Some years ago, I was doing second unit work (as a 1st AD) on a Bruce Willis film– lots of stunts and action. We took 15 LAPD officers with us to Oxnard because they couldn’t supply enough police for what we needed to block off.
I had cars, trains, even a ten-car car carrier which we were throwing cars off of. We had 160 extras, Bill Young drivers, and about 15 stunt puppies!
Lots of heavy action.
One day, the 2nd unit director called me in a panic because they were prepping to shoot again, and I wasn’t there. I called the production manager and told him that I’d gotten the panicked call wondering why I wasn’t there.
He replied, “Well, the producer wants a man.”
I actually taped that phone conversation and still have it. The DGA did nothing.
I called the “Qualification List” people and asked how many days (of experience) my male replacement had as a 1st AD. The answer was zero.
So, this is what happened:
It was a light unit, just two people riding bikes in Malibu, but still they managed to drop one of the bicyclists over the edge of the cliff. He must have grabbed a tree or root or something about half way down and was hanging there for quite a while.
No one noticed that one of their two actors was missing.
A teamster happened to see him dangling and radioed that there was someone hanging off the cliff and was that supposed to happen? So the actor was rescued. Finally…
I’m not sure how a male AD with NO experience was a better choice for that job than an experienced woman.
Whenever you do stunt work, no matter how mundane, there is the possibility of someone being injured or killed.
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.”
We’re compiling the most comprehensive list ever of international, living women directors. Please help add names, make corrections & comment!
Our list is all-inclusive, but discretionary: we include women directors of features, experimental films, documentaries, episodic TV, and commercials. The work of the directors must have been commercially released and/or the director must have received notoriety.
LIST OF ALL WOMEN DIRECTORS (Work-In-Progress):
Haifaa Al Mansour
Troy Byer Baily
Mary Lou Belli
Shari Springer Berman
Tracy Lynch Britton
Katrina Holden Bronson
Ann Marie Bryan
Jasmine McGlade Chazelle
Lee Shallat Chemel
Angela Garcia Combs
Peggy Rogers Daniels
Sally El Hosaini
Liz W. Garcia
Lesli Linka Glatter
Tamar Simon Hoffs
So Yong Kim
Linda Goldstein Knowlton
Ami Canaan Mann
Dominga Soto Mayor
Kate Clere McIntyre
Tawnia Cannell McKiernan
Jody Lauren Miller
Rosario Garcia Montero
Jennifer Siebel Newsom
Lucy Massie Phenix
Julie Ann Robinson
Julie Ann Robinson
Zulfah Otto Sallies
Joan Micklin Silver
Jen and Silvia Soska
Jannicke Systad Jacobsen
Athine Rachel Tsangari
Heidi Van Lier
Daisy von Scherler Mayer
Katja von Garnier
Margarethe von Trotta
Michaela von Schweinitz
In an article in the LA Times from September 27th, 2012, a new survey by the Director’s Guild suggests that women directors are underrepresented in TV:
The survey found that out of 190 scripted television series and 3,100 episodes from the 2011-2012 network television season, Caucasian males directed 73% of all episodes (compared with 72% from the prior year). Caucasian females directed 11% of all episodes (unchanged), minority males directed 13% (down from 14%) of all episodes and minority females directed 4% of all episodes (up from 3%).
“Our industry has to do better,” said Paris Barclay, the DGA’s first vice president and co-chair of the diversity task force of the DGA national board. He is also an executive producer of “Sons of Anarchy.”
“In this day and age, it’s quite disappointing that so many shows failed to hire even a single woman or minority director during the course of an entire season — even shows whose cast and crew is notably diverse, Barclay noted. “And, ‘We just don’t know anybody’ doesn’t cut it anymore — the pool of talented and experienced women and minority directors grows every year, and too many of these qualified, capable directors are still overlooked.”
The DGA compiled the statistics for its report based on information provided by the production companies as part of its collective bargaining agreement. The DGA said it had made several changes to its methodology and data collection to improve accuracy. The changes included capturing more DGA-covered episodes and more accurately describing the diversity status of directors whose ethnicity or gender had previously been identified as “unknown.”
Among the DGA’s “Worst of” lists for TV shows – those hiring no women or minority directors or those that hired them for less than 15% of episodes — were “Dallas,” “Leverage,” “CSI:Crime Scene Investigation” and “The Office.”
DGA’s “Best of” list — shows that hired women or minority directors for at least 30% of episodes — included “The Game,” “Nurse Jackie” and “The Walking Dead.”
Bias against women in most fields of film production is borne out by the stark statistics – 5% of feature film directors are female as opposed to 95% males; among screenwriters the numbers of women continue to drop. A negative perception of films with female leads is also perpetrated by a male-driven industry. I’ve spent the last 5 years taking meetings at Cannes and have repeatedly, on an international level, been reminded how this industry does not believe women in front of the camera sell tickets.
However, since I self-produce my own work, I hadn’t really gotten a direct taste of the gender issue until this past 2012 Cannes Film Festival & Market. At the 2011 Cannes I had met with, and then re-met twice at the same market, two producers with a women-driven film concept:
The story told of four girls who row across the Atlantic in a rowboat, and the fallout that occurs when certain truths are revealed. The producers loved the footage from my recently shot film, METH HEAD, and they were very proactive about wanting to stay in touch, share their eventual script etc…
We wrote back and forth a few times during the year. They had lost their screenwriter, which had set them back. So I wasn’t surprised not to have a script to read to discuss. However, I did imagine we would at least meet and keep the conversation going in 2012. It appeared I was wrong. I couldn’t get them to respond to an e-mail request for a meeting. I thought it strange, but projects come and go, so I didn’t dwell on it.
Then I ran into one of the producers at a party. And she said how sorry she was they hadn’t responded, but that their sales agent, who was also partially funding their project, had told them flat-out that they would prefer a male director. In her words, women directors don’t sell either. And as quick as that, I was out of the running.
I realize that the sales agent was probably the tip of the iceberg and it is frustrating, but having a healthy dose of reality never hurts either. Ignorance like that just makes me that more determined to succeed. So I guess I should just say: “Thank you.”
“Sorry boys, you gotta hire at least one woman director this season! It’s the law!”
I worked at a production company last year, and when I suggested to the (female) head that she might want to add some women to a director list, she said it would be too much of a struggle.
It’s so tragic that Hollywood pushes so hard against equal hiring practices in this day and age. Sad when even a woman won’t include other women on a tentative “ideas list.” I hope I’m able to hire more women directors as I work on beginning my own producing career.