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DGA study finds some gains for women, minorities in TV directing

DGA study finds some gains for women, minorities in TV directing
A production crew filming the season two finale of the Amazon Studios original series "Goliath" at the Biltmore Hotel in downtown Los Angeles in December. (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

The most recent television season saw a greater percentage of women and minorities directing TV episodes compared with the previous season, though overall figures painted a more mixed picture, according to a new study from the Directors Guild of America.

The study, released Wednesday, found that the percentage of episodes directed by women rose to 25% of all episodes for the 2017-18 season, up from 21% in the 2016-17 season.

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The percentage directed by ethnic minorities rose to 24% from 22%. African American directors helmed 13% of episodes, the same as the previous season.

Results came from the guild’s analysis of nearly 4,300 episodes produced in the 2017-18 season, down from the all-time high of nearly 4,500 episodes in the previous season. The report considered TV series from broadcast, cable and streaming services.

Overall, women directed 1,085 episodes — a 14% increase over the previous year. Minority directors helmed 1,017 episodes, just a 1% increase.

Guild President Thomas Schlamme described the results as “mixed,” saying that more progress is needed.

“The bright spot here is that the doors are finally opening wider for women, who are seeing more opportunities to direct television. But it’s disappointing the same can’t be said for directors of color,” Schlamme said in a statement.

“The studios and networks who do the hiring still have a long way to go, and we are committed to continuing this important fight.”

Among the major Hollywood studios, the report found that Walt Disney Co. — which includes ABC — 20th Century Fox, Lionsgate and CBS had the most diverse TV directors.

The DGA represents more than 17,000 members who work in the TV and film industries. The guild reported in August that 31% of first-time hires in episodic TV for the 2017-18 season were directors of color, up from 27% in the 2016-17 season and 12% in the 2009-10 season.

First-time jobs are seen as a key entry point for women and minority directors in the TV industry. Productions have traditionally favored people who are already affiliated with a series for these jobs, rather than people who are new to the show.

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