The Directors Guild of America has been known to press studios, networks and producers to be more inclusive in hiring for nearly four decades. These efforts include collective bargaining gains that require studios to run TV director diversity programs, ongoing meeting with studios, networks and individual series regarding their hiring records, and publishing reports that detail employer hiring trends. The DGA recently released a study sharing that the pool of first-time episodic TV directors ‘is more inclusive than ever.’ This pool, which includes women and minorities, shows an encouraging employment gain, setting record highs for the second year in a row. The DGA has been keeping track of this increase for the past nine years and reports increase as so:
For the 2017-18 season, 82 female directors accounted for 41% of the first-time hires. In the prior season, only 33% of first time hires were women, which is 4 times the 11% hired in 2009-10.
The rate at which ethnic minority first-timers were hired was twice the rate they were hired in 2014 and 2016 , and three times the rate in 2010. This year, 63 directors of color accounted for 31% of the first-time hires. This year’s data shows that ethnic minority first-timers were hired at twice the rate they were hired in 2014 and 2015 and three-times the 2010 rate.
These statistics are all but simple. The guild noted that “beneath the surface, progress on inclusion is complicated by a hiring dynamic” known as “gifting.” This is the concept that explains how networks and producers favor cast and crew members with first-time directing gigs over outside newcomers who intend to make directing a career. Out of this season’s 202 first-time directors, 58% were already connected with that series as actors, writer/producers, or crew members. That means only 35% of first-time directors had prior experience and were either unaffiliated with the series, or their affiliation was the result of their prior directing experience.
So, what does “gifting” have to do with women or ethnic minorities directing television? Well, the percentage of affiliated first-time directors is far less diverse than its counterpart. Only 25% of this group is comprised of women or ethnically diverse first-time directors. In comparison, the unaffiliated group was comprised of 38% women directors and/or directors of color. “True inclusion,” DGA President Thomas Schlamme said, “is not just a single hire or a line in a speech, it’s a commitment that must be exercised through ongoing action, day by day. It seems rather clear: to bring real systemic change for the future — and not just stats from season to season — employers must give even more first opportunities to talented diverse voices committed to a career in directing. It’s not just the right thing to do, it is vitally important to keep our industry growing, changing and innovating.”
These statistics are uplifting, though female and ethnic minorities still have some catching up to do. “The hiring improvements covered in this report show an industry that’s headed in the right direction today, but also one with a long road ahead to keep up with the increasingly diverse world tomorrow,” says Schlamme.