Forbes: 6 Directors Who Should Be Hired for Pilot Season 2018


Below is a truncated excerpt of an article written by Merrill Barr, posted by Forbes here.

In the coming weeks, networks across television will be deciding what pilots they want to greenlight for series contention in the coming year… and those pilots need directors.

While there’s likely going to be a mad dash for big name, headline-grabbing feature hires like there always is, these six directors are more than up for the task of pilot direction and, if stars align, long-term staffing as well.



Ami Canaan Mann

Most recent credit: Cloak & Dagger and Power

Since 2015, Mann has maintained a very active career jumping from show to show serving as a gun for hire on the likes of Sneaky Pete, The Blacklist, Shots Fired and most recently, Marvel's Cloak & Dagger.

She’s proven herself enough times to be granted a shot at a new show during pilot season that, like so many on this list, she can help shape from day one. Additionally, like the rest, Mann seems the kind of director likely to stay attached to a project long-term if given the opportunity.

Indie Wire: Jessica Chastain and Sarah Jessica Parker Speak Out About Making Hollywood Sets More Inclusive

by Jenna Marotta. Original post.

This weekend at the PGA’s Produced By: New York — the very same conference where Anthony Bourdain criticized longtime Harvey Weinstein collaborator Quentin Tarantino for his “life of complicity and shame and compromise” — women’s-rights champion Jessica Chastain called her former self “complicit” in another Hollywood epidemic: systematically denying women equal pay, screen time, and ownership of their work.

Seated alongside fellow actress-producer Sarah Jessica Parker, their producing partners Alison Benson and Kelly Carmichael, and PGA president Lori McCreary, the two-time Oscar nominee explained that she founded Freckle Films in February 2016 “because I was realizing that being part of the industry meant that I was a part of the problem.” She added that “we don’t acknowledge the fact that we’re complicit in our inaction — and that goes across many areas.”

Even if she didn’t explicitly mention them, Chastain had Weinstein’s alleged victims on her mind. Following “The Power to Shake It Up,” she endorsed the list of 82 Weinstein accusers shared by actress-director Asia Argento — Bourdain’s girlfriend, who claims Weinstein raped her during the 1997 Cannes Film Festival — with a retweet and the hashtag “#ibeliveyou.”

There are more women than this. They are afraid. #ibelieveyou

— Jessica Chastain (@jes_chastain) October 28, 2017

Yet the purpose of the Deadline-sponsored panel was to offer tangible solutions to what has been dubbed the entertainment business’ “inclusion crisis.” Moderator Dr. Stacy L. Smith, founder and director of the Media, Diversity & Social Change Initiative at USC Annenberg, first clarified that while on one hand “it feels like women are ascendant in power” — citing the Women’s Marches in January, last month’s Emmy victories for “Big Little Lies” and “The Handmaid’s Tale,” and the multitude of newly public sexual-harassment and -assault allegations — they made up less than 30 percent of all roles in the 100 top-grossing films of 2016, a statistic that’s held since the late ’40s. Additionally, women represented just 40 percent of last year’s speaking characters and series regulars on television.

Pretty Matches Productions founder Parker responded first, sounding apologetic that six white women had been assembled to discuss this topic. “There are more solutions beyond this panel, and many of them are women of color who I think have important stories to tell and need to continue to be encouraged to contribute to these stories that I think that we all want to hear, I think that are necessary and vital and dynamic and incredible,” she said.

They proceeded to discuss their companies’ strategies for helping women achieve better representation. Those include hiring female interns and steering women toward departments they hadn’t previously considered and putting more women than men in crowd scenes and fighting for production credits commensurate with the actual tasks women performed.

The challenge is not only increasing the number of women in production roles, but also creating opportunities for foreign women on American projects, and helping women have more mobility between film and television, plus comedies and dramas. Surprisingly, Parker, who produces and stars in “Divorce” for conference-backer HBO, said, “I’m always begging for a smaller budget, to be totally honest,” since larger budgets can feel like a “terrifying burden” where she’s forced to give up control. In its second season, premiering this January, “Divorce” will boast more female than male directors.

Meanwhile, Chastain practices “a rule for myself that I work with a female filmmaker every year,” even if that means squeezing in a short film when her schedule is particularly jam-packed. Her collaborations with female directors constitute 25 percent of her narrative-feature filmography and include “Texas Killing Fields” (Ami Canaan Mann), “Miss Julie” (Liv Ullmann), and “The Zookeeper’s Wife” (Niki Caro). Still, she’s observed that when she has joined a project “primarily because of the female filmmaker…there’s [then] been difficulty [with] whether or not they can close the deal,” as new, male directors are suddenly suggested.

Since agency-provided director and writer lists typically consist of “all men,” Chastain continued, “We need to go beyond what the agents submit and find the artists because they are out there.” Once she’s tasked with actually choosing roles, Chastain “always want[s] to move away from a stereotype of an old-fashioned idea of what a woman is. A lot of people were saying to me, ‘You’re always such strong women,’ and I find that the most obnoxious thing to say to a person, because basically it’s implicating that women aren’t normally strong,” a myth she blames the media for perpetuating.

She also rejects physical qualifiers typically tied to female characters: “If you read the script you have an idea of who the woman is, you don’t need to know that she’s 34 years and weighs 110 pounds, and is blonde.”

The other panelists shared some of their own experiences with industry sexism. Carmichael, Freckle Films’ president of production and development, said she’s been asked whether she can handle certain assignments because she’s a mother. McCreary — an executive producer on “Madame Secretary” who also co-founded Revelations Entertainment with Morgan Freeman in 1996 — has been mistaken for Freeman’s assistant as recently as a decade ago.

When it comes to her “Divorce” character, Frances, Parker says that during season one she was “stunned” by “how many people kept asking me was I concerned that she wasn’t likable” — many objected to her extramarital affair. “But Tony Soprano was a murderer, and we loved him!” Parker exclaimed. “I liked that she was unlikable, by the way, sometimes. I was really drawn to her prickly, withholding, exacting nature.”

On the subject of casting, Parker admitted a “strange thing”: “I love not getting jobs sometimes,” because “the process of wanting something, seeking, working toward, and not getting it…sort of adds up more.” She likened it to a very un-Carrie Bradshaw-like sentiment: “A girl gets her heart broken, I’m like, ‘Oh my God, that’s fantastic! Years from now, that’s going to be some experience that’s going to be really good.'”

Chastain ended the panel by reminding the audience that inclusivity means more than giving women jobs. “This is an industry that encourages actors to stay closeted, and I would suggest that we break free from that and start casting people not based on their sexual preference,” she said. “Allow someone who is openly homosexual, lesbian, whatever, to play someone who’s not. And I think the more we start to do that, the more inclusive we’ll be.”

Women and Hollywood: Plenty of Qualified Women Directors Are Ready to Fill the Ranks

by Rachel Feldman. Original post.

If asked to imagine a film or TV director, most people conjure the image of a man. Sadly, this is true for those who work in the film and television industry as well. In fact, research from USC Annenberg’s Media, Diversity & Social Change Initiative confirms that zero percent of Hollywood executives have any women director’s names at the top of their minds. Of course, those in the know have lists that include Kathryn Bigelow, Patty Jenkins, or Ava DuVernay in features and Lesli Linka Glatter or Reed Morano in television — but there are also hundreds, if not thousands, of highly skilled women directors who have been invisible for way too long.

The statistics for women directing stagnates at four percent in feature films and at 17 percent in television, and although the 17 percent in TV may initially sound like forward momentum, when statistically analyzed it proves to be an illusory number because it doesn’t represent the number of women directing, only the number of episodes directed by women. In other words, it is often the same few women doing all the work. But the fact is that there are over 1,300 experienced women directors in the Directors Guild of America (DGA), many with decades of experience in high-quality broadcast and cable television. So why do only about 50 of these directors appear and re-appear on network hiring lists?

Last week NBC announced a new “Female Forward” program that will train 10 new women directors a year through a shadowing program. NBC President Jennifer Salke says that the pool of available directors is “too small” and she’s excited about the idea of having 30 new directors in three years. Of course it’s fantastic that NBC is going to create a program in support of women directors, but it would be a mistake not to correct an insidious false assumption that continues to undermine real progress.

Salke is by no means alone in her thinking: it is a predominate belief throughout the entire industry that one of the reasons why gender employment statistics are so low is because there just aren’t enough qualified women directors to fill the ranks. But this is patently untrue.

The fact is that NBC could have 100 highly skilled directors tomorrow. If our industry truly wants swift, equitable gender equity in the director ranks, the answer is not simply to train new directors and hope for the future. We need to find and hire the large pool of already trained, highly accomplished women directors who have been toiling in the trenches for decades. We need to make the change now.

The employment mechanism for hiring directors is, no doubt, complex. There are many levels of executives, all who need to vet a director. That’s why directors with hot credits and repped by top agents are easy to notice — and those who may not have a recent credit, or who are not represented by a high-profile agent or manager, become invisible.

Women’s careers also look different from their male counterparts’. Women often step away from thriving careers to raise children and care for family members. Add in the gender bias that makes each and every job a Sisyphean hurdle and it’s simple to see how women lose their reps and fall off rosters. But these women are indomitable. Many have thriving careers in allied fields as writers, producers, editors, ADs, or teachers. Some make independent features. All of them are eager to be making an honorable living, with goldstar health insurance, using the masterful skills they have taken a lifetime to hone.

In life, and certainly in the movie business, we are taught that we will be rewarded for tenacity and determination, but so far this has not proven true for an army of women directors.

Meryl Streep sponsors a program for mid-career women writers through New York Women in Film & Television, the Writers Guild of America has made enormous strides supporting the careers of their experienced female members with a variety of initiatives and programs, and The Ravenal Foundation and The Jerome Foundation have long supported mid-career female feature directors. But in the television director landscape the continued focus on new, untrained directors as the sole way to ameliorate a widespread problem is both an unimaginative solution and an enormous injustice to women who have already been injured by decades of gender exclusion.

DuVernay, Oprah Winfrey, and Ryan Murphy are trendsetting new formulas in hiring television directors. They understand that the status quo is not serving directors who are not white men and they are hiring both veteran directors who’ve fallen off hiring lists as well as promising talent. But a handful of progressive thinkers is not enough. The entire industry — networks, studios, producers, and agencies — must create avenues of opportunity for mid-career women directors. It may require a bit of work to discover this gold mine of talent but just below the surface are literally hundreds of brilliant women directors who deserve a break.

This past presidential election was a disgraceful example of how accomplished, highly experienced women can be disregarded. Hiding behind excuses of: “It’s our [pick one] first/second/third season,” or “We have [pick one] stunts/VFX/finicky actors/cross-boarding/a tricky tone…” is as misogynistic/patriarchal as men who think they can grab women wherever they want. We must continue to ask why men are regarded with great potential and women are seen as needing to have a continuing education. Mid-career women directors are trained to figure out what they need to tell a story and it’s high time for the film and TV machine to support and nurture this valuable resource.

Create your own programs and initiatives or search for us at The Director List and the DGA.

And here is a just-a-tip-of-the-iceberg list of experienced television directors — not intended to be exhaustive or comprehensive — to illustrate the bounty to be discovered. There are also hundreds more accomplished women in the independent world:

Victoria Hochberg, Gloria Muzio, Neema Barnette, Debbie Reinisch, Hanelle Culpepper, Martha Coolidge, Amy Heckerling, Tanya Hamilton, Tessa Blake, Kat Candler, Shannon McCormack Flynn, Ellen Pressman, Leslie Libman, Vicky Jenson, Stacy Title, Linda Feferman, Matia Karrell, Maggie Greenwald, Deborah Kampmeier, Debra Granik, Darnell Martin, Anna Foerster, Heather Cappiello, Nicole Rubio, Leslie Libman, Beth Spitalny, Daisy Von Scherler Mayer, Jan Eliasberg, Elodie Keene, Diana Valentine, Jessica Landaw, Julie Hebert, Julie Anne Robinson, Katherine Brooks, Martha Mitchell, Nicole Kassell, Nzingha Stewart, Rachel Talalay, Rose Troche, Stacey Black, Alexis Korycinski, Allison Anders, Ami Canaan Mann, Amy Redford, Anna Mastro, Anne Renton, Catherine Jelski, Claudia Weill, Dee Rees, Helen Hunt, Jessica Yu, Donna Deitch, Kasi Lemmons, Lily Mariye, So Yong Kim, Tina Mabry, Tanya Hamilton, Rachel Feldman…