'Homeland' Director: "What Happens to All These Women After They Direct Their First Film?"
Writing for The Hollywood Reporter, Lesli Linka Glatter argues that even after women break into the industry, they still aren't given the same opportunities as their male counterparts: Men get the next big comic book movie; women get overlooked
This story first appeared in the 2014 Women in Entertainment issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
For the past year, I have been the director/executive producer of Homeland season four on Showtime, which features one of television's most complicated and compelling female characters. I love my job. I love being a storyteller and feel incredibly lucky to be working in this Golden Age of Television.
But if someone had said to me when I started directing 20 years ago that in 2014 we would still be talking about the lack of employment of women directors, I would have said that's impossible. Sadly, the stats are essentially the same as they were in 1994: In TV, women directors represent 14 percent and in film a meager 9 percent. With so many progressive areas of inclusion in our society, it is profoundly disappointing that our industry isn't a leader in this area. Films schools are now nearly 50-50 male-female, and women are also well represented at festivals and in indie film. But what happens to them after they direct their first film or short? Where do they go? They certainly aren't being given the same opportunities as their male counterparts.
Directing isn't an easy road for anyone. But it's also not an equal playing field. We often hear of a male director directing a great indie and immediately being offered the next huge comic book movie. Rarely, if ever, does this happen to a woman. Here are a few common excuses: "We hired a woman director once and it didn't work out, so we won't hire another one." Can you imagine someone saying: "We hired a male director once and it didn't work out, so no more men"? If a woman succeeds, another will be allowed into the club. If not, the whole gender is somehow held responsible. And there's this one: "Women can't direct action." What? Gender has nothing to do with the ability to blow up a truck or stage a fight or a car chase! That's as ridiculous as saying men can't direct scenes with character or emotion. And this one: "We wanted to hire a woman director, but you and a handful of constantly working women directors weren't available and there aren't any others." That might be the lamest excuse of all and a great way to look like you tried when you actually didn't.
So what can we do to change this reality? If you're an employer, I encourage you to look beyond the obvious hires. Often in TV, new directors are given a shot from within the crew, but recent stats show that when hiring new directors, studios, networks and production companies repeat hiring patterns, making it practically impossible for things to change. I have been helped over and over by wonderful men and women in my career. Men help each other all the time, and that kind of inclusion among women can create similar success. Yes, many companies now have diversity programs. And while we should applaud these efforts, we must admit they haven't made significant increases in hiring. Many programs guarantee only the opportunity to shadow directors on a series. To be effective, it's essential for studios and networks to guarantee a directing job at the end of the shadowing experience. I believe this next step must be taken to see significant change.
To anyone in the position to hire women directors: Make the commitment. Every production company can make inclusion an important part of their hiring policy. There are showrunners and producers who make a big effort to do this, and it has paid off. So take the meeting, do the research, take that leap of faith. Everyone in this industry at some point was given a chance by someone. Give someone her chance, and you will be rewarded. The talent is out there. And if it doesn't work out, try again! As an industry, we can't afford to wait another 20 years.
Glatter is an Emmy- and Oscar-nominated director known for her work on Twin Peaks, ER, The West Wing and Mad Men