Why DGA Diversity Always Fails Women

"Net thing you'll know, she'll be wanting to direct!"

“Next thing you’ll know, she’ll be wanting to direct!”

By Maria Giese

Gender disparity in media is a global problem, yet individual women directors can do very little to turn the tide of discrimination in our industry. Our real hope lies in convincing the Directors Guild of America to stand up and embrace its assigned responsibility to protect the rights of its director members and take the lead in trailblazing the path toward gender parity.

We Americans like to think of ourselves as world leaders. We pride ourselves on leading the charge in keeping peace and bringing equality and justice to all the nations of the world, and yet, in terms of working toward gender parity in our own nation’s entertainment industry, we are failing badly. Global change must begin by creating parity for women directors in America, and that effort needs to start by initiating changes inside the very structure of the primary negotiating entity between film and television directors and the studios that hire them– the Directors Guild of America.

There seems to be an institutional bias within the DGA that prevents effective movement toward parity for women. For instance, during the class-action lawsuit of the 1980’s, the DGA was denied class certification on the grounds that some of the guild’s own policies put it in conflict with the interests of the female (and minority) plaintiffs who had initiated the complaint in the first place.

While the judge ruled stated that the case was viable and could proceed, the Guild was disqualified from leading the case because of entrenched policies of within the DGA itself. While the suit was permanently stalled, the fact that the DGA initiated the legal action at all resulted in a dramatic change to the employment landscape for women and minority directors. What was ½ of 1% employment for women grew, due to the lawsuit, to almost 16% employment for women by the mid nineties.

Unfortunately, 30 years later, the playing field for women directors has returned to a near-vertical tilt. Today, the film business is often regarded as America’s most visible industry-wide bastion of discrimination against women. The members of the guild, together with the law, the government, media, and the American public, must work together with the DGA to accomplish the same advancements toward parity for women directors in the U.S. film industry that women have already accomplished in so many other professions.


In 1979, the DGA picked up the baton from six courageous DGA women directors, and led the charge by initiating intense negotiations with the studios. They can do it again, and we can help. The DGA is fortunate to have Jay Roth, originally a civil rights lawyer, as national executive director. He is one of the best negotiators in the industry and Daily Variety called him the “showbiz point person on making a deal to ensure Hollywood’s labor peace.”

Roth has successfully led negotiations on the guild’s major collective bargaining agreements six times since becoming national executive director in 1995. If ever there was a maverick to lead this industry to gender party through negotiations with studios, he is the one.

Let us begin, however, with an examination and evaluation of the DGAs current and long-prevailing four-pronged approach to increasing job opportunities for women directors– and see why they fail. For as well-intended as these programs and events may be, none of them is fulfilling its fundamental objective of increasing the employment ratios of women directors.


DGA Diversity sponsored celebration and glorification events are public demonstrations of the talent and competence of women directors. Qualitatively, these events make a positive contribution to our community of women in the film business. However, quantitatively, they do not result in increased employment opportunities for women for a number of reasons.

Over the course of the past three decades, the DGA Diversity Committee for women (the Women’s Steering Committee), has honored and celebrated successful women directors many times—and for good reasons. Celebrations and tributes are uplifting and inspiring to the whole community as they serve to exemplify successful women as models for other women to follow.

Perhaps there are even exist ancillary benefits in that the guild reminds the studios, media, and the public of the equal ability and talent of women directors, thereby undermining the old prejudice that women are less competent than their male counterparts. And, finally, of course, it is a fun, communal activity to honor a successful woman for a job-well-done.

Unfortunately, the DGA often erroneously touts glorification events as being progressive in terms of increasing employment opportunities for women. Their rationale is that attention and publicity bestowed upon a single successful director will encourage her to feel ingratiated and indebted to the guild and hopefully give back, whether through mentoring a less experienced woman, or paying-it-forward in any number of other undefined ways.

As Kathryn Bigelow said in a recent interview with “More” magazine: “A filmmaker is a filmmaker. I tend not to look through a lens that is bifurcated in respect to gender or anything. But if what I do can serve for one person—let’s say I can be a kind of role model for other women directors to prove that if you’re tenacious enough, you can achieve what you have in your sights—then I’m proud to carry that mantle.”

Kathryn Bigelow’s success is indeed an inspiration to all directors– male and female. We women are particularly glad for her success and we want her to be working, but she cannot solve the problem of bringing parity to women directors. Bigelow is not just competent, she is also acutely intelligent; it seems likely that she would appreciate the DGA diversity funds be spent on helping under-represented women directors get more work.

Finally, no argument is more convincing than one based on simple numbers. The guild’s own stark statistical reports clearly indicate that celebratory and glorification events result in no quantitative value what-so-ever. Successful women directors already get a great deal of publicity and attention for no cost from the global media, therefore spending funds allocated to diversity programs takes away from events and programs that could benefit under-employed women more effectively.

While tributes and celebrations of successful women provide qualitative, a diversity policy of glorifying successful women directors should not be held up as an example of an effective method to bring parity or increase employment opportunities for women. Significantly, events celebrating white male directors and women directors should ALL be paid for from the same sources. Women should not have to use diversity funds.

We are all very proud of our distinguished women directors, and we hope that their accomplishments continue, but we cannot take solace in the few successes when we are faced with such appalling employment disparity. We take our hats off to women who have broken through the “celluloid ceiling,” but their successes do not diminish the important need to remove the immense barriers that stand before all women in our industry.


Another DGA diversity effort intended to address the problem of the under-employment of its women members includes Educational Panels. These events bring working women film and TV directors (and their teams) together with studio executives and other DGA members to discuss various aspects of the production process. Typically, there is a moderator who introduces the panelists, asks questions, and fields questions from the audience. The moderator tries to keep the speakers on-point or re-direct the discussion in pursuit of particularly interesting tangents.

There is nothing intrinsically wrong with educational panels. Education in any dynamic field must be an ongoing process. The DGA Diversity Committee, however, utilizes funds allocated to help increase employment opportunities for women and minorities, while general education should be the job of another sector of the Guild.

For example, last May, The DGA Women’s Steering Committee joined forces with the Writers Guild of America West’s Committee of Women Writers to present “Successful Writer/Director Relationships in Television,” a seminar that “sought to provide guidance on how directors and writers can effectively collaborate.”

The panel included three women directors and three women writer/producers; a women director moderated. The discussion focused on the “importance of setting the tone for a series with the pilot, what writer/producers look for in directors, and the needs and expectations of both writers and directors in episodic television.”

It was a pleasant enough morning listening to six bright and successful women talk shop. The problem was that it could just as easily have been a panel of six male writers and directors, and the information conveyed would not have been any different. Nothing was communicated that addressed any of the problems that the DGA diversity program was set up to solve, nor could they have been adequately addressed in this panel.

In fact, during the panel discussion, when the conversation did veer onto the subject of the under-representation of women in television—both among writers and directors—the moderator politely guided the speakers away from discrimination against women in TV and back on-point, refocusing them on the prearranged subject matter.

After a polite applause, the audience was asked to remain seated for a quick photo session to capture group shots of the panelists and various committee members. The obligatory photos were used to memorialize the event in the DGA Quarterly and other related media outlets. The DGA is quite adept at documenting diversity events and preparing glossy write-ups afterwards.

The guild seems proud of the various efforts made to create employment opportunities work for women and minority directors and use important-sounding names like the “DGA Diversity Task Force” to give them gusto. However, their efforts have not budged the numbers of women directors at all.

Indeed, it must be conceded that in the past two decades the ratio of male-to-female directors in episodic television has worsened. As we left the Writers Guild building and headed to our cars, we all looked a little glum. Another Saturday morning taken from our families—and to what end?

We under-employed women, many of us perfectly qualified to direct episodic TV, with Master’s degrees from the best film schools in the nation, hours of prime time shows under our own belts, and even feature films playing around the world, looked at each other wordlessly. One of my unemployed colleagues rolled down her window as she started her car: “Looks pretty good getting work, huh?” I just smiled and shook my head: “Sure does.”

These educational panels don’t serve to “educate” most of us about anything we don’t already know. We’re members of the DGA because we’ve worked before. We’ve already done the groundwork. But when the playing field is leaning at a near-vertical tilt, there’s just not much room for us. As former DGA President Martha Coolidge recently said of directors: “For guys competition is fierce, but for women you are more likely to win the lottery.”

So, while few would dispute the value of educational panels in general, it is erroneous for the DGA to suggest that they serve as an effective means of addressing the problem of disparity for women directors unless they directly address that topic. Any resources coming from the DGA diversity coffers that are spent on educational seminars should involve panels that leave an audience of women inspired, invigorated, and hopeful that change is finally on the horizon.

Women’s Steering Committee members—who are by definition ALL women members of the DGA—desperately need counsel on just how to approach making systemic changes to a field that ranks among the most male-dominated professions in the United States of America. Discrimination is rampant in the film and television industry, and the statistics our own guild regularly reports stand as undeniable proof.

If educational panels are to be sponsored by the DGA Diversity Program, they should serve to educate women on issues related to diversity. They should be comprised of women who have succeeded in overcoming resistance to the hiring of women. They should bring in experts on diversity and discrimination who can describe what women in other fields have done to create parity in their professions.

DGA diversity educational panels should teach women Guild members how they might come to represent the same ratio of working directors that women represent as a population in American society: as of 2010, 50.8% females to 49.2% males.


In general, there are fundamentally two types of networking events: those among peers and those that bring together unequal participants. Networking events among peers are relatively straightforward and take place in every sector of society.

The bringing together of peers has a proven track record of resulting in mutual benefit, where face-to-face interactions can result in on-the-spot deal-making. DGA Diversity networking events, however, intended to help increase employment opportunities for women and minorities, represent an example of networking mixers that bring together unequal participants.

Many DGA diversity events designed to increase job opportunities for women directors include women attendees who are not currently employed. Some of them have little or no experience working in the category in which they are seeking employment. Often the women attendees are not repped by agents or managers and they attend the events primarily to familiarize themselves with the landscape of episodic directing. For unemployed, but experienced directors, the networking event may be a last resort.

The counterparts to the women attendees are film and TV executives who are generally arm-twisted into attending the event to fulfill contractual agreements mandated in the MBA between the DGA and the studios. More often than not, reluctant to waste an evening, a more powerful executive will send a mid-level exec to take his or her place. Therefore, rarely are the executive participants at these networking events actually decision-makers in the hiring of directors.

Put simply, networking events in which mid-level executives meet up with a group of under-employed women DGA members who have little or no currency to exchange, usually result in nothing more than wasted time and lingering feelings of humiliation.

Beyond that, DGA diversity networking events tend to be ineffective in increasing employment for women because executives are being asked to take a chance on an unproven talent. Perhaps a woman will turn out to be a great director for that project, or maybe she will not. There is no way of knowing without seeing the results of her work.

Hence, in a flat or declining market, an executive is very unlikely to risk a directing slot on an unknown candidate with no immediate proof of benefit in sight. Are there networking events with unequal participants that succeed? One good example is college admissions networking events.

In these cases, thousands of student candidates are applying for spots in upcoming classes, while colleges and universities are seeking thousands of qualified student candidates. This type of networking often proves to be a very successful way of bringing together unequal participants. The prospective tuition-paying students meet with members of the academic community who need to fill their classes with a set number of students. Everyone has something to gain.

Even so, the schools must take a chance on the applicants; regardless of grades, essays, and standardized test scores, some of the applicants will become successful, contributing members of the academic community, while others will prove less so. Unlike our industry, however, colleges and universities MUST admit a certain number of NEW students, and students of course, must find their schools.

To apply this analogy to the film industry, improving the employment ratio for women directors could potentially emerge from networking events if the studios were mandated to hire a certain number of women each season in order to work toward parity on some set schedule goals & timetables.

In this case, the executives would have a big incentive to send their top decision-making executives to cull from the DGA women director members who attend the events. In this way, since the studios MUST hire a woman, they would have a stake in making sure that the woman they choose be the best qualified for their series possible.

In the meantime, the producers can make ancillary use of the meetings by noting other women directors who may not suit their current show, but whom they may hire down the road. In this case, everyone would know in advance that a certain level of success will most likely be achieved. As with any new director—male or female—some would eventually prove to be great directors and others not, but at least the women candidates would get the chance to communicate their past directing experience and potential.

If this were to happen, since male-to-female ratios within the pools of qualified director candidates is much closer to 50/50, it is inevitable that over time, talented female directors would come to reach parity with their male counterparts. The time-scale would depend of course on the intensity of the goals & timetables.

Unfortunately, this is not the case, and until it is, we cannot expect diversity networking events to become a catalyst to improve the employment numbers for women directors.


Starting a career directing film and television often begins with a conundrum: one cannot qualify to direct until one has directed, yet how can one direct without first becoming qualified? Leaping over this logistical divide is often accomplished with the intervention of a mentor, when a more experienced director or a TV executive takes an interest in a young talent.

Over the years, the DGA diversity program has experimented with a variety of mentorship efforts to help its women and minority members—with mixed results. Unfortunately, the recent mentorship programs initiated as joint efforts between the DGA and the studios have been widely acknowledged to be failures.

Even though the Disney/ABC-DGA Directing Program, launched in 2001, boasts “one of the longest-running programs of its kind in the entertainment industry,” completion of the program by the selected fellows has resulted in relatively few actual directing jobs for its participants. Equally disappointing results have emerged from those who have completed the HBO-DGA Television Directing Fellowship Program.

Why do the DGA-studio directing fellowships deliver such mediocre results? Before attempting to answer that question, let’s examine why mentoring programs in general have had such a long history of success.

Throughout the ages, young people have gained apprenticeships from skilled or experienced people to learn a trade or enter a wide variety of professions from the arts to banking. When we analyze the success of mentorships throughout history, what emerges as a key-contributing factor is the presence of reciprocity and mutual benefit.

In this light, we may begin to understand one reason for the overall failure of the DGA-studio diversity fellowships. For while these programs are intended to engender mentorships between young talent and experienced directors and/or executives, and hopefully result in jobs, they actually only serve to provide mutual benefit between the DGA and the studios, not the women and minorities who participate in the programs.

One women recipient of the ABC/DGA Fellowship, who was already an accomplished director, spoke of her experience: “The DGA-ABC fellowship was a complete waste of time. Constantly, they told us we should network with each other! What? ‘Cause the other fellows would help us! What? Don’t we all have plenty of friends in the business? And aren’t we here so YOU, the people at ABC, can help us?

“Then, on the sets, they stare at you like you’re a homeless person or a spy or a freak. The Executives running the program and the ones in current don’t want the shows to hire the people in the (fellowship) program. They are not interested in actually getting the fellows put on shows. They are more worried about maintaining their jobs than they are interested in getting someone an episode to direct.”

From the standpoint of studio employees who must tolerate these unwanted shadows (and often treat them with resentment), the selected fellows are little more than a nuisance who provide no opportunity for reciprocity at all. Since the relationship is not mutual, the reluctantly participating executives and directors often seem to look upon the fellows with derision.

In general, only if an observing director is actually assigned to an upcoming show that season, or in the near future, will the observer be treated with respect. DGA-studio diversity fellowships not only provide no guarantee that a participant will get to direct an episode of TV after completion of the program, there is not even a promise that one will get to observe a show during the program.

As the ABC-DGA Fellowship stipulates upfront: “A stipend of $950.00 per week when actively shadowing, will be paid. The duration of the individual’s participation is at the discretion of ABC executives, executive producers and/or episodic directors. And the HBO-DGA Fellowship states similarly: “Fellows will be employees of HBO on a non-exclusive basis and will be paid approximately $50,000 for up to one year, anticipated, but not guaranteed (depending upon the number of weeks worked and hours per week), to work on a television series to be determined by HBO pursuant to an employment contract.”

Salaries of $950 per week or $50,000 for the year-long fellowship may be very tempting to an unemployed applicant, but she should know that, as these “actively shadowing” periods are “at the discretion” and are “anticipated, but not guaranteed,” they almost never add up to much pay at all for any of the fellows.

As one ABC-DGA fellow comments: “When I got in, they chose 15 of us for the program. The idea was to send the list (of fellows) to all the shows and let the shows decide which one of us they would invite to shadow. But the shows didn’t come forward. When ABC realized that very few of us had a chance to shadow, they extended it for another year. I got one shadowing opportunity in 18 months, and managed to arrange for another shadowing assignment on my own when the program was about to end and nothing was coming in. The stipend was $950 a week for the weeks you were shadowing—for 2 to 3 weeks, if you were lucky.”

Even though the fellowship programs have little to offer their participants, they are highly competitive. The application process is rigorous, involving notarized applications, an essay, several letters of recommendation, a director’s reel, and an interview for the finalists before a panel of DGA and studio executives. Although applicants do not need to be DGA members, the requirement of a director’s reel indicates that previous experience is required.

In fact, many of the directors who become fellows have already put in numerous hours observing on prime time TV shows. Many of them have completed film school, and directed shorts or even feature films, yet after completing the program, they still do not get assigned to an episode of TV.

Paradoxically, these fellowships are very prestigious. Fellowship applicants are usually very excited when they learn they have been selected as finalists, and they are often over-the-moon when they find out they have been selected as fellows. They get their photos taken with members of the DGA diversity staff and participating studio executives, but it is not until the end of the fellowship period that the complete disappointment sinks in.

The fellows have made the DGA look good and the studios look good, but for them, more often than not, the year or two of commitment has resulted in nothing more than a farce and a preposterous waste of time.

One women DGA member who completed the program, and did not get a show, noted that the only fellow she knows of who did get a directing assignment was someone who was already employed on the show: “…an actor who did an arc (a multiple episode role) on the show anyway, and had been a dorm-mate of one of the executive producers. He never showed up for any of our gatherings.”

It is broadly acknowledged in the world of episodic directing that many shows are directed by cast and crew members, some of whom have never directed before in their lives, and are often not already members of the DGA. Episodic television is a producer-driven form of media that benefits from uniformity of vision from episode-to-episode.

Therefore, a unique directorial approach is precisely what producers do not want. The production crew of an episodic TV show usually runs like a well-oiled machine, and it is propitious to hire from within. From the point of view of the producers, the best choices to helm each show fall to those who are most familiar with the show: the producers themselves. Writers, editors, and script supervisors also make natural choices for the position of director, and of course, on a long-running show, nearly every star will make a demand to direct at some point or another.

TV director mentorship programs designed for women is to be successful, it needs to include a policy of guaranteeing the mentee a directing assignment on a show after the observation period is completed. The promise of a job is essential to maintaining the self-respect of the shadowing mentee, as well as the respectful treatment by other employees on the show who are guiding her in.

Since the fellowship application process is so rigorous and competitive, one can safely make the assumption that anyone who at last receives the prestigious position would likely be adequately qualified to helm a show at the conclusion of the program.

TV directing jobs are highly coveted and highly paid. They must be well paid as most directors only get a few gigs a year. The executives and show-runners who hand out the directing jobs know what valuable prizes they hold. Therefore, they give the few available slots to individuals who will provide some special benefit, either to the show or to them personally.

Sometimes it is beneficial to hire a nephew or a step-son; perhaps a girlfriend or boyfriend would like to try their hand; a loyal crew member certainly deserves a shot after years of dedicated work. For producers, handing out directing positions on their show may help maintain good will and mutual benefit in any arena of their lives. Why bother with a mentee they hardly know?

In the final analysis, one wonders what directing jobs could remain for the female fellow and DGA member who has done her time over many years building a great foundation to prepare herself to direct.

From any standpoint, what currency does the women director have to trade? Talent, competence and skill as a director? How can one know whether she possesses these requisite skills until she has had the opportunity to direct an episode? If her previous work, as demonstrated on her director’s reel is not enough to assure a producer or show-runner of her ability, only the act of directing will suffice.

In the long run, the DGA diversity fellowship programs do not help women DGA members at all. In fact, an argument may be made that they affect women adversely by diverting their energy and wasting their time. It is certainly unproductive to women directors that their guild wastes precious resources allotted to programs intended to help increase employment for women on large-scale, long-term fellowship programs that are undeniably ineffective.

The DGA Diversity Program continues to promote these prestigious studio directing fellowships as progressive joint efforts forged by the guild and the studios to remedy the under-employment of its women and minority members. ABC and HBO, from their sides, continue to call the programs a success. And indeed, the programs are a wonderful boon to the maintenance of reciprocal good will between the DGA and the studios. But do they help increase employment opportunities for women DGA members? They do not.

Herein lies the very heart of the problem of the under-representation of women directors in America, and thus globally. If the primary negotiating entity for directors in the U.S. film industry is not demanding parity standards for women directors, then they are acting in complicity with the studios to maintain discriminatory policies that prevent a shift toward parity. In such a case, women directors have little hope of changing the status quo.

The DGA points its finger at the studios, and the studios point their fingers at the DGA. While America’s films studios and other producing entities that actually hire directors are primarily responsible for the under-employment of women, the organization that must initiate crucial change is the one that represents the rights of directors: the Directors Guild of America.



The DGA has approximately 15,000 members worldwide; approximately 58% are director members and 13.5% of those directors are women. However, women directors represent the category of guild membership that has the worst male-to-female employment ratios: approximately 95% to 5% in feature films and 85% to 15% in episodic TV, according to recent DGA statistics.

We are awaiting the figures to determine what proportion of the 58% of women director members make up those meager slices of the directing pie. Since most women DGA director members get no work at all, we know that it is relatively few women who make up the small ratio of employed female directors.

DGA devotes considerable resources to its diversity programs, and over the course of the past 30 years, lots of very bright people have put their heads together to try to remedy the problem. However, for all their many efforts, the numbers have not changed at all.

We are living in a time of tremendous economic instability that, in our industry, translates to fewer jobs for all directors—and even further marginalization of women directors. While it may seem counter-intuitive, the present socio-economic conditions may actually contribute to making this a particularly auspicious time to at last make powerful strides toward gender parity in our industry.

Already tremendous advances have been made in the military, universities, corporations, and in government, yet the entertainment industry remains a bastion of discrimination against women—particularly women directors. We are getting left behind, and being left behind in this industry has profound ramification for the entire world.

Ending discrimination against women directors is vital to establishing a society of equality and diversity of perspective. Since media is America’s most influential export around the globe, it is of paramount importance that the media and programming we export represent male and female perspectives equally.

It is not just the validity of the female point of view around the world, and basic fairness that gives this issue such immediacy, but if we as a nation are to maintain a moral upper-hand in geopolitical affairs, we must at the very least obey our own laws protecting equality.

The fact is that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employment discrimination based on sex. Discrimination against women in the film industry is against the law in the United States of America.

The inference of discrimination could be demonstrated by using a mathematical equation known as the “null hypothesis.” The courts could apply a binomial distribution test to determine gross disparity in the ratio between male and female directors. The larger the standard deviation— the gap between the null hypothesis and the numbers of female directors— the less likely it is that the studios chose their directors in an unbiased way.

If this resulted in the suggestion of the presence of sex discrimination, female directors could establish a prima facie case for discrimination under Title VII. We should not need to file a second class-action lawsuit to remedy this problem, but we must solve it. The DGA, as the primary negotiator of basic agreements between its membership and producers must use every effective means possible to help institute new events, programs, and policies that really do bring parity to women directors.

Women DGA director members are members because they have directed films and/or episodic television professionally. They are trained, competent and talented; they simply do not get the opportunities that they have worked so hard for, and that they deserve.

The following ten recommendations are the result of careful consideration, but they are by no means absolute. They are simply intended as suggestions to help foster positive dialogue and a strong sense of unity between those of us who so want to bring parity to women: the entire DGA membership, the DGA executives, and the many entities that make up the American film industry:


Celebrating successful women directors within the DGA benefits both the DGA, the WSC, and all guild members. However, successful women directors should be treated exactly the same as successful male directors. Events celebrating women directors should be funded from the same source as similar white, male glorification events.

Celebrating the triumphs of DGA women should be handled by the DGA “Special Events” and not by the Diversity Program. If the Women’s Steering Committee must use their funds to celebrate successful women DGA members because the DGA is failing to do so, then that is a problem that requires scrutiny and evaluation.

Diversity funds for women should not be diverted to events that belong under the general auspices of the guild itself. If the Women’s Steering Committee feels it is of benefit to hold a celebratory event, it should use its funds to highlight those in the entertainment industry who have taken risks and contributed to the effort to increase employment for women DGA members, whether they be show-runners, producers, studios, networks, or any other entity or individual.

In fact, the DGA could institute policies to coax and encourage the studios to hire more women directors, including an “Incentive Program” and well-publicized awards based on performance for those individuals and producers that have demonstrated a history of hiring of women directors.

Leave the tributes and celebrations of individual women directors to DGA “Special Events” or other categories within the DGA. The WSC needs its few allotted annual events and funds to promote employment opportunities for women.


Focus on events that analyze and evaluate the efforts made by women in other professions and industries that have successfully achieved progress toward gender parity.

Diversity educational panels should be designed to invigorate, inspire, and galvanize women DGA members. They should educate women and the entertainment community at large on the realities of discrimination against women directors.

DGA Diversity should promote panels that politicize the under-employment of women directors on the national and governmental level. They should bring in experts on discrimination, diversity, incentives, and affirmative action.


Affirmative action deserves a moment of attention here, for there are restrictive constitutional safeguards in place that make affirmative action difficult to implement in this country. The key reason for this is that many Americans believe that affirmative action conflicts with the interests of a free-market economy.

In the entertainment industry, which often pays lip-service to the need for “artistic freedom,” many oppose the validity—indeed, the legitimacy and fairness—of affirmative action programs. And it is true that choosing talent (ie. film and TV directors) in this industry is ambiguous for the simple reason that artistic merit is subjective.

Producers and executives need to exercise personal aesthetic decisions based on subjective criteria, but as we have seen, visible and invisible discrimination continually interfere with perceptions of merit where women are concerned.

To inform this argument, it is useful to recall a famous quote from one of Great Britain’s foremost art critics, Brian Sewell, in the “The Independent” in 2008:

“The art market is not sexist. The likes of Bridget Riley and Louise Bourgeois are of the second and third rank. There has never been a first-rank woman artist. Only men are capable of aesthetic greatness. Women make up 50 per cent or more of classes at art school. Yet they fade away in their late 20s or 30s. Maybe it’s something to do with bearing children.”

This misogynist perspective is equally applicable to the profession of film and TV directing, so one can easily see why affirmative action for women in the entertainment industry may be extremely important in working toward parity. The fruits of affirmative action programs in the United States in the 1950’s and 1960’s are paying off for many American minorities today, even though they were intensely controversial in their time.

Within the European Commission right now (The New York Times 10-23-12), there is a powerful effort being made to force gender parity within European companies. Currently, there is a proposal up for approval that would mandate that a 40% minimum of women be included on corporate boards of directors. This proposal comes with sanctions and penalties for violations in the case that corporations fail to comply.

This new effort is so controversial it is actually splitting the European Union, and it may not pass, but it is a striking indication of the direction that the world is going in terms of pressing forward for gender parity in all industries and professions. If gender balance is of such acute concern on corporate boards, it most certainly should be an issue of immediacy in the entertainment industry.


DGA Director Networking events must be raised to a high-level of quality. The participating executives must be scrutinized and the directors must be vetted. Only those executives and show-runners who have already demonstrated a willingness to hire women directors should be invited to mixers.

Likewise, only women directors who have previously demonstrated a standard of ability and talent should included in the event. Combining only decision-making executives (who have a record of advancing women directors) with only highly-qualified women directors will result in making attendance at these networking events an honor and a privilege for show-runners, studio executives, and women directors alike.

As was stated above, improving the employment ratio for women directors could potentially emerge from networking events if the studios were mandated to hire a certain number of women each season in order to work toward parity on some set schedule of goals and timetables.

If studios know that they must fulfill a mandated shift toward parity for women directors, or suffer a penalty, there will be great incentive to send their top decision-making executives to cull from those most qualified DGA women director members who attend the events.

In this case, over time, talented female directors will inevitably come to reach parity with their male counterparts on a time-scale that would depend on the intensity of the mandated goals and timetables.


If DGA-studio diversity fellowship programs designed for women are to be successful, they need to include a policy of guaranteeing the mentee a directing assignment on a show after the observation period is completed.

The promise of a job is essential to maintaining the self-respect of the shadowing mentee, as well as the respectful treatment by other employees on the show who are guiding her in. This can result in great success if the fellowship application process continues to be as rigorous and competitive as it has been in the past.

This way, every women who completes the year-long program can safely be trusted to helm an episode of TV on a program on which she has shadowed for the requisite period of time.


The DGA should hold an Annual Women Directors Summit based on the proposed model of the “2013 DGA-WSC Women of Action Summit.” This Summit should not be funded by the WSC, but rather by DGA Special Events.

“SUMMIT OBJECTIVE: The goal of The Women of Action Summit is to invigorate our community of DGA women directors. We will celebrate the significance of empowering female voices in media and energize our commitment to employment parity for women directors.

Surrounded by experts, executives and filmmakers all devoted to our issues and dedicated to elevating the status of women directors, we will examine the facts, strategize fresh approaches and renew our spirit for making change.”

This summit must bring together our most powerful male and female DGA director members to brainstorm with the DGA and the WSC, as well as academics, experts in diversity, discrimination, affirmative action, and incentive programs for studios to hire more women


The DGA must make statistics detailing shifts in employment ratios of women director members much more open and readily available to the DGA membership.

In this day and age, it should be a simple task to run statistical queries against the database of information the guild already uses to calculate dues and distribute royalties. They should use this data to track hiring trends for women on a consistent basis, and make the tracking results transparent and available to DGA membership.

If the DGA does not already keep their data categorized by sex, they should start that right away. Each directing job entry should have a column for sex.

It is unacceptable that the simple study requested many months ago by the WSC, and approved by the DGA, to get access to the male-to-female ratios of directors on feature films and episodic television from the 1980s to present has still not been published.


The DGA should allow the Women’s Steering Committee (and other diversity committees) to utilize the DGA Communications Department to bring industry and national attention to the issue of the under-representation of women directors.


Allow WSC members to publish articles in the DGA Quarterly to bring attention to the under-representation of women directors, even if the articles are controversial.

Thus far, several articles have been submitted to the DGA Quarterly by women DGA members that were not only NOT PUBLISHED, but whose submissions were not even acknowledged by the publication.

WSC members have been advised to submit any articles to the DGA head of diversity, rather than the Quarterly. Evidently, that is where the articles are intended to remain.


The DGA could institute a fund to assist women directors in making and improving their director’s reels and creating professional websites. (This could be expanded to include all directors, male and female, with financial need).


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WHAT CAN WE DO? 13 Proposals for Women Directors

UrnBy Maria Giese


1.  LEGAL ACTION (individual, or preferably class-action)

2.  BREAK WOMEN OUT AS A SEPARATE CLASS FROM ETHNIC MINORITY MALES.  Last December, the 2014 DGA-studio “Collective Bargaining” negotiations sadly left women buried within the general category of “diversity.”  Thus, under the new contract, the studios can continue to demonstrate compliance with the agreements by simply hiring more ethnic minority males, while failing to hire women directors at all.  It is essential that women directors are broken out into their own class, separate for ethnic minority males, if their employment numbers are to rise.

3.  DETERMINE WHETHER THE DGA SHOULD BE THE PRIMARY ENTITY IN THE U.S. overseeing industry compliance of American equal employment opportunities among directors?  The DGA is an organization heavily weighted by men, biased toward serving the interests of men, and which stands fundamentally in a conflict of interest where advancing women directors is concerned.  Shouldn’t this issue be overseen by a Federal organization?  A private organization?  An objective, impartial civil rights coalition?


4. Renegotiate the terms of BA Article 15 & FLTTA Article 19 to make the agreements to hire more women DGA members more binding and rigorous.

5. “Best Efforts” (or another valid term) to replace “Good faith Efforts” in BA Article 15 & FLTTA Article 19.

6. Create a binding set of “Goals & Timetables” to apply to these above agreements such that employment of women DGA members in episodic TV increases to 30% by 2023, and 40% by 2033.

7. Negotiate the terms of the above agreements to encourage the widening of the pool of female DGA members such that MORE DIFFERENT female DGA members are employed on a greater number of episodic TV shows.

8. Structure future DGA Studio Shadowing Fellowship Programs to include a mandate that will result in guaranteed jobs for a set percentage of the fellows (ie. 30% of women DGA members who receive studio TV shadowing fellowships must be hired on an episode during the following season).

9.  Implement a studio/DGA fund for women DGA members, starting with an initiative to support the development of feature films directed by women and women DGA teams.  The goal should be to move the current 95/5 ratio of male to female directors of feature films to a 75/25 ratio by 2023, and a 60/40 ratio by 2033.

10.  Redefine the interactions between the DGA Diversity Task Force and the Studios.  Diversity Task Force members must not be active, working directors competing for the same jobs as the women the officers are serving.  DGA-DFT members are currently eligible to be employed as directors on the shows on which they are helping oversee compliance of agreements BA Article 15 & FLTTA Article 19.   Re-examine the Diversity Task Force for potential “conflicts of interest” for its members.  This committee MUST BE COMPRISED OF OBJECTIVE, IMPARTIAL individuals.

11.  Create a “DGA Women Employment Diversity Task Force” dedicated to overseeing compliance of an accordingly revised BA Article 15 & FLTTA Article 19, and insuring compliance of the above agreed to “Goals & Timetables.”

12.  Create a web-based database for women directors to present their reels and heighten their visibility.

13.  Create a system by which women directors can be introduced or re-introduced to representation by industry agencies.  Currently the vast majority of women directors are invisible.  We must seek ways to INCREASE VISIBILITY of all qualified and new-coming women directors.

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Halfway There

By Maria Giese

In America, it’s not enough to get into top schools, win awards, establish one’s ability, spend one’s adult years making award-winning shorts and indie features, often for little or no pay.  It’s not enough if you’re a women director.

No.  In fact, in Hollywood, when a woman has worked for the right to earn a living, all too often she is then denied that right as if it is not a right at all, but a privilege she does not deserve.  There are thousands of TV episodes directed each year in America (3,300 in 2013)– that’s thousands of job opportunities.  Why are women directors so conspicuously denied access to those jobs?

This year less than 4% of American feature films and just 12% of American TV episodes will be directed by women.  In an industry full of well-trained, creative and talented women—those percentages are literally “criminally” small; they represent irrefutable numerical proof of industry-wide Hollywood violations of U.S. civil rights laws.  In a national population comprised of 51% women—those ratios are not just unlawful, they are perversely skewed.

Television directing, and the residuals that follow, is the bread and butter of the majority of DGA directors, and forms the bedrock of the Directors Guild’s health and pension plans. Yet when a female DGA director member attempts to gain entry to this regularly working group, entry is blocked— by habit, by design, by custom, and by the passivity of the DGA itself.  Could this be simply a microcosm of a larger primate gender war for resources?

In feature films, an art form that is the voice of our entire culture, America appears unwilling to accommodate any more women than can fit in a single-digit percentage. There are more women in the US Congress than there are women who direct US movies. Unless you are a movie star like Jodie Foster, Drew Barrymore, or Angelina Jolie, or a pop star like Madonna or Barbra Streisand, or the daughter of a famous director, like Sophia Coppola or Alison Eastwood, or an actress who is a regular on a TV series (that list is endless), you are out in the cold.

Other women who are not movie stars or wives or daughters of celebrities, and who have still made successful careers as directors, are almost all non-Americans.  After NYU film school professor and director, Spike Lee, recently failed to include any women’s films on his list of “100 Essential Films,” he quickly made amends by adding eight films directed by women— six by non-Americans.  Four films are by the great Italian director, Lina Wertmuller alone, one is by New Zealand’s Jane Campion, and one by Euzhan Palcy from the French West Indies.  Only two films by American-born directors, Kathryn Bigelow and Julie Dash, made the cut.

He then drew up another list of “25 Movies by Female Directors Every Aspiring Filmmaker Should See.”  Nineteen of these 25 films are directed by non-American women: Sally Potter, Naomi Kawase, Claire Denis, Isabel Coixet, Agnes Jaoui, Chantal Akerman, Claudia Llosa, Liv Ullmann, May Deren, Deepa Mehta, Margarethe von Trotta, Susanne Bier, Catherine Breillat, Lexi Alexander, Cheryn Dunye, Mary Harron, Agnes Varda, Samira, Makhmalbaf, Agnieszka Holland.

Only six films on the list were directed by American women (none of whom had been movie stars): Nora Ephron, Ava DuVernay, Lisa Cholondenko, Zoe Cassavetes, Allison Anders, and Kasi Lemmons.  It often seems that Americans think that only foreign women could possibly be truly talented.  They sometimes seem to share the prejudice of the rest of the world that American women are, for the most part, some sort of ersatz stereotype of Stepford wives– conformist Connecticut blonds, happier polishing their Sub-Zero appliances than digging in the dirt, mining the human collective unconscious for great stories to tell— certainly not the image of gifted, competent, creative leadership required of an auteur feature film director.

But that is unmitigated bullshit, so what about actively seeking redress?  After a decade of being a DGA member, two years ago I began attending monthly DGA Women’s Steering Committee (WSC) meetings as a last resort effort to finding work.  What I found instead was a group of confused, frightened, and subservient women acceding to the unspoken demands of the DGA to be quiet and not make waves– not so different from Stepford wives, ironically.

Worse, it was every woman for herself.  The DGA women TV directors I met through the committee seemed hell-bent on keeping other women shut out and off their turf.  A few may allow another woman director to shadow on their shows, but they almost never make sure the observer can advance to actually directing an episode of her own.

The beleaguered Women’s Steering Committee is overseen by a DGA staff member who earns an annual salary in excess of $100,000, according to the 2013 LM2.  As amiable as she is, she is mostly a court eunuch who says “no” far more often than “yes.”  During her nearly 20 years heading up diversity at the Guild, the percentage of employed women directors has gone down.  Simple as that.

Director Betty Thomas, First Vice President of the DGA under Paris Barclay, recently made her first-ever appearance at a WSC meeting– she admitted that she had been asked to come, to try to calm the waters, so to speak.  She stated upfront: “I’m not here as one of you. I’m here as one of the boys. I’m part of the boys’ club. It’s Paris and me and it’s good.”  She referred apologetically to the WSC at that time as an “Orphaned Committee.”

She was right: it had been a dead committee for over a decade.  The leaders of the Women’s Steering Committee had no interest in political action or changing the status quo whatsoever.  They did not see the need for solidarity because they did not want change.  When I reminded the members that the origins of the committee were rooted in political action, one co-chair scoffed, “That’s just because the whole women’s lib thing was going on back then.”

The WSC leaderships’s lack of interest in social justice was right in line with the fact that the Guild does not want to increase the pool of women TV directors.  After all, it would certainly mean decreasing the number of men getting gigs.  As the women in that select pool also participate in Guild governance, working in accordance with the Guild agenda has its rewards.  In fact, many of those women get significantly more TV episodes each season than an average successful male TV director— but there are only around a dozen or so women in that pool.

That select pool of women are also included on a mysterious “Diversity List” that, according to the Guild’s official website (www.dga.org), is sent upon request to producers and show-runners who may feel obliged to hire a female now and again.  It benefits the Guild to keep that pool small and manageable.  If a woman does not work for more than 16 months, according to the head of Diversity, she is dropped from the list.  Women TV directors should not plan on having children, and if they do, they can forget about maternity leave.

Show-runners who “need” to hire a female director call the agents of the women on the “List,” but often those DGA Preferred Women Directors are so booked each season they can’t accept another gig.  If the show-runner is at all concerned about the potential stigma of ending up on a DGA “Worst Of” list (a list the Guild publishes annually to “embarrass” producers who fail to hire directors of diversity), they may be forced to hire a female from among their writers, producers, cast or crew.  Or they can just hire one of the many male directors available—

– but they will have no way whatsoever of finding out who the other women DGA directors are, or what they’ve done to have become Guild members in the first place.

Most producers laugh about the DGA “Worst Of” lists and think it’s funny when they end up on it season after season. In any case, thanks to the “Diversity Director Lists,” the other 1,150 or so women director members of the Guild don’t have a chance.  The Guild claims that it is not involved in getting its members jobs, but in fact, for the select few, the DGA is completely integral to the decisions about who works and who does not.  It’s important to note that Lists (Rosters) can be illegal— a union may not disseminate lists if they benefit some members and disadvantage others, which this one does.

Needless to say, the women on the committee weren’t prepared for me.  I saw at once that the whole thing needed to be torn down, its very foundation uprooted and built up again completely anew— returned to the spirit of its 1970’s origins.  My view was that the DGA is the most powerful organization in the world representing the creative and economic rights of directors; the DGA-WSC should stand at the same level for women directors.

To educate myself regarding verifiable data, I asked for the statistics of female employment from 1979 to present in episodic TV, commercials, and features. I won approval vote for the request after three months of trying, and the Guild promised to provide the stats within a few months.  Today, however, nearly two years later, the DGA has still not provided us with the numbers they claim to have prepared.  Not one of us, not even the most loyal of women Guild members, wonders why.

My request made the Executive Director of the DGA, Jay Roth, suspicious and I think concerned about another lawsuit like the one initiated by the “Original Six” women DGA members (Susan Bay, Nell Cox, Joelle Dobrow, Dolores Ferraro, Victoria Hochberg and Lynne Littman) who founded the committee and transformed the directing landscape for American women forever.  From 1983 to 1985, the DGA led their class-action suit against three major studios which sent the number of women directors soaring from one half of one percent (.5%) in 1985 to 16% in 1995— just ten years.

1995 was the very year Roth was hired to run the Guild.  Roth’s first task, which was successfully executed in haste, was to expel Jamaa Fanaka from the DGA.  Fanaka who died in 2012, was the African American radical director and founder, in 1994, of the DGA African American Committee. He is known as the “real” initiator of the “L.A. Rebellion” movement in cinema, even before Spike Lee.

As a new-comer to the committee, and one of the few who had directed feature films, I was able to speak convincingly in support of a WSC Summit event that several women, including veteran TV director, Rachel Feldman, and the young director, Melanie Wagor, had been fighting to get going for several years.  This event was intended to bring attention to the overall underemployment of women DGA members, and I thought it was a great idea. Unfortunately, it was not supported by the leadership who only wanted to use their small annual events budget on individual glorifications, like the “Kathryn Bigelow Tribute.”

I argued that the global media already provides Bigelow with enough tributes.  Surely, even she would prefer that our committee spend its humble resources on helping all women in the Guild, not just further glorifying individual women.  It was time to solve the appalling industry-wide problem of discrimination against women directors in general.  This line of thinking was very meaningful to the rank and file of the committee, all of whom were victims themselves.  The event was voted on and passed almost unanimously, even while the co-chairs voted against it.

A few months after the vote, however, we had not gotten an official go-ahead from the Guild to start working.  I had lunch with the Guild’s diversity officer, Regina Render who told me, “The event is not going to happen.”   I ask her why.  She said the Guild perceived it as “negative.” According to her, they thought it might make the Guild “look bad”– it could be “embarrassing.”

We decided to write a letter to Regina. We wrote: “Jay Roth is not going to want to go down years from now as having been the guy in charge when the DGA is found to be in violation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Title VII.”   Two days later, the event was officially approved.  We had the go-ahead.  About 9 or 10 months later, on March 2, 2013 (almost exactly a year ago) the most important, fully inclusive event for women directors ever hosted by the DGA took place.

Everyone– from Jay Roth to directors/Guild leaders Paris Barclay, Lesli Linka Glatter, Mimi Leder, Betty Thomas,  and nearly 200 participants (many of whom are America’s top film and TV directors) indicated it was an immensely successful event.  As Betty Thomas later said to the WSC: “There was before the Summit and after the Summit.  Everything changed in my thinking after the Summit.”

Jay Roth is acutely intelligent and, like an accomplished chess player, thinks many steps ahead.  He had not been able to prevent the politically provocative Summit for just one reason: for the past 34 years, the WSC had not actually been legally bound to the DGA.  In fact, the committee was an independent, ad-hoc group that simply held its meetings in the Guild offices and enjoyed a Guild budget for monthly meetings and events.  It had no by-laws whatsoever and operated solely on Robert’s Rules.  Roth must have thought: “Time to lay down the law.”

While we were planning the Summit, Roth called for the DGA National Board to vote in mandated new by-laws to be imposed on the Women’s Steering Committee.  The bylaws they presented to us were draconian: they were designed to create a situation in which the Guild could assume total control over the committee.  First, there was a bylaw called the “Working in the Trade Requirement” relegating under-employed women DGA members to a lesser, stigmatized class in which they could not even run for co-chair seats on the very diversity committee that was created for the primary purpose of helping support under-employed women DGA members.

Another bylaw took co-chair elections out of the WSC meeting room such that every woman in the Guild could vote for co-chairs by mail.  This sounds like a good idea, but in practice turns the election into a popularity contest.  Most of the nearly 3,500 women DGA members don’t know what’s going on in the WSC; they vote for the names that are most familiar to them which invariably belong to women directors who are “known names,” are high up in the Guild leadership, and benefit most by doing the Guild’s bidding.

A third bylaw gave absolute power to the three newly elected co-chairs: “The co-chairs may set the agenda.”  An additional “No Longer Working in the Trade” co-chair alternate could be elected in room, but she would be provided absolutely no power, and is not even included in co-chair correspondences.  My constantly-employed friend, Melanie Wagor, eventually won that seat by vote in the room, but was later told by a new co-chair: “You are nothing.”  I wish I could say she was joking, but she wasn’t.

Overall, the new bylaws added up to a simple new reality.  The new DGA Women’s Steering Committee would be chaired by women who were already Guild leaders, who had been deputized by the Guild to act in the Guild’s interest, and could select subcommittee co-chairs at their will.

In a move that sounds Orwellian, the three key WSC Subcommittees: Events, Communications, and Rules were all headed up by friends of the co-chairs who had helped run the WSC before the Summit. (“There was before the Summit and after the Summit”).  Wagor and I were selected to head up the Proposals Subcommittee, but since the next DGA-Studio Collective Bargaining negotiations were not to take place for three years (in 2017), and the positions were to last for two, we were advised by a new co-chair to “do nothing at all.”

The DGA WSC was created 35 years ago, in 1979, by six incredibly courageous women directors, all highly accomplished women who had won numerous awards and honors, but year after year, could just not find work.  They founded the WSC, the first DGA diversity committee ever created, and it was intended as a political action group to help all DGA women.  Now, in 2014, the committee these women created had been stripped of its ability to accomplish anything for women except what was to be determined by the Guild leadership.

It’s so interesting to see how much of Roth’s job, even from his start as National Executive Secretary in 1995, has involved restraining the success of diversity efforts that might upset the status quo for the “white male industry power establishment.”

Of course, today it’s not really just the “male power establishment.” Not being white is no longer such a handicap for male directors. Today we have Alfonzo Cuaron, Ang Lee, John Singleton, Guillermo del Toro, Steve McQueen, Pedro Almodovar, Walter Salles, Takeshi Kitano, Lee Butler, among countless others.  Many of these men are considered by elite international critics to be among the top auteur directors in the world ( I don’t think there is such a thing as a “women auteur director” of any ethnicity, but that is up for debate).  It’s not like the old days when it was just a lot of white guys, and then the great Akira Kurosawa.

The women at the DGA WSC Summit were very passionate. We had a brainstorming session that everyone participated in and came up with dozens of proposals to create change for women.  ACLU, EEOC, Lawsuits, protests, rallies, websites, publicists, media involvement, and significantly, preparing a document articulating the pressing need to separate women directors of all ethnicities into their own class, separate from men of diversity.

We event creators were supposed to follow up on all these proposals– and we did. I met with the US Department of Justice, EEOC, and the ACLU.  I spoke to countless lawyers and started a website: www.womendirectorsinhollywood.com (with the feminist/journalist, Heidi Honeycutt) where we women directors could unravel and examine our history, past legal action, and tell our stories.  We revamped the DGA-WSC Facebook site, increased its membership and made it politically active.  We also drew up a detailed proposal to include DGA women’s issues the upcoming 2014 Collective Bargaining negotiations.

There was a huge amount of solidarity about the need to make radical change. Women’s employment numbers were moving down, even while those of male directors of diversity were moving steadily up.  As always, men of every ethnicity come before women of any ethnicity.  Our newly elected African American Guild President, Paris Barclay, used the diversity platform, a foundation laid first by women in 1979, and then by Jamaa Fanaka in the early 1990’s, to benefit ethnic minority males, starting with himself.

Jay Roth led the recent 2014 Collective Bargaining negotiations this past fall, but Barclay, as the DGA President, was an important voice. While several adjustments were made on behalf of diversity in general, mostly based on the proposal recommendations we women had officially put forth through the WSC, none of the proposals they chose to “fight for” would help advance women.

Unfortunately, in the new Agreements, women remain buried within the general category of “diversity.”  Under the new contract, the studios could continue to advance diversity without advancing women.  In fact, there is no legal obligation for them to advance women in any way; the only legal requirement is that ‘diversity’ hiring improves.  This can mean, and often does, hiring African American men, Hispanic men, and Asian men—not women.

In order for the agreement to benefit women, it must specifically refer to women of all ethnicities as a separate class, in their own right.  If women are to be aided in this reach-out, then their employment numbers need to be measured specifically and tracked.  That can only be accomplished if the Guild and the studios specifically break out women as a separate class.

In a recent WSC meeting in which Jay Roth and Paris Barclay both spoke briefly and entertained a Q&A session, I asked what they thought about breaking women out as a separate group.  Roth seemed open to discussing this with women members, but appeared strangely concerned about the potential “costs.”  While saying he would be willing to consider the possibility, he suggested that the DGA does not have the resources to do certain things.

The Directors Guild of America is the most powerful union in our industry. Guild leaders are always quick to boast of being the richest union in Hollywood, perhaps having in excess of $100 million in their coffers.  The membership pays Roth millions of dollars a year in deferred bonus alone– that’s on top of a $750,000 salary. Yet they can’t cough up ten or twenty thousand dollars to promote equal employment opportunity for women directors?  Something they are legally bound to do in accordance with Title VII?  There is something curiously awry in that valuation disparity.

In addressing the question of breaking women out as a separate class, Barclay immediately negated the possibility clearly indicating that it would not happen during his presidency: “We (diversity members) have got to stick together in this.” A smattering of women applauded, but most of us knew that his words signified more difficult times ahead.

Sticking together, in fact, has been just one more reason women have fallen so far behind ethnic minority male directors in our employment numbers. Today ethnic minority males comprise 7% of the director membership, but helm 14% of TV episodes (many of those by Barclay himself).  Women, on the other hand, comprise nearly 14% of the director membership, but only direct 12% of TV episodes.

This itself is a cunning circle. A woman cannot become a member of the Guild unless she is hired for work, yet the number of female hires remains criminally low, keeping the percentage of women DGA directors low.  Then the Guild uses those ratios to justify the low number of hires.  As Paris Barclay stated at the Summit: “Considering the ratio of male to female directors in the Guild, I’d say the studios are doing pretty well.”

This month’s DGA Quarterly Magazine just came off the press in time for the one-year anniversary of our DGA WSC Summit (March 2nd). Its contents say it all: there are 16 feature films being screened, none of them directed by a woman. There is an African American male (Tyler Perry), a Mexican male actor turned director (Diego Luna), a French male actor turned director (Guillaume Canet), a Canadian male director (Denis Villenueve), a Spanish (from Barcelona) male director, a few Jewish guys, an Italian-American guy (Ray De Felitta), and the usual white male director suspects. The “DGA Directors Finder Series” also features a white Iranian male.

Although women make up more than half the US population, for some reason no woman has managed to have a film shown this month.  Instead, males from Canada, France, Mexico, and Spain have succeeding in screening features in our country— but not our own women.  In the body of the magazine, there are no females in the “Meet The Nominees” section for commercials, no female nominees in the reality section, no female nominees in the feature film section, or in the TV movies section.

The most important developments that have taken place since the DGA-WSC Summit are politically motivated actions that directly resulted from the Summit itself.  That extraordinary organization, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), has announced that it will be taking up the cause of women directors.  As the Melissa Goodman, Senior Staff Attorney at the ACLU recently wrote:

“The ACLU has a long history of defending the rights of content creators in television, film and the arts. At the same time, we advocate for gender equity, particularly in job sectors traditionally dominated by men. 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. But real change often requires making problems more visible, human and clear: to translate cold statistics into human stories so that talk turns to action. Many brave women in Hollywood are speaking up about their experiences. If you are a woman director who has been discriminated against, excluded from directing jobs in television or get less TV work than your male peers, we’d love to hear from you. Tell us your story” (aclu.org)

This is a powerful expression of support for women directors.  In the United States, it’s about as powerful as it gets.  The ACLU is our nation’s strongest independent “guardian of liberty, working daily in courts, legislatures and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties that the Constitution and laws of the United States guarantee everyone in this country” (aclu.org).

Furthermore, American media seems to be talking about the problem of the under-employment of women directors every day— in print, on the radio, on TV.  It’s ever-present now.  I know we have made great strides in the past two years, but there is much, much work to be done.

If we women directors cannot find resources for legal action, then we must rely on our American media to spearhead a paradigm shift in thinking among all Americans about the value and abilities of our own women.  Thirty years ago few bothered about recycling, the Green Movement was just sprouting.  Today, every American is conscious of the need to recycle, to take care of our environment.

I have no doubt that the same can be done for women directors, but American women certainly deserve a hasty resolution.  There is no need for our small, powerful industry to amble in first gear toward gender equity among directors. Change only requires that executives make the choice to include women.

We Americans teach our sons and our daughters equally that they are free to choose their careers— it’s just a matter of choice.  Well, the same must be said for honoring the choices our children make:  it’s just a matter of providing the opportunity— equally—regardless of gender.  Some will succeed and some may not, but everyone deserves a level playing field upon which to compete.

Hey, Guys!  Are you listening?!

Hey, Guys!  Are you listening?!

Maria Giese is a feature-film director, a member of the Directors Guild of America, and an activist for parity for women directors in Hollywood. She writes and lectures about the under-representation of women filmmakers in the United States. A graduate of Wellesley College and UCLA graduate school of film and TV, Giese was recently elected DGA Women’s Director Category Representative.

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You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet!

"Some women fought for us, now it's time for us to fight for others!"

“Some women fought for us, now it’s time for us to fight for others!”

Re-published by permission of Melissa Silverstein “Women and Hollywood” http://blogs.indiewire.com/womenandhollywood/to-sue-or-not-to-sue-a-lesson-from-history-for-women-directors

By Maria Giese

When the Director Guild of America’s Women’s Steering Committee was officially established in 1979, women comprised just 0.5% of episodic TV director employment. One half of one percent! According to Guild lore, meetings opened with the words “Fellow Directors and Mrs. Lupino.” At some general meetings, the audience was referred to as “Gentlemen,” until the few women members in attendance complained.

By 1979, a few more women had gained membership in the Guild, but they frequently found themselves unable to land jobs. Frustrated, six of them (the “Original Six”) began assembling statistics.

The following year, they presented the results of their research to Michael Franklin, then National Executive Secretary of the DGA. Stunned by the numbers, he agreed that something had to be done. Franklin was a labor leader in the old sense, and deeply concerned with discrimination against women members of the DGA. He inspired the Guild’s conscience. He brought the Board and the Guild to a higher level of responsibility and accountability, struggling for a higher vision for all workers.

Franklin made it clear that the Guild would support the Original Six, and together they went before the DGA’s National Board to request the formation of a DGA Women’s Committee. He also tried to get the studios and TV production companies to improve the hiring of women DGA members. The Guild, in conjunction with the Women’s Committee, set up meeting after meeting to encourage production companies to interview women members. They circulated directors’ reels, discussed possible “set-asides” (a specific number of directing slots for women) — all to no avail.

These meetings were based only on voluntary compliance and went on for a year with negligible results. The studios and production companies were intransigent. Franklin became convinced that the only effective strategy would be a legal one.

After one final attempt, when none of the invited executives showed up for a scheduled meeting, a fed-up Franklin made his historic decision to launch the groundbreaking DGA-led, class-action lawsuit against three major studios in 1983. It was time to sue, and the Guild would lead the suit. The legal action was groundbreaking because women directors in Hollywood had never before used U.S. civil-rights laws to challenge gender discrimination.

For laymen, the leader of a class-action suit is a named party who brings the suit on behalf of other potential class representatives. In the case of this lawsuit, the women did not have the financial means to hire legal representation sufficient to take on the studio giants. Therefore, the DGA very generously offered to take on the lawsuit and act as the leading named plaintiff.

However, a legal requirement of a class representative is that it must hold interests that are typical of the rest of the class, and it must be able to fairly and adequately represent all other members of the class. It was because of these requirements — and not on the merits of the case — that in 1985, Judge Pamela Rymer refused to assign class-action status to the case at that point in time and disqualified the Guild from leading the class. The court found that some of the Guild’s own policies discriminated against the very women they were representing, which put the guild in a position of conflict of interest.

Significantly, Rymer supported the validity of the case and stated that it could continue without the DGA. Unfortunately, the women did not have the financial means to finance the lawsuit and were forced to step down. Even so, this legal action led to a striking surge in the number of women TV directors, as well as the creation of numerous DGA-Studio Agreements promoting diversity hiring.

By 1995, just 10 years later, the percentage of TV episodes directed by women had risen from 0.5% to 16%. Sixteen percent! This was certainly thanks to the crucial support that Michael Franklin and the DGA leadership provided women Guild members at that time.

As Franklin himself stated in an article entitled “The Man Behind the Women’s Movement at the Guild,” “there were new people in the positions of leadership within the Guild. People like Gil Cates, Gene Reynolds, Jay Sandrich, Boris Sagal, Norman Jewison, Tom Donovan, John Avildsen, Marilyn Jacobs, Enid Roth, Elia Kazan, Jane Schimel, Karl Genus, John Rich, Arthur Hiller and Jackie Cooper. They merged together to support the [Women's] committee, authorize funds and really move ahead in a broad front” (DGA News 1990/1991).

Unbelievably, thirty years after the landmark lawsuit, the number of working women directors in the DGA has gone down. Today, only 12-14% of TV episodes are directed by women — an unfortunate reversal during a time of unprecedented industry growth and abundance, particularly in television. Why?

* * *

The problem lies in part in the squandered opportunities by the individuals who are in leadership positions in the Directors Guild of America. The DGA is a highly respected and powerful organization. When the DGA speaks, the entertainment world listens. It is the only entity in America that effectively has the power to demand gender equity among directors in our industry because its primary function is to represent the creative and economic rights of directors.

By its own admission, the DGA is the richest, most powerful Guild in our industry. It is a well-funded organization that routinely enters into collective bargaining negotiations with studios and producers on behalf of directors, and it is the union that women directors who are already professionals belong to. Our current DGA Executive Director, Jay Roth, is a civil-rights expert and a brilliant lawyer who has successfully led negotiations on the Guild’s major collective-bargaining agreements seven times since becoming National Executive Director in 1995.

The DGA-Studio Collective Bargaining Negotiations take place every three years, and Roth has succeeded in making many great forward strides for the interests of all Guild members. In the recent 2014 round of negotiations, the Guild, under his leadership, did include diversity as one of its four key issues. Some advancements were made, including making it easier to arbitrate discrimination in certain situations. For this achievement, he, and those who worked with him, should be applauded.

Unfortunately, women remain buried within the general category of “diversity.” Under the new contract, the studios could continue to advance diversity without advancing women. In fact, there is no legal obligation for them to advance women in any way; the only legal requirement is that diversity hiring improves. So women must rely on the good faith of studios and producers to increase gender equity in hiring. But as we know, in the case of women TV and feature directors, that good faith has not gone far and in fact has resulted in a reversal of numbers.

In order for the agreement to benefit women, it must specifically refer to women of all ethnicities as a separate class, in their own right. If women are to be aided in this reach-out, then their employment numbers need to be measured specifically and tracked. That can only be accomplished if the Guild and the studios specifically break out women as a separate class.

Why do we have this paradox of declining stats even as the world has supposedly become more enlightened about gender equity? The issue may point to a sea change in the new media landscape. Originally, the Guild cared about a sense of equality and fair play. Has that been lost or buried under more pragmatic concerns, for instance the DGA Health Plan? New media? Piracy? Wages? These issues have taken precedence in the past negotiations over the issues of diversity, and especially the dismal progress of women DGA members.

It also may be true that the first surge in female director employment was easier coming from the ridiculously low numbers of the 1970s, and after a decade or so, a certain complacency may have set in. And it may be true that while the male membership of the DGA (in general an enlightened and liberal body) favored gender equity in theory, they may have balked at the prospect of sacrificing a piece of the pie. After all, director employment is a zero-sum game to some extent.

Nonetheless, the subsequent growth of the industry should certainly have resulted in more pie to share around. But putting food on the table is a priority for artists, and a certain amount of selfishness can’t be helped. For instance, even the women who have enjoyed the lion’s share of episodic TV directing jobs in the past decades since the lawsuit do not seem to be making efforts to help widen the job pool to include more, different women.

Some of the women who hold leadership positions in the Guild have demonstrated little support for any change that could be construed as controversial. This has resulted in a failure to get more women through the door to TV directing. If those women are attempting to protect their turf, so to speak, they are hindering the opportunity for our industry to work toward equity among directors, they are perpetuating tokenism, and they are stifling the hopes of the next generation of America’s women filmmakers.

Almost every woman director who is currently a DGA leader got her start after the lawsuit, and therefore benefitted directly from the hard work and sacrifices made by the Original Six who founded the Women’s Steering Committee. Indeed, since all DGA diversity committees and efforts to support ethnic minority hiring emerged from the work of these women, even our new DGA President, Paris Barclay, who is African American, benefitted from their work. The DGA African American Steering Committee was officially only established in 1994, nine years after the lawsuit.

* * *

Now, in 2014, as the numbers slip ominously backwards, it is not just women DGA members we must look to for solutions. We must also understand why our male leaders are failing to take on the power establishment that has so impeded the potential of this generation of women filmmakers — and profoundly threatens the next. If the problem is as ignoble as to be defined as a gender war for resources, then we must bring to bear the laws of our great nation to insist upon equity.

A high-level DGA executive recently said that if women directors press for more work, they will be waging war, that they will be threatening to take the food from the plates of the families of male directors. But women directors have families, too, and it is only fair that the playing field for directing jobs be level and free of gender bias.

Women directors must have the courage to speak out fearlessly if they feel they have been “shut out.” In an industry based on personal relationships, it is very hard for anyone to muster the courage to speak out against discrimination. Fear of blacklisting is always present, but an industry — a society — that condones fear is oppressive.

To solve this problem, women directors must openly demand the advancement of women directors through the DGA and studio and network diversity programs. We must help create a paradigm shift in public thinking about the abilities and competence of women directors. We must make the issue of the under-representation of women directors common knowledge. We should seek out investigative journalists to expose conscious and unconscious complicity within the Hollywood power establishment to keep women out.

No one wants to bring lawsuits: they are bad for business, they are bad for careers, they are time-consuming and expensive. But sometimes — like wars — they are necessary, as was the case back in 1983. Hopefully, we do not need one now, but we will have to see how sincere the commitments, and the intent of those commitments, are as spelled out in the recent Collective Bargaining Agreements. The possibility of future legal action rests in the hands of the DGA and the studios. Let’s see if they can find it incumbent upon them to place social justice and equity before fear of change.

Previously: “The New DGA/Studio Agreement: Nothing New for Women”

Maria Giese is a feature-film director, a member of the Directors Guild of America, and an activist for parity for women directors in Hollywood. She writes and lectures about the under-representation of women filmmakers in the United States. Giese was recently elected DGA Women’s Director Category Representative.

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Hollywood Power Party: By Invitation Only (Cartoon)

"Stay out, girls!  It's a private party: DGA leaders and studio execs only!"

“Stay out, girls, it’s a private party– DGA leaders and studio execs only!”

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Women Helmers in Media’s Brave New World

"Reed Hastings!  Help me out!"

“Reed Hastings!   Help me out!”

“TV in ten years is going to be 100% streamed.  On demand.  Internet Protocol. Based on computers and based on software.  The next generation won’t even know what live TV is— they live in an on-demand world.”
( The New Yorker – 2-3-14)


By Maria Giese

It’s not just the weather that’s changing these days—global media is on the verge of a seismic shift and, as we all know, change means opportunity.  This new media revolution could be the moment of opportunity women directors have been waiting for to seize a piece of the employment pie. Les Moonves, CEO of CBS was recently quoted as saying:  “For 25 years, I’ve been hearing that Network television is dead.  We’re thriving like never before” (The New Yorker).  But truth be told, he’s a dying, old dog— and a misogynist one at that.  (Save your tears: Moonves will still get a hell of a lot richer before the game is over. He earned over sixty million dollars last year).


All of these moribund Network heads— male and female alike— of ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox, The CW, and so on, whose paternalist sensibilities have been keeping women directors of all ethnicities buried for decades, are about to get swallowed whole by a new generation of media giants whose universal perspectives may just suggest a sea change in thinking about gender equity.


Will the old Hollywood TV networks, that have been in rampant violation of U.S. gender employment equity laws for decades, drag their biases against women helmers out the exit door with them when they go?  The emerging mavericks– Reed Hastings, Jeff Bezos, and Susan Wojcicki– of America’s growing on-demand streaming media, like Netflix, Amazon, and Google, may be able unveil a promising new horizon for women in America’s most influential global export– media.


Netflix head, Reed Hastings, is practically a new species compared to Moonves or Sony’s Amy Pascal (a female studio head who has failed to hire a single women feature director in years).  Hastings is highly educated, an innovative thinker, and Peace Corp veteran who spends much of his time on philanthropic work for charter schools.  He could just become the model media executive for a new era of gender equity in the American entertainment industry.


What makes this possibility seem hopeful?  As the new forms of media come to power, statistics about female consumers become more important than ever.  Women today make up 51% of the population of the United States, control over 2 trillion dollars of American purchasing power, and 85% of household purchases. 


In 2013, 503 billion dollars was spent on global advertising.  Seventy billion of it went to U.S. TV ads alone, and more and more of it is migrating toward digital streaming platforms.  Simple math and basic laws of good American entrepreneurship suggest that future global media success will rely in part on integrating women in accordance with their viewing numbers and purchasing power. 


Getting the business model tuned just right for maximum profit will require not just creating more femme-themed content, but getting more women directors behind the camera to tell these stories from a female perspective so they resonate with women and girls around the world.  If a new world order in media is going to dominate human story-telling— a profession from which, right now in 2014, women are almost 100% excluded as creators– new media giants will limit their potential.


Right now, even though women enter and graduate from our nation’s film schools at a 50-50 ratio with men, they step onto a professional directing playing field that is at an almost vertical male-dominated tilt against women.  With women directors currently comprising just 4% of feature films and 12% of episodic TV, women’s stories are lacking authenticity.


Let’s take a quick look at just how women could ride the crest of this breaking wave into a future of parity on the emerging new playing field of global on-demand streaming media. This inevitably explosive media expansion will surely give rise to the need for considerably more content creation and could provide women with new opportunities to direct without taking work away from men.  Gender competition for such a lucrative and high-status employment resource as directing has always been one of the key barriers for women directors.


Among the new emerging giants– Netflix, Amazon, and Google– Netflix is just now shifting from its hybrid DVD distribution platform to financing and producing big-budget new series content that is released all at once for binge viewing.  Netflix recently coughed up $100 million for the first two seasons of the critically successful13-hour series “House of Cards” and Amazon is tentatively making its first series.


Google, not to be left behind, is adding professional-grade video programs to its platform.  YouTube is a platform of infinite channels and on-demand media has made it possible for new sources of financing as diverse as Microsoft, that is also producing original content.  In fact, YouTube allows the potential for every single viewer around the globe to become a content provider.  Right now the networks are lagging behind in this race, although Hulu has been created to withhold some of the business from emerging new competitors.


What this means for women is very significant.  There is sure to be a vast increase in content, but when the number of women directors is currently so low, one wonders: will the new executives begin to hire women directors?  Or will they follow in the misogynistic footsteps of their network predecessors, as was evidenced on “House of Cards” which employed zero women directors on the first 13 episodes. 


Unfortunately, for myriad reasons—from conscious and unconscious discrimination against women directors among studio executives and show-runners to widespread feminist complacency during the massive economic boom— 1995 shadowed the beginning of a 20-year period of stasis for women director employment.

Today, in 2014, few TV executives or showrunners even consider hiring women helmers.  For this reason, the number of working women episodic TV directors today is on an ominous decline, down 4% since last year, from 16% to 12%.


As with any burgeoning new ecosystem, the first settlers to gain a foothold will gain a marked advantage.  In this light, fresh opportunities for women directors demand that they use their every resource to overcome the powerful forces of sexual discrimination that have kept women marginalized and excluded from the directing profession for decades.


Thanks to a large class-action lawsuit against three major studios in 1979 (led by the DGA on behalf of women directors from 1983 to 1985), when DGA women directed just .5% of TV episodes, that percentage shot up to 16% by 1995.  Coming in the wake of the the the civil rights movement in the 1960′s and the women’s liberation movement in the 1970′s, women had many reasons to believe that a new era of gender parity in Hollywood was upon them, but today that hope has not born out.


Got game?


On another front, although very nascent, we see the new dawn of interactive gaming—an exciting new platform for storytelling that hasn’t even begun to be probed by serious directors, but is certain to flourish.  To snub this new opportunity, as feature directors snubbed music videos until the 1980′s and commercials until the 1990’s, would be foolish for women, even if the stories presently comprise primarily male-oriented action.


Who the emerging leaders and decision-makers of new media will be is as yet uncharted territory, but the DGA Women Steering Committee could benefit women directors and their teams by presenting a symposium to meet the various representatives of the new media content creators in gaming— a world that is thus far completely untapped by women.


In conclusion, in fighting gender discrimination, women directors need to shift their targets from the old entrenched networks that are experiencing fractures in their foundations, to the erupting volcanoes that are certain to evolve into the new media mountains of the future.


These are the new partners the Directors Guild of America needs to focus on in future collective bargaining negotiations in order to be sure that diversity agreements are strengthened and complied with to include women directors– equally.


(The author is grateful to the great Ken Auletto for his inspiring article, “Outside the Box,” in The New Yorker – Feb 3, 2014).


Posted in Anecdote, Feature Films, Legal, Sexism | Leave a comment

A Woman DGA Director Speaks Out

Don't blame me! Paris Barclay is the one who said "Change will happen, but it will take time."

Don’t blame me! Paris Barclay is the one who said “Change will happen, but it will take time.”

By Rena Sternfeld

Can someone please explain this to me?

We are all proud Guild members, obliged to join our Guild because we directed/AD/UPM’d professionally.  Why are we seeing such resistance to anything we try to do to advance ourselves and other DGA women?  Trying to be as objective as possible, I can’t look back upon the events of the past 1½ years with anything but amazement and bewilderment.

The Summit (DGA-WSC Women of Action Summit – March 2, 2013) which was so successful, was objected to and canceled so many times I can’t remember all the details.  I know it was voted on again and again in WSC committee meetings and inspected and rejected by the leadership of the Guild innumerable times.  Some of us were so disgusted with the process that they now avoid taking part in our committee at all.  Despite the difficult process, it turned out to be a very successful event– the most inclusive event for women directors ever held in Guild history.  But promises that were made by Guild administrators were not kept for political reasons.

The Bylaws – Seeing that we can make things happen despite having a split leadership (2 co-chairs in favor of the Summit event and 2 co-chairs who tried their best to derail it), we got an order from the DGA National Board to pass new mandatory Bylaws.  The WSC committee existed for over 30 years without them, and now was the time to enact the rules?

Suspicious timing?  You be the judge.

We fought the bylaws, knowing very well what they may bring.  We fought and fought and it got us to theater 3 in the DGA building for a bigger meeting.  That is when we heard from Bryan Unger (Associate National Executive Director/Western Executive Director) that if the WSC committee will not sign the new (and discriminatory) bylaws, our committee may be dismantled.

Was that a threat?  Again, you be the judge.

We lost. The new Bylaws were signed and we had to have new elections for co-chairs.

New Co-Chairs – As we suspected, the co-chair positions went to people who are enmeshed with the Guild, which is not necessarily a bad thing, I had hoped.  Sub-committee leadership positions were given to people (some of whom don’t even show up for monthly meetings) who opposed the Summit and supported the mandated Bylaws.  The only thing we managed to insert into the new Bylaws was the ability to elect an Alternate Co-chair that is elected in the room.  Our bulldozer – the relentless Melanie Wagor – was elected but has not been recognized by the Guild or the WSC co-chairs, who say things to the effect of: “She is not an official co-chair and will not be privy to information or included in WSC decisions-making.”

Honoring Our Past – That is the last debacle we are facing now.  First it was said that the event should not happen because the date is wrong.  One of the WSC co-chairs and DGA Head of Diversity claimed: “The Women’s Steering Committee was not officially established 35 years ago, but in 1990/91.”  When it was pointed out that the official DGA site itself states that the committee was officially established in 1979, a WSC co-chair wrote in an e-mail:

“According to the DGA the WSC wasn’t recognized by the National Board until later despite the initial meeting. That’s the record. This was discussed at the Activities & Events committee meeting. Any inconsistency with the DGA website should be brought to the attention of the Guild Communications Department.”

After Maria Giese spoke to those pioneering women (the “Original Six” who created the committee in 1979) and published an article asking “Is the Guild trying to re-write our history?”– it was officially announced in the next WSC meeting that our committee was indeed established in 1979, and it was 35 years since the establishment of the committee (the first DGA Diversity Committee to deal with female and ethnic minority unemployment, by the way).

Finally, the 35th Anniversary celebration event was approved in the events subcommittee, but the women who denied the creation date of the committee wanted to keep the event small.  So it was then brought to the WSC Committee to vote on whether to have a small event in the conference room or big event in the large theater.

WSC Co-chair Alternate, Melanie Wagor, was the victim of much bullying that would have caused any lesser woman to run for cover, but she kept fighting.  At last, thanks to some strong voices speaking out, the large event was voted on and approved by the full committee.

And the cherry on top?  In the last WSC meeting attended by the top brass of our Guild (Jay Roth, Paris Barclay & Bryan Unger) we heard the details of the new (Collective Bargaining) Agreement.

We heard them say: “A change will happen, but it will take time…”

I’ve been attending committee meetings for 10 years.  Nothing has changed during that time.  Now we are told to be patient and wait for it…  And be quiet while it is happening.

What is going on?  Why is the Guild fighting us?  All we want is for the Guild to pick up the lead in this industry-wide fight.

Can someone please explain it?

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NYU Film School Class Ignores Women Directors – Student Anecdote

142January 28, 2014

By Anonymous:

I am a female undergrad film student at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts.

Today was the first day of my commercial production class.  My teacher screened about fifteen to twenty commercials/branded content so that my class could draw some inspiration for the personal projects that we will complete this semester.

We watched the work of various directors from three different production companies: MJZ, Biscut Film Works, GoFilm. None of these companies had women on their directors roster. It was disheartening to look at.

I want to be successful because I love directing and love the craft of filmmaking. However, on the first day of class I already feel that my want to excel is becoming shadowed by a pressure to excel.

Although I am very excited to take this class and get into the commercial industry, it is blazingly obvious that industry is not excited for me. The class has an even ratio of males and females, so I’m interested in how our projects and thoughts will play out.

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Michael Franklin – Hero to Women Directors

Screen Shot 2014-01-25 at 9.40.19 AM

By Maria Giese


In 1979, the DGA “Original Six” directors: Susan Bay, Nell Cox, Joelle Dobrow, Dolores Ferraro, Victoria Hochberg and Lynne Littman, unable to land jobs, began assembling statistics. 


After a year, the presented a report to the DGA National Executive Secretary, Michael Franklin, who was stunned by the low numbers and implications of unlawful discrimination against women. 


Franklin was a labor leader in the old sense, and deeply concerned with discrimination against women members of the DGA. He inspired the Guild’s conscience. He brought the Board and the Guild to a higher level of responsibility and accountability, struggling for a higher vision for all workers. 


Franklin, in conjunction with the new DGA Women’s Committee, set up meeting after meeting to encourage production companies to interview women members– all to no avail.  After one final attempt, when none of the invited executives showed up for a scheduled meeting, a fed-up Franklin made his historic decision to launch America’s first DGA-led, class-action lawsuit on behalf of women against three major studios in 1983.


By 1995, just 10 years later, the percentage of TV episodes directed by women had risen from 0.5% to 16%. Sixteen percent!  This was certainly thanks to the crucial support that Michael Franklin and the DGA leadership provided women Guild members at that time.



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2020 Oscars: Dominating “Best Director” Category (Cartoon)

"I'll bet it was fun dominating the Oscars "Best Director" category all those years!"

“I’ll bet it was fun dominating the Oscars “Best Director” category all those years!”

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