Diversity among first-time television directors saw key strides in the past nine seasons, with greater representation for women and people of color, according to a new study from the Directors Guild of America (DGA). But the guild, which represents more than 16,000 members, cautioned that many first-time female and minority directors still face hurdles due to long-standing hiring practices in the TV industry.
The DGA study focuses on first-time hiring of episodic TV directors between the 2009-10 and 2017-18 seasons. The study showed that 31 percent of first-time hires in the 2017-18 season were directors of color, up from 27 percent in the 2016-17 season and 12 percent in the 2009-10 season.
The study also found that 41 percent of first-time hires were women in the most recent season, an increase from 33 percent in the previous season and 11 percent in the 2009-10 season. Women of color accounted for 13 percent of first-time hires for the 2017-18 season, up from 9 percent in the previous season and just 2 percent in the 2009-10 season.
"The hiring improvements covered in this report show an industry that's headed in the right direction today, but also one with a long road ahead to keep up with the increasingly diverse world tomorrow," DGA President Thomas Schlamme said in a statement.
Despite the changes found in the report, the DGA said that diverse directors continue to face an uphill battle when it comes to landing first-time jobs on TV productions. The guild said this is because productions tend to favor individuals who are already affiliated with a series for these jobs.
The study found that about 202 directors who had never before directed episodic television were hired by studios, networks and executive producers in the 2017-18 season. Of these 202, 58 percent were "series affiliated," meaning they were already connected with the series in the capacity as a writer, producer, actor or crew member.
Meanwhile, 35 percent were "career-track directors." That means they had prior directing experience, but they were unaffiliated with the series or their affiliation was the result of their previous directing experience.
"The practice acts as a bottleneck to the pipeline, limiting first breaks for diverse directors," the study said.