Yesterday, the DGA voted by "an overwhelming margin" to ratify a new contract between its members and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP). DGA President Paris Barclay said of the agreement, "This negotiation was about laying the groundwork to protect our future in a meaningful way." But what new groundwork has been laid to fight discrimination against women directors?
None. None at all. Even though many women members of the DGA have been working tirelessly for two years to get the Guild to pay attention to the inexcusable under-representation of women directors, this negotiation result shows definitively that the DGA could not care less about gender equity in our industry.
The primary failing of the tentative agreement is that women remain buried within the category of general diversity. Therefore, even if in the coming years the rate of female director employment remains the same or even continues to decline, while those of male ethnic minority directors continue to make reasonable forward strides, the studios will be able to have demonstrated successful adherence to the agreements.
In order for the agreement to benefit women, it must specifically refer to women of all ethnicities as a separate class, in their own right. Under the new contract, the studios could do remarkably well by advancing only male ethnic minorities. There is no legal obligation for them to advance women in any way; the only legal requirement is that diversity hiring improves overall.
Worse still, the term "good-faith effort" has unfortunately not been upgraded to "best efforts," but rather reduced to by "work diligently." The Women's Steering Committee Proposals Subcommittee had requested that our Guild negotiate a stronger term to replace this. We all understand that "best efforts" leaves the studios vulnerable to lawsuits to a degree that may render it unviable. However, "good-faith efforts" is not strong enough, as arbitration of violations can only ensue if there is "smoking-gun evidence" of discrimination, such as e-mails (which are very rare and has failed thus far to support women in increasing their employment numbers).
Let us hope that with hard work and constant application some progress might result, but as with the fight over "good-faith efforts," there is no legal requirement for progress. In effect, with this new agreement, we rely solely on the goodwill of studio executives to truly effect hiring of more women. In a best-case scenario, therefore, we must spend three more years watching closely to see if the studios actually deliver on these agreements, and that our Guild does not merely continue to pay lip service to oversight, but actually enforces them if they are able and have the will to do so. That expense of lost time is something we women can ill afford.
Going forward, women directors must be vigilant regarding the effectiveness of the new agreements. We must be prepared to provide evidence if the results turn out to be disappointing. We must see to it that that the DGA truly holds the studios' feet to the fire in fulfilling their new purported obligations. And no matter what, women must now redouble their efforts to initiate a new set of proposals to submit for the 2017 DGA Basic Agreement and Freelance Live and Tape Television Agreement Negotiations.