HBO's Boardwalk Empire among the worst TV offenders for diversity

Women and minority directors under-represented in the ranks of those who direct American television series; four HBO shows have only white male directors

PUBLISHED : Monday, 14 September, 2015, 9:01pm
UPDATED : Monday, 14 September, 2015, 9:01pm


A new study looking at the TV hiring underbelly in Hollywood has some not-so-shocking results: women and minority television directors are at a disadvantage in getting their foot in the door.

That's according to a six-year analysis by the Directors Guild of America released last week that examined the demographics of first-time TV director hires. The six-year period began with the 2009-10 season and ended with the 2014-15 season, and found that 611 directors who had never worked in television were hired.

The study, which comes at a time when diversity is a hot issue in Hollywood, revealed that 82 per cent (or 501) of all first-time directors during that span were men, and 18 per cent (110) were women; meanwhile, 86 per cent (528) were white and 14 per cent (83) were minority directors.

"You can't increase diversity in the long term without focusing on entry into the business - we challenge the networks, studios and executive producers who make all the hiring decisions in episodic television to set diversity hiring goals," DGA president Paris Barclay says.

The prominent TV director and executive producer of Sons of Anarchy adds that the retention rate of women and minority TV directors should be motivation enough to spur the hiring of more of them. Data showed that 51 per cent of women first-time TV show directors and 42 per cent form minorities continued directing on the series - outpacing their male and white counterparts, whose continuation rates were 44 and 36 per cent, respectively.

When breaking down the backgrounds of these first-time directors, writers and producers made up 26 per cent of the pool; actors 20 per cent; cinematographers and camera operators 8 per cent; editors 5 per cent and other crew 6 per cent.

The study showed that 27 per cent of first-time hires were individuals who previously had directed in other genres, such as independent film, new media and commercials. The remaining 8 per cent were part of the directorial team - assistant directors, unit production managers and second unit directors.

"There are many willing, able, and experienced women and diverse directors out there - we encourage the employers to reach out and hire them," Barclay says.

The director's guild has also released details of TV shows that have the best, and worst, hiring records of woman and minority directors.

Of the 27 worst "violators" - shows that had no minorities or women directing - four are HBO productions: Boardwalk Empire, The Brink, The Comeback and Cinemax/HBO's Banshee.

The year's top network in diverse hires is BET, which produces three shows - Being Mary Jane, The Game, Single Ladies - with 100 per cent minority or women directors.

The report follows last month's study that looked more broadly at the demographics of TV episode directors. For that, the guild combed through more than 3,900 episodes produced in the 2014-15 television season from more than 270 scripted series.

The results showed a modest increase in the representation of women directors. The percentage of episodes directed by women rose to 16 per cent from 14 per cent, according to the report.

That analysis pointed to the importance of hiring first-time directors as a way to usher in change in the long run.

Tribune News Service