Becoming a director is not an easy road for anyone, male or female. It’s a destination job with no prescribed ladder to climb and everyone arrives from his or her own, unique path – though it’s mostly white men who accomplish the journey. If we ever hope to change the status quo, we must create dynamic programs that support diversity - not bogus, shadowing programs, but genuine job-creating mechanisms for accomplished, seasoned professionals.
Of course there are no simple answers and as in any movement, even the downtrodden don’t know the best way forward. Many advocate political activism while others are fearful of creating an angry, negative impression. But gaining the women’s vote, the labor movement and civil rights didn’t happen without a fight and if we women are ever going to make a change we have to be willing to make some noise.
Certainly, there are a handful of women directors who thrive at the highest level and at every mention of diversity their names are brandished like flags creating a false illusion of improvement. We applaud and celebrate these women but a few women who work again and again is not true forward momentum.
Years ago, during a heated industry meeting regarding the fight to increase employment for women directors, Victoria Hochberg, a life-long warrior in that cause, witnessed Mel Brooks stand up at a crucial moment to defend the women. “You are nit-picking and pettifogging these women into the shit house!” he said. With his words still resonating, the chairman banged his gavel and a vote was taken. The women prevailed. After all, Mr. Brooks’ own wife, Anne Bancroft was a brilliant director herself and he knew first-hand the sweeping, nonsensical prejudice women directors face.
USC’s School of Cinematic Arts student body is currently half female and that’s thrilling but when these young women enter the work force they will not be walking onto a level playing field. The only way this will change is if YOU make that change. Do it for your wives, daughters, friends and sisters. Do it because it’s right. The answer is simple - hire women directors.
Rachel Feldman is a DGA director, a WGA writer, an adjunct Professor in Directing at The USC School of Cinematic Arts MFA program, and co-chair of the Women’s Steering Committee of the Directors Guild of America. You can reach her at email@example.com where she will be delighted to provide a customized list of directors to suit your needs.