DGA: Women Directors of Color Still Marginalized in Television

Sony and Warner Bros. had the highest rates of utilizing directors of color on television episodes, according to a DGA report released Tuesday.
Thomas Schlamme 71st Annual Directors Guild of America Awards, Los Angeles, USA - 02 Feb 2019
Thomas Schlamme at the 71st DGA Awards
Matt Baron/Shutterstock

Despite continued discussions of how to increase diversity in media, there are still massive gaps and, according to the Directors Guild of America, each studio is failing in certain ways. The DGA Episodic TV Director Inclusion Report released today said that while nearly a third of the television episodes between 2019 and 2020 were helmed by directors of color and women, Latinos and women of color were still remarkably low and the amount of Asian American employment behind the camera is flat.

Out of 4,300 episodes surveyed, the usage of directors of color increased five percent from 27 percent to 32 percent, while women directors increased three percent to 34 percent. (Men remain an overwhelming 66 percent of directors behind the camera).

However, once you break these numbers down by race, Caucasian directors, including women, are the majority, though both categories were slightly decreased from the prior year. African-American directors made up 18 percent, while Latinos and Asian Americans remained at seven and six percent, respectively.

When it comes to which specific studios were at the forefront of diversity, Sony and Warner Bros. had the highest rates of utilizing directors of color at 33 percent. Netflix and Disney were right behind them at 32 percent. HBO was the at the bottom, with only 18 percent of their 132 television episodes hiring directors of color. These numbers are interesting, especially considering in 2014 Sony Television launched an initiative program to hire more diverse filmmakers.

The uptick of women directors was significantly higher, with nearly half of Paramount’s television episodes hiring women. HBO was higher in this arena, with 44 percent of their shows having women directors. CBS was at the bottom of this list, with 30 percent of their shows having women directors.

That being said, the DGA study does give some hope that things are widening out. In an examination of career trajectories two-thirds of those who had been part of career-track programs — those who were hired for their directing experience in other genres like commercials — booked a second show other than the one they were initially hired on. These percentages were even higher for people of color, women, and women of color. However, directors who had no affiliation — someone hired to direct who already works for a TV series in another capacity — remained at a paltry 25 percent.

“It’s hard enough to achieve success in the competitive world of TV directing,” said DGA President Thomas Schlamme. “Therefore, it is vitally important that no group should be disadvantaged when it comes to developing a career. That’s always been the driving force of our work to push this industry towards more inclusive hiring practices and a level playing field. Our
most powerful tools to analyze the availability of opportunities have been these in-depth datareports. And while we see encouraging growth in some areas, we will not be satisfied until we see fairness for all. Inclusion is not about one group or another, inclusion means everyone.”

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