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Directors Guild TV study shows diversity gains during pandemic, but not for Latino, Asian filmmakers

A scene from the ABC show "Blackish"
A scene from the ABC show “Blackish,” which was among the 2020-2021 season shows included in the Directors Guild of America Inclusion report.
(Eric McCandless/ABC)
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A new study by the Directors Guild of America showed gains in diversity behind the camera on TV shows during the pandemic, but little change for Latino and Asian directors who remain underrepresented.

Even as the number of shows fell 36% to 2,691 in the 2020-2021 season from the year before, the number of TV episodes led by directors of color increased by 5% to 34%, up from 29% the prior season, according to the union’s report released Thursday.

Black directors represented 18% of episodes, up from 15% the season prior.

Latino directors, however, accounted for only 9% of episodes, up from 7%, but substantially below the Latino community’s 39% share of the population in California, according to the U.S. census. Asian American directors remained at 7%, while Native Americans directed less than 1% of episodes, unchanged from the prior season.

The industry remains led largely by white men, who directed 39% of episodes in the last season, the report stated.

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The DGA is one of the few Hollywood unions that makes public its diversity data on a regular basis. The entertainment industry has been under a spotlight to improve diversity, spurred by campaigns such as #OscarsSoWhite and global protests after the murder of George Floyd. Behind the camera, crew face an uphill battle in challenging the biases they face. Unions only recently started attempting to capture diversity data from their membership.

“When the pandemic hit, a big question on our minds was whether progress on inclusive hiring would backslide as the production environment changed radically with the implementation of necessary COVID Safety Protocols,” said DGA President Lesli Linka Glatter in the report. “The good news is that inclusive hiring continued its upward climb last year. That said, although there has been continued progress, the goal of a level playing field for all has not yet been achieved.”

The industry has seen improvements in racial representation in recent years. In 2014, directors of color worked on just 16% of TV episodes.

Episodes directed by women in the 2020-2021 season increased by 3 percentage points to 38%, up from 35% the prior season and up from 16% in 2014. Although first time women directors, those getting their break into TV directing, fell in the period to 46%, down from last year’s 48%.

For the first time, the union surveyed the makeup of the rest of the directorial team, including representation among unit production managers and assistant directors, for example. Among UPMs, 11% were people of color and 33% female; and among first assistant directors, 22% were people of color and 31% were female.

Motion picture costumers launched a diversity committee to help support members of color. But committee members ended up resigning in frustration.

Feb. 15, 2022

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