Scant Diversity Among First-Time TV Directors, Study Finds

First-time episodic directors are mostly white males.
Courtesy of DGA

The DGA, which recently issued its annual report on diversity in TV directing, has crunched the numbers extending back six years with a focus on first-time directing, and the results won’t surprise.

In the six-year period comprising the 2009-2010 through 2014-2015 television seasons, 82 percent of all first-time episodic directors were male and 86 percent were Caucasian, the guild announced Thursday.

Those figures, which are based on a total of 611 first-timers hired, are similar to the results of the most recent annual survey, which found first-time directors in the 2014-2015 season were 84 percent male and 84 percent Caucasian.

“You can’t increase diversity in the long term without focusing on entry into the business — we challenge the networks, studios and executive producers who make all the hiring decisions in episodic television to set diversity hiring goals,” said DGA president Paris Barclay. “It shouldn’t be that hard, because we’ve found that when women and minorities do actually get their first breaks, they’re even more likely to continue on in television directing than the rest of the pool.”

That latter comment is apparently based on DGA data that show 51 percent of female and 42 percent of minority first-time episodic television directors continued directing on other series after receiving their first jobs — higher than their male (33 percent) and Caucasian (36 percent) counterparts.

The guild did not supply data that looked at what percentage of first-timers went on to direct additional episodes in either the same or different series, and it was not clear why the released data focused on different series only. A guild spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for clarification.

The DGA also took aim at the source of new directors, and the frequent practice of allowing a series writer or star to direct.

“As it stands now, nearly half of the new hires are writer/producers or actors,” added Barclay. “It may sound revolutionary, but those with the power to hire may want to consider bringing in more directors — people who are committed to directing as a career — instead of approaching the assignment as a perk. There are many willing, able, and experienced women and diverse directors out there — we encourage the employers to reach out and hire them.”

Backing up Barclay’s comment were DGA stats that show that 26 percent of first-time directors were writer/producer; 20 percent were actors; 8 percent cinematographers/camera operators; 5 percent editors; and 6 percent other crew.

Only about a quarter — 27 percent — of first-time hires were people who had previously directed in other genres including independent film, new media, commercials, music videos, student films and documentaries; and the remaining 8 percent was comprised of assistant directors, unit production managers and second-unit directors.

The DGA did not provide data breaking out the effect of perk-based hiring on racial and gender percentages of first-time directors.

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Email: jh@jhandel.com

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