Why Isn’t the DGA Fighting For Us?

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 isn’t 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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7 Responses to Why Isn’t the DGA Fighting For Us?

  1. Ron Enfield says:

    After graduating from UCLA film school and helping my daughter launch her career in film/video production, it galls me that the fight for equality is stuck in the 1970s. The difficulty of the battle should tell you that the prize is worth fighting for. Keep on!

    • Maria Giese says:

      Thanks, Ron– The men who support the advancement of women directors are the most heroic of all. Good luck to you and your daughter. I have a 9 year old daughter and I will not stand by and watch her step onto a bizarrely skewed playing field, if she chooses filmmaking. My mother’s generation fought for equality for us, too, but in Hollywood things have actually devolved. Sad.

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