NBC and Alliance of Women Directors Launch Master Class Series for Female Helmers

NBC Logo - Getty - H 2016
Getty Images

NBC Logo - Getty - H 2016

The Alliance of Women Directors (AWD) on Monday announced that it had partnered with NBC to offer an AWD/NBC "Craft Enrichment Series," a set of master classes for emerging female episodic helmers, as part of both organizations' efforts to reach gender parity in television directing.

The new class series will focus on how to make on-set connections with showrunners, writers, actors and editors as well as instruct in "key skills" in scripted directing, AWD said in its announcement. Classes will be open to finalists in NBC's new "Female Forward" directors' pipeline program and AWD members.

The first, "The Director/Editor Relationship in Episodic Television," will be taught by Dear White People editor Phillip J. Bartel and will be held next month. AWD promises that upcoming master classes will cover how to land job shadowing opportunities, book episodes and make the most of experience and skills while on a job.

The new master class series is an extension of AWD's pre-existing Craft Enrichment Series, which offers master classes, workshops and panels for female directors. 
"The lack of employment is not the sole reason for the Alliance of Women Directors’ outspoken advocacy, but rather we also want to address a more serious problem, the importance 'of which stories get told, and by whom,'" said AWD chairperson and founder Jennifer Warren. “The feeling of being invisible, of being alone in the world, is created by rarely seeing images that reflect you or your life. We want to change that, but can’t do it alone."

The move follows NBC's announcement last August of its "Female Forward" initiative, once co-spearheaded by former NBC Entertainment president Jennifer Salke, who is now head of Amazon Studios. The program gives 10 female directors the chance to shadow up to three episodes of an NBC show and then helm one episode of that show within the same season. The initiative began accepting applications in January for the program's inaugural season, the 2018-2019 television season.

According to The Hollywood Reporter's 2018 TV diversity scorecard, only one of seven directors of pilots ordered to series at NBC last season were female. This year, five of seven were female, including Abby's Pamela Fryman, I Feel Bad's Julie Anne Robinson, The InBetween's Charlotte Sieling, New Amsterdam's Kate Dennis and The Village's Minkie Spiro.

"We are proud to have an ally in the Alliance of Women Directors in our goal of reaching gender parity in the director’s chair. The more our industry promotes the need for more women in leadership positions, the faster we will reach gender parity in the entertainment industry,” said Karen Horne, senior vp programming talent development and inclusion at NBC Entertainment and Universal Television. “I’m also thrilled that our new partnership will give emerging directors, including the talented directors in our programs, more opportunities to learn from established directors. When successful women in their fields share their knowledge and experiences with those rising talent, we give the next generation the tools to succeed.”