The Directors Guild of America has released its annual report on who directs television series, and the results are not exactly promising—and they illustrate one reason it’s hard for women and people of color to make gains in the industry. The percentage of episodes of television in the 2011-2012 television season directed by white men rose from 72 percent to 73 percent. White women directed 11 percent of episodes, the same as last year. And women of color and men of color basically traded work: men of color directed 13 percent of episodes, down from 14 percent last year. And women of color directed 4 percent of episodes, up from 3 percent in the previous season. In other words, the amount of work available to white men is relatively secure. And men and women of color aren’t making gains relative to the whole: they’re trading off gains with each other.
But it’s also worth noting which shows are doing better than average, some of which are predictable, and some of which are not. The Game, created by Mara Brock Akil, had 100 percent of its episodes directed by women or people of color, as did Single Ladies, which was created by Stacy Littlejohn, and produced by Queen Latifah’s Flavor Unit company. Shonda Rhimes’ Scandal clocked in with 67 percent female or minority directors, Nurse Jackie with 60, Girls with 44 percent, and Don’t Trust The B—- In Apartment with 23 percent. If male showrunners are having trouble finding women and people of color to direct their television shows, they might do well to ask the women around them who are creating television shows who they hire.
But it’s not only shows created by and about women who have done well hiring women and people of color to direct episodes. 36 percent of the last season’s episodes of Sons of Anarchy, a show created by Kurt Sutter, himself a white guy, were directed by women like Gwyneth Horder-Payton, a veteran of The Shield, Paris Barclay, who won two Emmys for NYPD Blue, and Mario Van Peebles. Grimm, created by three men, had women and people of color behind the camera for 48 percent of its first-season episodes. And The Walking Dead, the bloody zombie show based on the comic books by Robert Kirkman, had 53 percent of its episodes directed by women and minorities under the leadership of Gale Anne Hurd in its second season after Frank Darabont left the show. Being a lady doesn’t mean you can handle veiled autobiography, or stories about dating and sex. Women can do the tough stuff, too. And some men seem to recognize it.