Nell Scovell on Hollywood’s Obstacles to Women Directors

Posted on July 18, 2016 at 7:50 am

My friend Nell Scovell has a terrific article in the New York Times about Hollywood’s poor record on women directors. While just about any male director with an indie at a festival is handed a superhero movie with a $100 million budget and, even more telling, male directors whose films lose money still get a chance to make another, women directors, even those with a record of excellent work, do not.

In television, most studio executives and showrunners claim they are looking for female directors, but I suspect it’s the same way that I sometimes look for the sunglasses on my head: They’re right there, but I can’t see them.

People insist it’s a pipeline problem when it’s really a broken doorbell problem. Competent and talented women are right there on the doorstep, hitting the buzzer, but no one is answering the door. Last year, even with constant calls for more gender diversity, 86 percent of the first-time TV directors were still white males.

Past efforts, including allowing aspiring women directors to “shadow” established directors, have not been successful at increasing the number of women in director jobs. Scovell has some practical suggestions for change that go beyond the usual “let’s try harder.”

All networks and showrunners should look at the genders of their directors for the coming season. They don’t have to balance the roster 50/50 — although that would be awesome — they just have to make sure they beat last year’s 17 percent benchmark, which includes a scant 3 percent minority women. Make every fifth director a female. Just do better and the numbers will rise each year, creating a new benchmark to beat, until we hit equality.

Next, studios should flip the shadow programs. From now on, let the newcomers do the directing and pay the old hands to shadow them. The green directors get to rack up real credits while the show has a safety net.

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Commentary Gender and Diversity Understanding Media and Pop Culture

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