Ryan Murphy on How Hollywood Has Failed Female Directors: "I Am Sorry"
The 'American Horror Story' creator received THR's inaugural Equity in Entertainment Award at the Women in Entertainment Power 100 breakfast.
When Ryan Murphy took the stage at The Hollywood Reporter's Women in Entertainment breakfast, he started off with an apology.
"I'd like to tell the women in this room a few things I am guessing no man in your life or in Hollywood has ever said to you lately, or in combination: I am sorry. It was my fault. I could have done better. I am going to do better. And I have no interest in sleeping with you, I just like you a lot," he said to laughs from the audience after being introduced by Jessica Lange and Susan Sarandon, who star together in his upcoming FX drama Feud.
Murphy, who is THR's inaugural Equity in Entertainment Award honoree, went on to explain that after directing the Emmy-winning episode of The People v. O.J. Simpson titled "Marcia Marcia Marcia," he felt ashamed. He thought it was important to have a woman direct the episode since it centered on feminist heroine Marcia Clark, played by Sarah Paulson. But when the female director set to do it had a medical emergency and fell out two weeks before production, Murphy stepped in to helm the episode.
"I felt I had failed," he said to the crowd at L.A.'s Milk Studios, which included Megyn Kelly, Emma Stone and Tina Fey. "I have always had female directors on my shows, but why here didn’t I feel I had a roster of women around me who I could turn this important episode over to? Why weren’t these women on speed-dial? Why did I make the choice that was easier for me, but not for the material, or the world in general?"
The American Horror Story creator realized he was part of the problem — but that he was also in a position to help fix the issue. So in February, he launched Half Foundation, which mentors TV newcomers who are women, people of color and/or members of the LGBTQ community toward occupying at least 50 percent of the directing slots on all of his series (American Crime Story, American Horror Story, Scream Queens and the forthcoming Feud.)
Ten months in, Murphy has already more than delivered on his promise, with 60 percent of his directing gigs going to women. His stats far exceed the industry standard's 17 percent. "What I have learned is if you have power and you want to bring positive change, everyone will conspire to help you do that. But you have to speak up," he said, later calling on the industry leaders that filled the room — NBCUniversal's Bonnie Hammer and A+E's Nancy Dubuc among them — to "hire people that don't look like you and don't share your point of view."