We've Got Hollywood Covered

Two-Thirds of TV Directors Last Season Were White or Male, DGA Study Finds

HBO trails in hiring directors of color while CBS has lowest share of female directors

The Directors Guild of America announced in its latest inclusion report that 66% of directors in television productions were white and male, despite increases in representation for women and directors of color.

“It’s hard enough to achieve success in the competitive world of TV directing,” DGA president Thomas Schlamme said in a statement. “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.”

He continued, “Our most powerful tools to analyze the availability of opportunities have been these in-depth data reports. 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.”

Despite the continued imbalance in gender and ethnic representation, some progress has been made. The report found that of the more than 4,300 episodes produced in the 2019-20 season, the amount directed by people of color grew to 32%, up from 27% the prior season and from 18% just five years ago. Episodes directed by women grew to 34%, up from 31% the prior season and more than doubling over the 16% from 2014-15.

But when gender and ethnicity are combined, the numbers are still very poor for female directors of color. While white women directed 23.4% of TV episodes, only 5.2% were directed by Black women. The stats are even worse for Latina and Asian American women, who held episode shares of under 2.5%.

The survey also tallied individual directors hired by studios during the 2019-2020 season. Of the 1,268 directors hired this past season, 72% were white and 65% were men. But the percentage of first-time female and nonwhite directors getting opportunities is trending toward parity. Of the 227 first-time directors this TV season, 30% were directors of color, up from just 10% in 2009. Forty-seven percent of first-time directors were women, just below the 48% from last year and up from 11% in 2009.

When breaking down representation by studio, HBO is one of the leaders in female representation, with women directing 44% of its 132 episodes. However, the network is last in ethnic representation with only 18% of episodes coming from directors of color. CBS is last in female representation with 30% of its 532 episodes being directed by women.

No studio had directors of color represent more than one-third of episodes directed, with Sony, WarnerMedia, Netflix and Disney all holding POC shares of 32-33%. For female representation, HBO is one of three studios with shares above 40%, with Paramount having 47% of its 70 episodes directed by women and Disney having 41% of its 853 episodes.

Schlamme has urged both studios and showrunners to be mindful of diversity when hiring directors for TV shows. He especially encouraged diverse hiring of first-time directors, noting in the report that such hires are essential to long-term changes against discrimination and bias in Hollywood.

“Changing the pipeline is key to one day achieving an inclusive industry, and this data on first-time hires shows we are on the road to getting there,” Schlamme said. “The greatest tool that producers have toward that goal is in giving a first break. But to truly achieve the potential of that power, employers must be conscious of the weight and meaning of that incredibly valuable first directing job — which is not only for the enormous benefit of the individual, but for the industry at large.”