By Maria Giese
Written by Maria Giese, published by Melissa Silverstein of “Women And Hollywood” March 6, 2013
This past Saturday, March 2, 2013, became an historic day as the DGA Women’s Steering Committee hosted the DGA Women of Action Summit in LA bringing together 150 female American directors for a day-long event designed to create solutions to the problem of the under-representation and under-employment of women directors in Hollywood. This event was a long time coming and to me, the day was reminiscent, in terms of unity, passion and commitment to the rallies for women’s rights of the 1970’s.
The day included opening remarks by Academy Award-winner and advocate, Geena Davis, who connected the need for the global proliferation of more positive images of women and girls to the immediacy of getting more women behind the camera here in Hollywood. Currently, according to the latest stats from the DGA, women only helm 5% of feature films and 15% of episodic TV shows.
Victoria Hochberg, who introduced Geena Davis, set the moral tone for the day with a beautifully-crafted speech about the history of the DGA Women’s Committee and the need for courage and principles in the face of an industry that often does not honor the civil rights laws of our nation. Hochberg was one of the six who started the DGA Women’s Committee in 1979. She reminded us of our history and spoke the difficulties involved in attaining the employment data. In 1979, women made up one half of one percent of employed DGA directors. Most interestingly, she revealed how the Women’s Committee succeeded in getting the DGA to file a class-action lawsuit against three major studios in 1983, a piece of history not often shared by the Guild.
The first panel, “Employment Equity Matters,” moderated by Martha Coolidge, director of 46 films and the first and only female president of the DGA, included successful feature directors: Debbie Allen, Catherine Hardwicke, Amy Heckerling, Mimi Leder, Nancy Meyers, Robin Swicord, Betty Thomas, and Nia Vardalos. Each of these mega directors agreed that even the view from the top is dismal. Even in success, America’s top women directors do not enjoy the privileges accorded to their male peers. Robin Swicord called for participants to recognize that the low number of women directors in Hollywood appears to violate U.S. equal employment laws. Even reluctant attendee Betty Thomas was incredibly moved by the event declaring “I’m ashamed! I’m ashamed! This is great!” And a great cheer arose.
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