Directing Episodic TV: Impenetrable for Women

The following anecdote comes to us from a very accomplished women director who was awarded a prestigious directing fellowship offered through a joint effort between the Directors Guild of America and a major television studio . Over the course of a year, fellows would be paid to observe on a number of TV shows with the hope of getting assigned an episode at the completion of the program. She writes:

“Two of the women who worked on the (episodic TV show) crew confided to me that I would never get hired because I was a woman, and that the couple of times (the producers) did hire women, they would be ‘set up to fail.’

It is true that a producer who undercuts you can make doing your job very difficult and they can even poison the crew against you. Apparently these crew women had seen through all that.

Funny, I took all this as a challenge. I thought that once the producer understood the kind of person I was, and what I’d done, he might give me a shot. Silly me. The fact is, I’ve encountered very little of this in my career, and the times I did encounter it, I was able to overcome it or power through it. Not this time.

The director I shadowed was neither hostile nor friendly. He talked to me, but it was clear he was not about to ‘mentor’ me in any way. In reality, they hire the same guys over and over to direct their shows, and everyone’s happy with that. It’s one big (or small) boys club. Impenetrable.

The studio’s participation in the DGA-studio diversity program is just window-dressing. And no one — NO one — wants to rock the boat. I HATE to play the ‘woman card,’ but this is one case in which the door was slammed shut so firmly that I was genuinely surprised.

I understand that these shows mean a lot of money to all involved, and that taking chances on new directors of any ilk is a risk in a sense. But still, all I hear from people I know inside the TV world is that the studios are dying for more women directors, and that it should be a cinch for someone with my directing experience to break into it. Apparently not! Crazy.”

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