Yesterday, the DGA voted by “an overwhelming margin” to ratify a new contract between its members and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP). DGA President Paris Barclay said of the agreement, “This
negotiation was about laying the groundwork to protect our future in a
meaningful way.” But what new groundwork has been laid to fight discrimination against women directors?
None. None at all. Even though many
women members of the DGA have been working tirelessly for two years to get the
Guild to pay attention to the inexcusable under-representation of women
directors, this negotiation result shows definitively that the DGA could not
care less about gender equity in our industry.
The primary failing of the tentative agreement is that women
remain buried within the category of general diversity. Therefore, even
if in the coming years the rate of female director employment remains the
same or even continues to decline, while those of male ethnic minority directors
continue to make reasonable forward strides, the studios will be able to
have demonstrated successful adherence to the agreements.
In order for
the agreement to benefit women, it must specifically refer to women of all
ethnicities as a separate class, in their own right. Under the new contract,
the studios could do remarkably well by advancing only male ethnic minorities.
There is no legal obligation for them to advance women in any way; the only
legal requirement is that diversity hiring improves overall.
Worse still, the term “good-faith effort” has unfortunately not been upgraded
to “best efforts,” but rather reduced to by “work diligently.” The Women’s Steering Committee Proposals Subcommittee had requested that our Guild negotiate a stronger term
to replace this. We all understand that “best efforts” leaves the studios
vulnerable to lawsuits to a degree that may render it unviable. However, “good-faith efforts” is not strong enough, as arbitration of violations can only ensue
if there is “smoking-gun evidence” of discrimination, such as e-mails (which are very rare and has failed thus far to support women in increasing their
Let us hope that with hard work and constant application some
progress might result, but as with the fight over “good-faith efforts,” there is no legal
requirement for progress. In effect, with this new agreement, we rely solely on
the goodwill of studio executives to truly effect hiring of more women. In
a best-case scenario, therefore, we must spend three more years watching
closely to see if the studios actually deliver on these agreements, and that
our Guild does not merely continue to pay lip service to oversight, but
actually enforces them if they are able and have the will to do so. That
expense of lost time is something we women can ill afford.
Going forward, women directors must be vigilant regarding the
effectiveness of the new agreements. We must be prepared to provide evidence if
the results turn out to be disappointing. We must see to it that that the DGA
truly holds the studios’ feet to the fire in fulfilling their new purported
obligations. And no matter what, women must now redouble their efforts to
initiate a new set of proposals to submit for the 2017 DGA Basic Agreement and Freelance Live and Tape Television Agreement Negotiations.