DGA Study Finds Record Hiring of First-Time TV Directors, with Sharp Rise in Number of Women and Minorities

September 27, 2017

Los Angeles – The pipeline of new episodic television directors grew larger than ever before and became markedly more inclusive in the 2016/17 television season – with the percentage of ethnic minority first-time TV directors more than doubling since 2009/10 and the percentage of women nearly tripling – according to a report published today by the Directors Guild of America.

“Finally, after years of our efforts to educate the industry, hold employers accountable through our contracts, and push them to do better, we’re seeing signs of meaningful improvement,” said DGA President Thomas Schlamme.

The move toward inclusion – after years of glacial progress – suggests that qualified people who have previously been overlooked because of their race or gender are beginning to get recognition and opportunities commensurate with their talent.

“The fact is, it all starts with the pipeline,” said Schlamme. “The hiring decisions employers make today can have enormous impact on the composition of the pool in two years, five years, ten years’ time. Our research shows that when employers actually do the work of being inclusive, they find talented directors who overwhelmingly succeed in establishing longer-term careers.”

The Guild has been reporting on diversity in hiring for more than two decades as part of its ongoing campaign to encourage inclusion – which also includes numerous member programs such as a recently launched TV director mentorship initiative. Seeking to change the pipeline, which represents the point of entry and thus serves as a major source of the imbalanced hiring pool over the long term, the DGA also began issuing a separate annual survey examining trends in first-time hires since 2009.

The eight-year study of first-time hires spans the 2009/10 – 2016/17 seasons and precedes the DGA’s upcoming annual diversity report on all episodic TV director hiring. It reveals that the number of first-time minority and women directors hit record highs and registered record single-season increases in the 2016/17 season. Highlights include:

  • 56 (or 25% of all) first-time hires in the 2016/17 season were ethnic minorities, up from 24 (15%) in the 2015/16 season;

  • 73 (32%) were women – up from 38 (24%) the prior season; and 18 (8%) were female minorities, up from 6 (3.8%);

  • With respect to males and Caucasians, the percentages were down year-over-year, but the absolute numbers still grew to new heights:

    • Employers hired a record 152 males (68% of first-time hires in the 2016/17 season), up from 120 in the 2015/16 season (which represented 76% of all first-time directors at that time); and 108 male Caucasians (48% in the 2016/17 season), up from 102 (65% in the prior season).

    • 161 (or 72% of all) first-time directors hired in the 2016/17 season were Caucasian, up from 133 in the 2015/16 season (which represented 84% of all first-time hires at that time).
TV First-Time Director Diversity Report 2017

In the 2016/17 season, an all-time high of 225 directors who had never before directed episodic television were hired by studios, networks and executive producers – representing a steep 42% increase in “freshman” TV directors over the previous season. This increase significantly outpaced the growth in the total volume of TV episodes and represented a 127% jump since the 2009/10 season.

“The rapid growth in the proportion of episodes given to first-time TV directors is the result of some factors that are very positive, and others that require further monitoring,” Schlamme noted. “On the one hand, we’re delighted to see the jump in first breaks for talented women and minority directors who are building long-term careers. This validates what we’ve advocated for years and demonstrates what’s possible when employers adopt more inclusive hiring practices. On the other hand, too many of those valued first-time jobs are still being reserved for individuals who work on a series in some other capacity – and as our statistics show, are much less likely to continue a career in directing. If the goal is to feed the pipeline with the directors of the future, it’s important that employers provide the first-time opportunities to those most likely to go on and become career directors.”

The DGA report also includes findings from the Guild’s ongoing study of the career trajectories of first-time directors hired in the 2009/10 – 2014/15 seasons. By tracking whether they were subsequently hired for directing jobs outside of the series for which they were originally hired, the research aimed to determine the extent to which new entrants to the pipeline were able to move on to develop TV directing careers.

Of the overall group of 618 first-timers tracked over the time period, 66% (or 407 of them) were “series-affiliated” hires, meaning they were already affiliated with the series for which they were hired (as actors, crew, editors, producers, writers, etc.), while 28% (171) were “career-track directors,” meaning they were unaffiliated with the series but had previously directed in other categories (e.g., feature films, commercials, other TV categories). The data showed that over the years just 40% of series-affiliated directors went on to work as directors on other series, indicating a “breakage” rate of 60% who never made it from the pipeline to the general hiring pool. On the other hand, nearly three-quarters of career-track directors (71%) did go on to direct episodes on other series. The most successful career-track directors were women and minorities, with 97% of the first-time women directors (28 out of 29) and 85% of the minorities (28 out of 33) going on to direct on other series.

Despite this strong record among career-track directors, employers hired a record 125 series-affiliated individuals as first-time TV directors in the 2016/17 season – up from 106 the year prior.

TV First-Time Director Diversity Report 2017

The DGA has been pressing studios, networks, and producers to be more inclusive in hiring for more than 30 years. Its efforts include: collective bargaining gains requiring television studios to operate TV director diversity programs, and all first-time TV directors to attend a DGA orientation; ongoing meetings with studios, networks and individual series regarding their hiring records; and publicized reports detailing employer hiring patterns. In addition, the Guild itself has initiated a variety of TV director mentorship and educational programs to support the career development of its members.

The DGA compiled the statistics for this report based on data from the 2009/10 – 2016/17 television seasons. The data excludes pilots. In cases where a first-time episodic director could have been assigned to more than one previous employment category, the DGA placed the director in the category for which he or she is most well-known. All figures were rounded to the nearest percentage.

DGA Communications Department (310) 289-5333
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