Anonymous.
Disney chairman Jim Sandborn articulated the magnitude of the problem by explaining how thousands of women DGA members and non-member directors alike have been driven to destitution, homelessness, and despair through humoring decades-long illusory hopes of directing studio features.
“There will always be a place for a small percentage of women directors willing to work for free in documentaries and the indie sector and we applaud that,” he said, “but outside of a handful of millionairess pop and movie stars, there really is no room for women in studio features.”
Hartman stated that he was grateful to have found a solution to the “woman problem” since recent threats of a class action lawsuit on behalf of female directors had begun to strain studio legal departments whose resources are already stretched thin fighting serious looming concerns such as hacking and piracy which could cut deeply into the pocketbooks of industry leaders and players.
Hartman was pleased to announce that he fully expects to receive additional support from newcomer digital players like Netflix, Amazon, and Apple, as well as indie studios Weinstein Company, Lionsgate, and Relativity which have also succeeded in keeping women directors shut out for decades. Hartman assured studios that he may lower the $20 million dollar annual fee each studio pays to the MPAA for lobbying in Washington, since additional players will now contribute as well.
“None of these players,” said Hartman, “is interested in hiring women directors, so the problem will just keep growing unless we help women adjust to reality.” The new 12-step program for women directors will be headquartered in Washington DC where the MPAA has long been based, just yards from the White House, and in close proximity to lobbyists, congressmen, and the executive office.
Warner Bros head Colin Hajiwa weighed in with a personal anecdote about several women whose lives he said had been ruined by their aspirations to direct. “They say it’s one day at a time for them. The compulsion to direct is triggered so often and so unexpectedly— just reading a few pages of Murasaki or short story by Mishima might set them off. They need sponsors, a fellowship, and meetings to attend when the temptations to create cinema grow too strong.”
Tom Laytom agreed with an uncharacteristic burst of emotion: “I see so many of them, even in my own family, just playing with their children or hearing a song—anything could trigger the rash compulsion to make a film. It’s irresponsible not to provide a resource so these women may submit to a higher power and recognize that for them directing is simply not the will of God or Hollywood.”
Disclaimer: This parody is not based on real events. Any resemblance to persons living or dead is purely coincidental. And no animals were hurt during writing.
A Whole New System to Advance Women Directors
By Maria Giese
In the past 20 years female director employment numbers in Hollywood have been in stasis and decline, even while those of ethnic minority males have moved steadily up.
It is good news that diversity among directors is increasing, but why are women being left behind? As always in the United States, men of every ethnicity come before women of any ethnicity.
According to the current US Census Bureau stats, ethnic minority males make up 17.9% of the US population. They comprise 7% of DGA director members, and they helm 17% of episodic TV shows.
According to “The Guardian” list of top 40 international feature directors, 25% were ethnic minority males. Just 2 were women. It is possible to suggest that in terms of directors, ethnic minority males have arrived. Their numbers, in terms of ratio, are no longer disparate.
Women have been left behind. Women make up 51% of the US population, are not a “minority” and yet comprise just 13.7% of DGA director members, and direct just 14% of TV. And we know they direct less than 5% of studio features.
For this reason, in 2013 the DGA Women’s Proposals Committee drew up a detailed proposal to include women’s issues in the 2014 Guild-studio Collective Bargaining negotiations. Longtime DGA Executive Director, Jay Roth, led the negotiations last fall, but newly elected DGA president, Paris Barclay (himself an ethnic minority male), was an important voice.
Primary to the proposal was that, if female directors are to move forward, they need a program solely dedicated to the advancement of women. Unfortunately, when the negotiations concluded last December, women remained buried within the general category of “diversity” in all DGA-studio Agreements.
Under the new contract, the studios can continue to address diversity requirements without hiring any women at all. In fact, there is no legal obligation for producers and studio executives to advance women in any way; the only legal stipulation is that ‘diversity’ hiring improves. This can (and often does) mean hiring men of diversity—not women.
In order for the Agreements to benefit women, especially women of color, the DGA and studios must create a separate program for women of all ethnicities as a category in their own right.
How would it work?
The Guild and the studios would adjust their diversity agreements (the DGA Basic Agreement, Article 15 & the FLTTA, Article 19) from a single diversity mandate to include an additional program solely dedicated to increasing female employment.
It’s very simple:
If the DGA and the studios agree to create a distinct program for women, the studios will then have a legal obligation to hire more female directors. Today their only mandate is to increase diversity hires (usually meaning men), but under the two-pie system, studios would have to BOTH increase ethnic minority hires and female hires.
How will this impact women of color?
Under the double-mandate, two-pie system, female ethnic minorities would be counted twice, so it is greatly to their advantage. Women of color are often under the mistaken impression that they are currently counted twice (“twofer tokenism”) because administrators involved in diversity hiring often erroneously believe that themselves.
Counting an individual twice in a single pie, however, is a mathematical impossibility.
On the other hand, in a two-pie, double-mandate system, women of color could be counted twice: once in the female category, and once in the ethnic minority category. That would give them a numerical edge.
Women of color are the most disadvantaged population of all, so this increase in potential opportunity seems defensible. Recent DGA statistics showed that in 2013 the employment of women directors of ethnicity had dropped from a “criminally” low 4% to 2%.
Where the advancement of women is concerned, it is better to allow an advantage to women of color, rather than leave all women directors to languish under the current single-mandate diversity system that has indisputably proven to fail females for decades.
To clarify, women directors must be provided their own program, because under the current system:
1) Women get buried under the general category of “Diversity.” The studios can fulfill obligations to the DGA Diversity Agreements simply by hiring male ethnic minorities, without hiring females at all.
2) Women make up 51% of the U.S. population and are not a minority population, yet they are treated as such under the current system. Today, only 13.7% of the DGA director category is comprised of women, but the pool of eligible women from which show-runners and executives hire directors, is actually much larger.
This is so because the executives and showrunners do not hire directors strictly from the Guild. Anyone can flow into the employment stream— film school graduates, production executives, writers and editors, show cast and crew, and so on.
There is no defined skill-set required to direct. Everyone is a first-time director at one point. In terms of calculating percentages of qualified directors by gender, therefore, the general population is a more accurate pool than the director membership at the DGA.
In addressing the question of breaking women out as a separate class, Paris Barclay recently indicated that it would not happen during his presidency. As he put it: “We (diversity members) have got to stick together in this.”
Sticking together, in fact, has been just one more reason women have fallen so far behind in their employment numbers. Today, ethnic minority males comprise 7% of the director membership, but helm over 17% of TV episodes. Women, on the other hand, who comprise 13.7% of the director membership direct just 14% of TV episodes: white women get 12% and women of color helm only 2%.
This itself reveals a cunning circle. The Guild and the studios point their fingers at each other in an endless blame-game to seek a scapegoat for Hollywood’s almost complete and certainly unlawful exclusion of women directors. A woman cannot become a member of the Guild unless she is hired for work, yet the number of female hires remains miniscule, keeping the percentage of women DGA directors low.
Although the DGA is now ramping up efforts to increase the number of female DGA director members (currently about 1,200), it has traditionally used those the disparate gender ratios to justify the low number of female hires.
As Paris Barclay stated at the 2013 DGA Women Director’s Summit: “Considering the ratio of male to female directors in the Guild, I’d say the studios are doing pretty well.” The studios may be doing well, but women are not. And there is no reason to believe things will ever improve without a sweeping change to the current industry diversity policy.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has recently called attention to the rampant discrimination faced by female directors. As the Melissa Goodman, Senior Staff Attorney at the ACLU of Southern California wrote:
“Gender bias – like all forms of bias – is complex and hard to dismantle, but the statistics alone strongly suggest that more action is needed in the industry. The DGA says it is working to address the problem and reportedly has new diversity agreements with the studios that strengthen enforcement and require improved programs to help women and people of color break into directing work (…) No doubt truly effective diversity programs and real enforcement of these agreements (and employers’ legal obligation not to engage in sex discrimination) would make a real difference.”
The ACLU is currently calling for women directors to contact them to tell their stories: https://www.aclu.org/secure/my-story-woman-director
Please click on that link and tell your story today. And please support efforts to initiate a new DGA-studio program solely dedicated to the advancement of women. The creation of a separate mandate for women is an essential step in solving on-going sex discrimination in the American film and television industry.
Maria Giese directed the British feature, “When Saturday Comes,” starring Sean Bean and Academy Award-nominee Pete Postlethwaite. She also directed the award-winning indie feature, “Hunger,” based on the novel by Nobel Prize winner, Knut Hamsun. Educated at Wellesley College and UCLA Graduate School of Film and Television, she is an active member of the DGA and currently serves as the Women’s DGA Director Category Rep. Check out her activist/agitator web forum: www.womendirectorsinhollywood.com
Reprinted from “Women and Hollywood” – IndieWire – September 24, 2014
By Maria Giese
The DGA hosted an event Saturday night to celebrate the six women who created the Women’s Steering Committee 35 years ago. The 600-seat theatre was packed, with impassioned cheering and prolonged standing ovations punctuating speeches that just may become historic.
To women directors in Hollywood those six, “The Original Six,” are giants. They are the heroes who launched the landmark 1980’s class action lawsuit that sent women directors’ employment numbers soaring from .05% in 1985 to 16% in 1995—in just 10 years.
They are: Susan Bay, Nell Cox, Joelle Dobrow, Dolores Ferraro. Victoria Hochberg, and Lynne Littman. Remember those names.
From 1979 to 1985 these women risked their careers to create change for all women in our industry. The work they did altered the landscape for women directors and their teams—forever. There is not a single woman director working in Hollywood today who does not have the Original Six to thank for their jobs.
Hollywood, for all its outspoken liberalism, is an industry that has consistently kept women shut out. In the 35 years since the Original Six initiated legal action to get Hollywood to accept America’s hard-won equal employment opportunity laws, women directors’ employment numbers have dropped. Today, in 2014, fewer women directors are working in American media than two decades ago,
On a global basis, this means that nearly 100% of U.S. media content—America’s most influential export—reflects a mostly male point of view. Thus the astounding potential our nation has to share our passion for equality and female empowerment is lost to people everywhere—to women and girls—around the world. As Nell Cox put it, “Does it matter that one half of the population sees only a distorted image of itself on screen, and what purpose does this distorted picture serve?”
Great words were spoken Saturday night, even by Guild leaders who had initially expressed reluctance about the event. Guild President Paris Barclay said in his opening speech: “Why is the DGA making such a big deal about this? We’re making a big deal because it matters.” And DGA leader and WSC co-chair, Millicent Shelton, called for women “to be brave enough to take action.”
Yet it took a new generation of women DGA members years, and rancorous infighting in the DGA Women’s Steering Committee, to get this event voted on and approved by the Guild leadership. Why? Because the DGA leadership, and particularly women Guild leaders, worried that such an event would be perceived as “negative”—that it could be “embarrassing.”
As women in Hollywood fight to smash the celluloid ceiling, nothing could be more important than understanding our struggle in the context of history. And ultimately, on Saturday night, we all have the DGA to thank for hosting an event that highlighted that history and some of our most inspiring pioneers.
The speeches made by the Original Six were poignant and rousing. Joelle Dobrow praised Michael Franklin, the DGA’s Executive Secretary in the 1980’s who finally ordered the landmark class-action lawsuit to commence, calling him “Our point-man, our guru, our gladiator.”
And while inspiring the need for new action, Lynne Littman despaired that in all these years, little has changed: “We women have literally been disappeared from the profession because of our gender.” Victoria Hochberg, the very spearhead of the group, spoke most enthrallingly about how new action is demanded of both women and Hollywood’s studios and institutions today. She stated, “There is a growing new wave of rebellion against sexism barreling towards the film industry. And everyone knows that 20 years of the same excuses will not work anymore.”
The work that The Original Six did came on the heels of the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960’s, and the Women Liberation Movement in the 1970’s. Those were revolutionary times. Today, after more than two decades of complacency among American women, perhaps it should be no surprise that the job numbers for female directors has declined.
And likewise, it’s no wonder that the DGA Diversity program that resulted from the work of these women has failed female Guild members. The only rulebook for diversity hiring that studios consider emerges from the DGA-studio Collective Bargaining Negotiations every three years. These agreements are almost completely ignored by Guild signatories, and they are not enforced by the DGA.
As so rightly reported in “The Hollywood Reporter” yesterday: “It remains an obstacle to spell out a formula that will ultimately end discrimination toward women in the entertainment industry. The DGA says it will continue to take concrete action until statistical progress reflects gender equality among male and female directors.” But will it?
What really needs to happen next?
Hope for women directors today comes from a new generation of female directors/activists—and it mostly taking place on-line. Collective wisdom reaped from numerous sources: from the ACLU and the EEOC to stats gurus like Martha Lauzen and Stacy Smith, and from leaders in gender in media like Geena Davis and Jennifer Siebel Newsom, and blogs like this one, and from the individual voices of women director/activists around the world—from Jane Campion to Lexi Alexander.
These are the voices that combine to call forth sweeping changes in our industry:
1. The DGA must no longer stand as the primary policing entity for gender employment equity for its members in Hollywood. The DGA, as a union run by its vast-majority male membership, is in an intrinsic conflict-of-interest in advancing women.
2. Revise Collective Bargaining Agreements between the DGA and the studios to create a double-mandate system to address the specific needs of women of all ethnicities, separate from male ethnic minorities. Today Guild signatories can fulfill their diversity obligations by hiring male ethnic minority members, and hiring no women at all. Women are not a minority. Our challenges are unique and require separate treatment.
3. Commence legal action for women directors and their female teams, targeting Hollywood studios and institutions that violate Title VII.
4. Initiate a paradigm shift in cultural thinking about women directors though an ongoing campaign in mainstream and grassroots media.
5. Create a dedicated program within the industry to provide individual advocacy for women directors.
Some of these efforts have already begun: the ACLU has recently begun a new campaign to address this problem that many people see as a national embarrassment. Women directors are encouraged to contact the ACLU (anonymously or openly) to tell their stories of discrimination. https://www.aclu.org/secure/my-story-woman-director
Thanks to Saturday night’s DGA tribute to “The Original Six,” we are reminded that employment opportunity equality is a right that we women must continue to fight for. Standing on the shoulders of giants, of those who fought for Title VII, and those great women who are “The Original Six,” we can create change.
Women directors in Hollywood can achieve employment equity, but we—like so many women before us—must pick up the torch and prepare for battle. As Victoria Hochberg proclaimed to immense applause: “This is our time! This is our time! Live the word that begins all cinema. Live the word ACTION!”
Maria Giese directed the feature films, “When Saturday Comes,” starring Sean Bean and Academy Award-nominee Pete Postlethwaite. She also directed the award-winning indie feature, “Hunger,” based on the novel by Nobel Prize winner, Knut Hamsun. Educated at Wellesley College and UCLA Graduate School of Film and Television, she is an active member of the DGA and currently serves as the Women’s DGA Director Category Rep. Check her out at www.mariagiese.com or her activist/agitator web forum: www.womendirectorsinhollywood.com
By Roerick Sweeney
During the course of the recent Sony Hacks, the phrase “Free Speech” was tossed around so frequently, you’d think it wasn’t worth anything. MPAA commentators on CNN, Sony employees like George Clooney, even the President of the United States himself all made the claim that our free speech as Americans was under attack.
To some extent, those claims are valid. Death is the ultimate form of censorship, and people who fear death frequently self-censor. But many theaters screened The Interview without a hitch. Sony also launched their first VOD release to the public.
Someone had better tell North Korea about The Streisand Effect, because many more people watched this “desperately unfunny” film than would otherwise have seen it. Let’s be clear: at no point has Sony’s right to self-expression ever been threatened or prevented. The medium may have changed, but the message, despite Brecht, remains the same.
Unfortunately, that claim does not hold true for many others affected by the Sony hacks. Sony has issued a number of legal threats against journalists who are covering the stories, ordering them to destroy the documents or be held liable for damages against Sony
This caused an immediate chilling effect among journalists who were initially covering the stories. Sony has also threatened legal action against individuals like Val Broeksmit for tweeting about the leaks. Luckily for us, Broeksmit has kept tweeting, and is continuing his journalistic work.
As a result of the leaks, we learned a lot about the corporate institution of Sony. We learned that top executives had no problem making racist jokes about President Obama. We learned of sexist and racist allegations that would make Ari Gold blush.
We learned that A-List female actors like Charlize Theron and Jennifer Lawrence get paid millions of dollars less than their male counterparts. We learned that Aaron Sorkin doesn’t think it’s worth writing challenging roles for women. We learned that women directors are never considered for top blockbuster movies– not by Amy Pascal and not even by female stars like Angelina Jolie.
There are some things we haven’t learned from the Sony leaks. We haven’t learned about any kind of discrimination that did not in some way involve an executive or an A-List star. We haven’t seen any kind of budgetary analysis or statistical information about wages for women and people of color. We haven’t seen HR or hiring documents. Those are all to come.
Movies are the art and craft of making the invisible, visible, but Sony seems to be pouring all of its legal, political, and public capital into making sure the invisible stays unseen. There are hundreds of gigabytes of data in these leaks. I would guess that all the journalists reporting on the leaks to date have not even been through one gigabyte. Sony is burying a mountain, hoping that nobody will have the resources for close examination. If a team of 20 experts started going through these documents, it would still take years to go through the immense body of information.
In addition to silencing the voices of those few who are actually reporting on the leaks, Sony’s concerted efforts to maintain the status quo has a more insidious impact. Free Speech is not just about the right to say what you please – it is also about the right for marginalized voices to be heard. By attempting to prevent information about discrimination from reaching the public eye, Sony is perpetuating disenfranchisement through a conspiracy of silence.
In addition to cultural and social risk in speaking out, women and minorities risk getting blacklisted and losing their voices altogether. I spoke with the DGA Women Directors Category Rep, Maria Giese, who believes the leaks are potentially revolutionary: “Numerically, we have long known women are excluded. Now the Sony leaks can provide the smoking gun evidence we need to create a legal basis for a class action lawsuit for women directors led by state and federal agencies to mitigate the rampant, ongoing Title VII violations in Hollywood.”
Giese said “One of the most difficult aspects of building a class action discrimination case against the studios for women directors is fear of blacklisting. The Sony leaks lift this burden from women’s shoulders. The evidence is out there as part of the public record and it’s not (women’s) individual responsibility that it came to light. Yet even so it tells irrefutably the story of how women directors have been almost completely shut-out of the profession.”
In the same way the Snowden leaks provided the legal evidence needed for groups like the ACLU and the EFF to sue the NSA, the Sony leaks can be a foot in the door for women in Hollywood. If we’re allowed to see them, that is. Reporting on the Sony leaks is a work of utmost importance to the public interest. To suggest otherwise is a willful act of ignorance enough to make an ostrich sit up and take note.
Sony’s legal threats are simple damage control, nothing more. It’s unambiguously cheaper to try and suppress free speech than it would be to address the institutionalized racism and sexism within the organization.
Charlize Theron just renegotiated her Universal Studios “Huntsman” contract ten million dollars higher as a direct result of the information published in the Sony leaks. The professional environment in Hollywood is already changing — but it remains to be seen if it will change for anyone other than A-listers.
It seems that Sony’s hypocrisy knows no bounds. In the name of “Free Speech,” Sony has threatened reputable journalistic organizations to prevent them from discussing the leaks. And they have tried to muscle individuals without legal protection into restraining their free speech.
The result of this chilling effect is that the already marginalized voices of women and minorities in Hollywood are even further silenced and sidelined. The Sony leaks are Hollywood’s Snowden Effect. It is a moral imperative for us to construct the cultural, political, and legal framework necessary to ensure complete freedom for journalists to pursue these stories without constraint. Anything less is cowardice.
About the Author: Roerick Sweeney is a writer based in Bozeman, Montana. He has developed a distribution model for artists combining BitTorrent, CryptoCurrency and the Creative Commons license which allows for free, unrestricted, unsurveilled entertainment. A passionate believer in free speech, Sweeney’s primary goal is to to enable artists to distribute and monetize their art without censorship or middlemen.