I am not a female director, I am a good director.
My gender has nothing to do with my creative vision, my leadership skills, my ability to tell a story for the screen. My gender has nothing to do with my ability to interact successfully with producers, studios and networks. My gender has nothing to do with my ability to coax actors to their best performance, nor to partner with talented directors of photography. Clear enough? Then why do we even put that qualifier on women who are hired as episodic directors?
At this moment in time, it’s an advantage to be a woman director. There is a push to hire more women, to begin to level the playing field, to finally drag the statistics into the light. It’s tragic that only 17% of episodic television is directed by women. There is a vast talent pool of women directors eagerly waiting to be hired, even as they do everything possible (like enroll in numerous studio diversity programs and direct multiple indies and shorts) to make decision-makers aware of their existence and abilities. Finally the tide is turning, finally it’s a positive thing to be a woman director.
But not for me. Yes, I’m a woman who proudly stands with and for her sisters as they get hired. But quality should be the determining factor in being hired as an episodic director. Does the director candidate do good work? Does that director have the sensibilities to make the best possible episode of a show? Does that director have the strength and commitment to lead all the elements (cast, staff and crew) in the service of their vision? A director’s gender, skin color, ancestry, or belief system should not be relevant as a hiring factor. The only question that should be asked is, “Does this director know what she/he is doing?”
Of course, that’s not the world we live in right now. Right now, the calls are going out to hire women and diverse directors. And the gender/diverse hiring push is a pendulum swing that’s been a long time coming. As one of the few women who have directed over the years, I have been the lucky beneficiary of a vaguely guilty industry conscience that whispered, “Well, maybe we should hire a woman director or two.” Many was the time that I was the only woman on a season’s roster of directors. And I’m grateful for that. Don’t get me wrong, I’m aware that being a woman helped my career. And I would never deny my femininity, it’s part of who I am.
But I’m at the point, after directing over 200 episodes of primetime network television, that I feel accomplished and capable. (That may have happened about a hundred and fifty episodes ago.) When a producer says, “I need a good director,” I hope my name comes up. When that producer says, “I need a woman director,” (to fill the quota imposed by the studio/network) I hope a new woman who is ready and smart and prepared will be hired. Producers don’t say, “I need a man director,” because that would imply that gender has something to do with a director’s abilities. In some future time, gender won’t even come up. At that point, I won’t be referred to as a “woman director,” because the only standard will be quality, the hiring decisions will be gender neutral, and all anyone will care about is that I’m a good director.