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This is an ever-evolving story of a girl writer and her two greatest loves, the movies and travel. As she hikes the trenches of Hollywood, you're brought along for the ride.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Directing In The Minority


When Jonah Hill mentioned his interest in directing, at least one person was completely baffled: Darren Aronovsky. As Hill says in this month's Esquire feature, Darren wondered why anyone would want to be a director; it's so hard.

And if you're female or minority, it's even harder. The Directors Guild Of America recently circulated their 2010-2011 TV Episodic Directors By Gender and Ethnicity.

The current statistics were less than stellar. As the report shows, 77% of TV episodes this past season were directed by Caucasian males. Caucasian females were given a chance 11% of the time, as were minority males. If you're a minority female that directed a TV episode this season? You were probably the only one-- only 1% of episodes were directed by a female of any ethnic minority. Some shows, notably Bored To Death and Curb Your Enthusiasm did not have any minority directors this season. Also at 0% hiring: Weeds and Hot In Cleveland. Ironic, since both shows have strong female leads and/or casts. On the flip side, Hung, about a basketball coach turned male gigolo, employed 60% of female or minority directors last season. I presume that having Colette Burson, a female, as co-creator of the series probably helped. Treme (45%), Mad Men (31%), and 30 Rock (30%) also fared well in their hiring practices for episodic directors.

Production companies who haven't hired minority directors have their reasons and excuses. Many are ambivalent about taking a chance on a new director. Like the rest of Hollywood, they're afraid of risk.
"But the truth is that the industry hires new directors all the time; it's just that most of them are white males," says Lesli Linka Glatter, Co-Chair of the Diversity Task Force of the DGA National Board.
Aspiring directors, filmmakers, and writers need role models to inspire them along the difficult path ahead. It's so easy to lose faith in the film and television industry, in particular, because the obstacles can seem insurmountable. Seeing a filmmaker of your own gender, ethnicity, or background get a foothold in the industry can help you stay focused on your own goals as a filmmaker.


It's also important to note that it's not just about fair hiring practices either. Filmmakers have a worldview that is influenced by their own background and circumstances, as well as their identity as individuals. Many audiences are often searching for themselves and seeking answers about life when they choose to see a particular film. They want to identify with the characters and the protagonist's plight. They want to see the world from a different viewpoint.


There seems to be a misconception that minority filmmakers can only be trusted with "minority" stories. For example, the consensus seems to be: Female filmmakers direct female stories and so-called chick flicks. Latino filmmakers direct Latino stories. This doesn't mean that a female director couldn't direct an action film or that a Latino or Latina filmmaker couldn't direct a big blockbuster. It means, they generally aren't being offered these jobs. That's a shame because, as much as we get tired of seeing the same A-list actors in every big movie, we get tired of seeing the cinematic world through the eyes of the same filmmakers in every big movie. Stories are as varied as the Earth's landscape. And so are filmmakers. It's important to remember that.


There has been recent progress, however. Movies featuring minority and strong female casts, such as Bridesmaids and The Help have surpassed expectations at the box office. The Kids Are All Right, directed by Lisa Cholodenko, made a domestic gross of $20.8 million. It was reportedly made for a paltry $4 million, and even at that level, financing nearly fell through. [ boxofficemojo ] Interestingly, Cholodenko turned around and directed an episode of Hung in 2010.


We Need To Talk About Kevin, directed by Lynne Ramsay, was getting early buzz at Toronto this month. (It premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in May and is scheduled for limited release in the U.S. on December 2, 2011.)


Patty Jenkins, who wrote and directed the 2003 film Monster is currently in talks to direct Thor 2. According to Variety, Marvel has an "unconventional approach to offering its superhero tentpoles to filmmakers not necessarily top of mind when thinking of someone who might land an effects-laden summer actioner."

In other words, they're not afraid to take risks. And in so doing, they are offering chances to other types of filmmakers who would otherwise never be offered such material.

Blog content © 2011 by KLiedle

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