By Anita Bennett
June 21, 2018

The Directors Guild of America is taking aim at Hollywood for the industry’s “outrageous” diversity problem when it comes to hiring women and people of color to helm feature films.

The DGA released a new report Thursday that showed film directors remain overwhelmingly white and male.

After analyzing 651 movies released in the U.S. last year, the DGA found women directed only 12% of movies that earned at least $250,000 at the box office. People of color helmed 10% of those films, representing a 3% decline from the previous year. The percentage of women directors essentially remained consistent.

In a rare rebuke, DGA President Thomas Schlamme blasted the studios, producers and agents that decide who gets the directing jobs.

“It’s outrageous that we’re once again seeing such a lack of opportunity for women and people of color to direct feature films,” Schlamme said in a statement. “Our new study shows that discriminatory practices are still rampant across every corner of the feature film business. These numbers hit home how the chips are stacked against women and people of color.”

Wonder Woman, Get Out, Girls Trip and Lady Bird were among the top-grossing films directed by women and people of color in 2017.

Among smaller films, those that earned less than $250,000 at the box office, the study found women accounted for just 16% of the directors.

Schlamme revealed that during the guild’s most recent contract negotiations, it pushed for industry power-brokers to consider a wider range of directing candidates. But he said the DGA’s suggestions fell on deaf ears.

“Inclusion is a fight we’ve been fighting with the industry for four decades now, and it’s been an uphill battle to get them to change their hiring practices,” he said. “In our two most recent negotiations, we pushed for the industry to adopt the Rooney Rule into their hiring practices, but they wouldn’t budge on the issue.”

The Rooney Rule, named after former Pittsburgh Steelers owner Dan Rooney, requires NFL teams to interview at least one minority candidate for coaching jobs.

However, Miki Turner, an assistant professor at the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, said she doubts the Rooney Rule would ever work in Hollywood.

“At the end of the day, Hollywood executives are going to do exactly what they want and there’s no one to hold them accountable,” Turner said. “There can be all the public outcry on this stuff, and you see this diversity push and this inclusion push every other year and it’s cyclical. It keeps coming back.”

A longtime Hollywood insider, Turner said the DGA is to blame as well, describing the guild as the “original boys club.” She added that nepotism is the biggest obstacle to inclusion in the movie business.

“People hire who they like, who they know, who they’ve worked with before, so it makes it hard for anybody to break in,” she explained.

Still, Turner said there are signs things are slowly improving thanks to a slate of established female and African-American directors opening doors for others.

“What you’ll see in the next few years thanks to people like Jordan Peele, Ava [DuVernay] and Dee [Rees] and a couple of the other ones, obviously Ryan [Coogler], I think you’re going to see some opportunities opening up,” she noted.

Turner said ultimately, the only way to bring about real change in Hollywood is for women and people of color to create their own opportunities.

“Nobody is giving away nothing,” she concluded.

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