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Diversity may be the face of America, but behind the cameras there’s still little room for women or racial minorities, at least when it comes to directing primetime television episodes. That’s the takeaway from a Directors Guild of America study announced Wednesday, which found that 69 percent of 2013-14 episodes were directed by white males, a figure that’s been virtually unchanged over the last four seasons.
And grabbing the first rung of the directing ladder is no easier. Out of 776 directors who directed DGA-covered episodic television in 2013-2014, 108 (14 percent) of those directors were directing episodic television for the first time — but 68 percent of those first-timers were white males, which the DGA said in a statement “perpetuat[es] the status quo.”
“Unfortunately, it can be shockingly difficult to convince the people who control hiring to make even small improvements to their hiring practices,” DGA president Paris Barclay said in a statement. “People often say, ‘everybody is responsible for diversity,’ but in the end, that often means that nobody takes responsibility.”
He added, “It’s time for the people who make the hiring decisions — be they studios, networks, production companies, or individual producers — to stop making excuses, stop passing the buck, and start living up to the country’s promise and possibility by providing true equal opportunity.”
By gender alone, episodic TV directing was 86 percent male. Racially, it was 82 percent white.
In individual terms, 776 directors directed episodic television made under a DGA agreement in 2013-2014. Of those 776:
* 647 (83 percent) were male.
* 129 (17 percent) were female.
* 681 (88 percent) were Caucasian.
* 52 (7 percent) were African American.
* 24 (3 percent) were Latino.
* 19 (2 percent) were Asian American.
The slight improvement in minority male numbers in the past year, reflected in the accompanying graph, is due entirely to Tyler Perry directing all episodes of three television series that he also produced, said the DGA.
Out of 225 series examined, 23 (10 percent) hired no women or minority directors at all, and 39 more series (17 percent) hired women or minorities to direct fewer than 15 percent of episodes according to the DGA’s numbers. This means that more than a quarter of all episodic television series made under a DGA contract had hiring statistics poor enough to land a spot on the DGA’s “Worst Of” list. Several of those series made repeat appearances, having also placed on the DGA’s “Worst Of” lists last year, including Bates Motel, Boardwalk Empire, Californication, Castle, CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, Dog With a Blog, The Exes, Hot In Cleveland, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Maron, The Mindy Project, NCIS, The Neighbors, Nikita, Once Upon a Time, Sullivan & Son, Supernatural and Workaholics.
On the other hand, 49 series, or 22 percent of all series examined, hired women or minorities to direct at least 40 percent of episodes, putting them on the DGA’s “Best Of” list. About half of those shows were on the “Best Of” list the previous year as well. Some of the Best Of’s that also made the list last year include The Game, The Real Husbands of Hollywood, Single Ladies, Warehouse 13, Drop Dead Diva and Mike & Molly.
“I’m thrilled to see all the series that have demonstrated a serious commitment to diverse hiring, including some brand new series that hit diversity home runs right out of the gate in their first seasons,” said Betty Thomas, co-chair of the DGA Diversity Task Force and first vice president, in the statement.
The DGA has no authority over hiring but backs a number of diversity initiatives. In the most recent contract negotiations, the guild negotiated a provision requiring each major television studio to establish a television director development program targeted at women and minority directors. Additionally, an industry-wide Joint Diversity Action Committee was established, with its first meeting scheduled for October.
Over the past four years, the union said, its staff and members have held dozens of meetings with studios, production companies and individual shows to address diversity in hiring, and have provided a contact list of experienced women and minority directors. The list is also available to any production company by contacting the DGA. The DGA said that some shows have made a “noticeable improvement” following such meetings.
The study analyzed more than 3,500 episodes produced in the 2013-14 network television season and the 2013 cable television season from more than 220 scripted series. It encompasses broadcast, basic cable, premium cable and high-budget original content series made for the Internet. Its findings are consistent with the results of WGA and UCLA Bunche Center studies released earlier this year, which found underrepresentation of women and minorities in TV writing rooms and onscreen. A recent SAG-AFTRA/UCLA Williams Institute study also found continuing bias against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender performers.
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