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Guest Post: Hollywood's Dirty Little Secret

by Rachel Feldman
October 4, 2012 2:00 PM
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According to the latest “Boxed In” report compiled by Dr. Martha M. Lauzen, Executive Director at The Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University, released on September 18, 2012, 90% of American broadcast television programs employed NO women directors, during the 2011 - 2012 television season!! 

How can it be 2012 and not a single female was hired to direct on the majority of prime time dramas, comedies, or reality series airing on ABC, CBS, CW, Fox, and NBC?  Why are we not outraged?

Television is one of America’s most influential exports. Sponsored by companies that court the female consumers and the ultimate transmitter of vital, viral cultural messaging around the world, one would think that women’s voices would have immense, tangible value.

In politics we think of Hollywood as a progressive environment. Isn’t this is the nation where presidents court moguls and movie stars who help elect liberals?  And yet there are more women in Congress than women working behind the camera. Women have made  strides in every segment of other traditionally male-dominated industries including banking, medicine, technology, manufacturing, law and even trucking! Why not Hollywood?

At a recent panel of successful women in motion pictures, one of the few women running a studio today pondered aloud why more women weren’t directing movies.  A brave heckler stood up from the crowd and shouted, “Why don’t you hire some?” Embarrassed, the executive finally admitted that she didn’t know many.

Well, we’re out here, well-trained, ready to go. As co-chair of the Directors Guild of America Women’s Steering Committee, I will lead you toward a squadron of brilliant, skilled women directors. According to the most recent edition of the DGA Directory of Members, there are 1100 women directors.  These are not women who want to direct, but experienced directors. A veritable army is waiting.

Admittedly, women’s resumes can sometimes look different from a traditional male bio and it might take a small measure of imagination and instinct to ascertain the right match.  Many women, simply because of the absence of opportunity, have cobbled together careers by directing shorts, independent films, theater, creating graphic novels, webisodes and teaching.  Some resumes have gaps created by having babies and raising children.  Many more women toil in the trenches as Assistant Directors and Unit Production Managers, yearning to move up with few opportunities.  It’s high time that our skillful tenacity was valued, not perceived as “less than”, in comparison to men.

Big-name agency representation is another obstacle for many women. Without the validation and veneer of a well-oiled, industry pipeline, access to those who hire is next to impossible.  A lawsuit in 1983 prompted some real change.  But must we rely upon judges to determine what makes sense and is fair?

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More: Women Directors, Television, Sexism

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  • Tye Lombardi | November 3, 2012 5:31 PMReply

    Wow! Thanks for the info about it ONLY ABC? Why not NBC or CBS or any other studio? What a great concept! Now if we could only level it for all women...not just directors. Writing and ADing and every other department could clearly benefit!

  • Jenn | October 25, 2012 6:15 AMReply

    My pick for the movie Fifty shades of Grey to Play Christian grey is Matt Bomer. You can find more information on

  • Liz Rizzo | October 8, 2012 10:38 PMReply

    Wow, I would have thought that would be a more effective incentive. How interesting. Thanks for the response!

  • Liz Rizzo | October 8, 2012 10:09 AMReply

    Has the DGA considered a program that would allow television programs to hire one or two first-time television directors each season at below DGA minimum? Seems like that would create a financial incentive to take risks?

  • rachel | October 8, 2012 12:33 PM

    Hey Liz, actually the DGA has an agreement with ABC called BREAKAGE where they cover the entire cost of the director, as long as he or she (all diversity) have not directed there in over 2 years, or something along that time line. The issue is, it's not enough of an incentive and the network, studios and the DGA themselves don't promote it or push it enough. It's just not enough. Thanks for responding!

  • Maria Giese | October 5, 2012 2:32 PMReply

    This is such an important piece on what is right at the heart of the striking under-representation of women directors in Hollywood. Thanks for publishing it, IndieWire!

  • Vickie | October 5, 2012 12:25 PMReply

    Love this post -- especially the part about the realities of the "industry pipeline" and the dire necessity of creating "genuine job-creating mechanisms" vs. "bogus, shadowing programs." It's a relief to see that leaders at places like USC are talking about these issues publicly, along with possible solutions. It makes it all a bit easier to swallow knowing that there is someone up there who cares enough to speak up...

  • Linn | October 5, 2012 10:57 AMReply

    Ms. Feldman, great post. Thank you for the "keep on keeping on."

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