Thanks for all the great questions. Keep making noise, keep making films. That's All Folks!!!

You may have heard the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is investigating gender dis-crimination ( ) in Hollywood. It's not the first time! Between 1939 and 1979, women directed only ½ of 1% of all feature films and episodic television shows. In 1979, we—six women members of the Directors Guild of America—launched a campaign to expose and rectify gender hiring inequities, which got the Guild to sue the industry. Because of our actions, by 1995 the statistics for women directors rose from ½ of 1% to 16% of episodic TV and 3% of feature films. Then it all changed. After 1995, the statistics dipped, flat-lined and haven’t recovered since. As of June 2015, women were directing 13% of episodic TV. In the last half of 2015 that figure increased to 16%—an increase that occurred only after the ACLU announced a new investigation of discrimi-nation against women directors in Hollywood. The figures today are exactly where they were 21 years ago. What happened? Women in the industry are still trying to figure that out. By speaking out (most recently we told our story in a long story in Pacific Standard magazine: we are trying to change that. Ask us about our research in the '70s, how men and "liberal" Hollywood have (and haven't) aided our efforts, and what's changed (and what hasn't!) in Hollywood today.

We are: Nell Cox directed episodic TV (The Waltons, L. A. LAW, MAS*H). She also wrote, directed and pro-duced dramatic films for PBS including the feature length Liza’s Pioneer Diary. She is currently writing novels as well as screenplays about issues affecting women.

Joelle Dobrow is an Emmy winning TV director / producer (Noticiero Estudiantil) and talk show director (Good Morning America-West Coast, AM Los Angeles).

Victoria Hochberg is an award winning writer and director of episodic television (Sex and the City), dramatic specials (Jacob Have I Loved) documentaries (Metroliner), music videos (the Eagles), and feature films (Dawg).

Lynne Littman won an Academy Award for her documentary, Number Our Days after it won the San Francisco film festival prize. Her independent feature, Testament, premiered at Telluride and earned its star, Jane Alexander, a Best Actress Oscar nomination. (Our two other director colleagues Susan Bay Nimoy and Dolores Ferraro could not join us today.)


Here we are:

Read our story in Pacific Standard:

Watch a video of the founding of the Women's Steering Committee:

Read more about the WSC, our lawsuit, and what hasn't changed:

Comments: 1502 • Responses: 31  • Date: 

CockFaggington537 karma

I can't help but notice the overwhelming majority of questions you've answered in this AMA are from women/girls.

Don't you think you should answer questions from 50% men and 50% women?

Original_Six-323 karma

There is no way to know (other than 'CockFaggington') whether someone is male or female. Get serious. We're answering based on content, not on gender.

2dollarb406 karma

The problem is endemic. You view yourselves as women first, directors second. Directors view you as women first, directors second.

Perhaps concentrate more on career, and less on gender equality. If your perception of self is woman first and then occupation, it's no wonder the rest of the world views you in similar fashion.

How about we do with gender what we've been attempting with race? That is to ignore it completely. If you're a good director you'll have work. If you're a shit director you won't.

I'm just sayin'.

Original_Six-303 karma

To: 2dollarb- You're just sayin' something wrong. You don't know how we view ourselves. You say concentrate on careers. How do you do that when you are denied work? Perhaps you should concentrate on learning the facts first. Many shit directors are working. Haven't you been to the movies recently?

faded_jester184 karma

Do you see anything wrong with modern feminism?

Original_Six-186 karma

Victoria here. Not sure how you are defining modern feminism. But there is nothing wrong with contemporary women who either speak as feminists or act as feminists.

superkbf175 karma

I recently saw a call for papers for an academic conference on comics, with the 10 confirmed, featured speakers all white males. If this is a fairly accurate representation of the majority of both the reading audience and comics scholars, should it still be considered discrimination? How do you know when there is real, authentic discrimination versus simple representation of a skewed demographic? What to do?

Original_Six-351 karma

The facts speak for themselves. Ten white males and no females? The planners are merely abetting existing sexism. Does it matter if the sexism is conscious or unconscious? This is a conference for academics? These are people who teach young people? That's scary. What you do is immediately get on the phone, e-mail, twitter, snail mail, etc. and tell them this is not acceptable.

suaveitguy32 karma

How much a factor do you think role models are? There will be a lot of exponential increase from generation to generation as girls can grow up seeing someone's shoes they could fill?

Original_Six-89 karma

Victoria here: I am going to speak about role models in movies. We now have Katniss who courageously defends her people with a weapon, Ray who can pilot a space ship better than Han Solo, and Furiosa who deliberately goes off track to protect other women. There is no way a young girl watching these films will accept that she can't do something like direct movies. I can't wait to see the current ten year olds when someone tells them that. As for role model women directors, the Original Six had very few. Dorothy Arzner, Ida Lupino, Alice Guy Blache, Agnes Varda. Most people don't even know who they are. Any woman who has ever spoken up for equal rights is a true role model for all of us.

dicksinabag30 karma

Which contemporary female filmmaker do you think is producing the best work right now? Why?

Original_Six-11 karma

NELL HERE.... I wouldn't want to get into "BEST" here but I will say I was profoundly impressed with "MUSTANG" which was nominated this year ['16] for an Oscar in the Best Foreign Film category.

Beautifully directed by a French/Turkish woman filmmaker, Deniz Erguven, it is about locking up teenage girls so they will be virgins when their arranged marriages take place. That severe kind of sexism is specific to some cultures but it is also a metaphor for girls in all cultures who were squelched as young women.

This is a feminist film which beautifully portrays the joyous energy of these young girls and their determination to transcend their assigned roles -- tho realistic about how hard that is -- indeed in this case extremely dangerous. I was on the edge of my seat. Also fun and funny. Great film! Great filmmaker!

Original_Six-14 karma

Lynne here: Jane Campion. I love her intensity, her willingness to dive headlong into the most protected subjects, her technical skill and her vision of humanity: POV female. Her films inspire me and remind me of our unique DNA, so rarely realized in movies.

Original_Six-67 karma

Victoria here: I'd like to note that many amazing women directors work in other countries. Why is that? Perhaps because they are supported by governments that mandate more equality of opportunity. We need that in the USA. American women directors are just as gifted. We need to fight to make our films.

[deleted]5 karma


Original_Six-46 karma

Lynne here - I'm an unlikely candidate for social media response because I'm not a frequent "browser" - I sent the article to friends and responses poured in with wonderment, as though they had discovered the French Revolution. "oh wow, we had no idea you were doing that stuff." Personal respect, professional silence.

leaolaranja-11 karma


Original_Six-17 karma

Victoria here. I am optimistic because it seems like the sleeping dragon (women) has once again awakened.

sadiemagoo-14 karma

What films/tv shows have inspired you? Did any influence your decision to become writer/director/producers?

Original_Six-5 karma

Lynne here - THE RED SHOES, directed by Michael Powell. I was seven years old when Victoria Page changed my life. She danced straight into my worst nightmare. Her conflicts: marriage v. career, romance v. artistic passion - seemed insurmountable in 1948. Today, they may still be emotional mine-fields, but we now make choices!

BangdatAnkle10 karma

Damn that Male ditector.

Original_Six-6 karma

Lynne here - quite the opposite... thank you Michael Powell for your masterpiece and for "seeing" the crisis.

wildpurplesage-15 karma

I'm thinking about your insights as to how important it is for us to be working not just to further our own careers, but to break down barriers for the women who will come after us. What is the most important thing you think women in the film industry can do today to work toward equality and open up opportunities for women of future generations?

Original_Six-6 karma

Victoria here: The most important thing for all of us to do is to NOT accept the status quo. Also, women must help other women. Women who can, must hire other women. Also, push for diversity casting.

VarianceFilms-16 karma

Hey there- I run a small indie distributor, and one of the things I notice the most is that, in an industry full of liberal people, there's the thing that happens where everyone tends to agree there's a problem BUT everyone thinks they're not any part of the problem. This, of course, is rarely true.

So my question is- how can good-intentioned people who may not be aware of their internal bias help out the cause?

Also- Lynne- TESTAMENT wrecked me- amazing work. Anyone who hasn't seen it is missing out.

Original_Six-1 karma

Lynne here - thank you! "Testament" still makes me weep... Good intentions or not, the fact is there are a finite number of director assignments (especially in tv.) Men who have always gotten the jobs, now stand to lose many of them to women. Tough. Good-intentioned biased people need wiser friends.

sadiemagoo-19 karma

How impactful is our popular media (film & television in particular) on its audience? Are those involved in the production responsible for the representations of women they promote (or alternatively ignore?).

Original_Six-4 karma

NELL HERE.... Most of Hollywood is a huge propaganda machine that maintains the status quo. A lot of this is an unconscious "gentlemen's agreement" to not rock the boat -- bolstered by inherent sexism and racism. This is very apparent now when we look back to TV made in the fifties and we see how women were sex objects and housewives and people of color were servants or criminals. WOW! It seems so extreme in those movies but don't be fooled. Now there is a lot of the same thing on tv.

Thankfully there are now amazing alternatives to those stereotypes. And those are created by people who do feel RESPONSIBLE to push through to more realistic characters. And those shows are popular.

I wish more people would wake up and look around and reflect the real world when they create films and tv shows.

keiryy-21 karma

Why did the upswing for hiring women directors stop in 1995?

Original_Six3 karma

Joelle here. There were a combination of reasons. First, the DGA lawsuit was dismissed on a technicality. Between 1985-1995 the statistics soared. The attention to the issue dissolved because people thought it was solved. Unfortunately between 1995-2005 people realized the problem was not solved because the statistics flat lined. Around 2007 the DGA began its diversity task force which still hasn't solved the problem. So here we are-21 years later... no change.

AliceWasFirst-6 karma

Could the cessation of the rise in female director employment numbers have occurred in 1995 because of changes in the DGA Diversity program that same year? In 1994, Jamaa Fanaka founded the African American Committee, in 1995 Jay Roth was hired at the DGA to get Jamaa Fanaka kicked out of the Guild, and in 1995 new DGA diversity head, regina Render was hired. 1995 was the year Paris Barclay began to get very involved in DGA Diversity. Could these events have contributed to the flat-lining of female director jobs?

Original_Six1 karma

Joelle here. This question seems to contain its own answer.

keiryy-14 karma

Thanks! Do you think the current attention focused on the problem will be enough to jumpstart more change again?

Original_Six-3 karma

Nell here... Boy, I sure do hope so. These are huge cultural movements and it seems Hollywood is lagging way behind many other industries. As Maureen Dowd said in her huge NY Times magazine article about women directors of a few weeks ago.....Hollywood is crippled by sexism like Saudi Arabia and the Catholic church. I do hope Hollywood will move faster than some of these monolithic institutions. If you have white men [30% of the population] taking 90% of the directing jobs and leaving out all women [50%] and men of color [20%] they are in a sweet spot and they will defend it. On the other hand we could have a lot more good movies if the talent pool was NOT drawn from only 30% of the total population. So lets all keep being active to include more woman makers and stories!

sempercrescis-21 karma

Have any of you experienced retribution for your lawsuits? If so, how?

How has sexism been so effective at removing women from directorial roles?

Original_Six0 karma

These are two different questions. Re: retribution. Victoria says: I was never punished for my activism, in fact, it made me stronger.
Nell: Not that I know of. Lynn: My regret is that the lawsuit was never tried in court so we couldn't go for 'goals and timetables'. Joelle: Yes, I was told by one of (liberal) Norman Lear's show runner that I would never work for their company.)

4and20blackbirds-24 karma

How do you feel about how much progress Hollywood has made in hiring more female directors?

Do you ever wish you did things differently?

Original_Six-10 karma

Nell here. Back in the 70s I used to think I was born 20 yrs too soon....when the stats were zero. Now the stats are only around 7%! STILL SO SLOW!!! We are still pushing against a very sexist Hollywood establishment. So now I think I was born 50 years too soon. I want to keep active because it is so slow and I see SO MANY wonderful women directors who are struggling. We can all be activists:......Seek out and support films and tv directed by women and which have main characters as women. Lots of good stuff there.

elenajaya-26 karma

what advice do you have for younger women filmmakers who want to carry on your efforts? what's different about the fight now, compared to the '70s and '80s?

Original_Six-1 karma

Victoria here: The world has changed. But basic truths remain. Change happens when the haves are forced to share. That is brought about in many different ways: Constant protest, demanding accountability, legal assaults. Entry level positions (episodic tv) are still very bad for women. Make your own film and be your own Hollywood via your cell phone (camera) and computer (editing and distribution). Just remember- you are supported by all woman of good will.

IdaLupino-27 karma

In the late 70s when you started organizing within the DGA, how did the men who ran the Guild react? Had they ever seen a woman director before, let alone a group that wanted to change the status quo?

Original_Six-1 karma

Joelle here. At first the DGA Directors Council and National Board (all men) were very hesitant. Despite knowing Ida Lupino and Dorothy Arzner as active DGA members. Many of the male leaders didn't understand what we were talking about. They were completely unconscious about discrimination. After we presented overwhelming statistics they started truly listening. Several of the male leaders Gil Cates, Arthur Hiller, Jack Hailey Jr., Boris Sagal, Mel Brook for example absorbed the message and understood the need for equal employment opportunity. This was spearheaded by Michael Franklin the National Exec. Director who set the tone and philosophy of the DGA. These men were progressive men who championed us and our message. They pushed through the DGA's commitment to support us. I think they were surprised to see an organized group of people who were thoroughly prepared with not only research but substantive responses to their questions. We parried every argument with content. They were impressed with us and wanted to get on board with the moment we created.

AliceWasFirst-28 karma

Victoria Hochberg-- I have long wondered how minority males were brought into the DGA lawsuit for women Guild members? How did that effect the suit going forward? What were the ramifications going forward? And finally, is that why women are still clumped with minority males in DGA-Studio Diversity programs?

Original_Six-1 karma

Victoria here;

The DGA Women’s Committee had spent a year gathering statistics and had presented our findings to the Guild’s National Board. The Guild then spent another year attempting to get the studios to hire women, to no avail. Finally, the Guild decided to sue on behalf of women. Minority males wanted to be included in the suit but needed to gather their statistics. The women agreed to wait until the minority males had caught up, which took another year. By that time, Reagan was elected and had appointed a judge who threw our case out. I’m not sure about the recent clumping. The Guild itself separates out minority males, minority females, and Caucasian women in its yearly report re: hiring.

anchsk-29 karma

Does Hollywood close the door to women directors, or are some women directors choosing other paths because the industry route too hostile/difficult?

Original_Six-7 karma

Joelle here. Women directors often need to work in other industry fields to pay the bills or fulfill their creative expression. Victoria and Nell write. I became a non-fiction producer and post production producer. I adapted my organizational and leadership skills to “midwife” other people’s directing accomplishments. The level of "hostility" depends on what production company you are talking about. Producing was a more woman-friendly avenue for others and myself.

sadiemagoo-30 karma

Hi there. I'm Sadie, a masters student writing a thesis on comedy as a venue for feminist activism, focusing on sitcoms and sketch comedy programs from the mid 60s to late 70s. I was curious as to the role comedy has played in the projects you have tackled. Have you found comedy to be a functional avenue to address female-focused issues and advocate for change? Or, no?

Original_Six0 karma

Victoria here: I do believe comedy is a lively way to show how absurd certain stereotypes and accepted cultural practices are. It's no coincidence that there are now several women who either have their own show, host Awards shows, star in movies-- all strong, mouthy women who are wildly talented and hilarious.

wildpurplesage-34 karma

I am a woman trying to break into TV writing. I was very moved by Syme's piece, and specifically the story of those of you who have written so many screenplays that were ultimately never funded. Is there anything you might do differently if you were trying to break into the business today? Do you believe the sexism at the top is still nearly as insurmountable?

Original_Six-2 karma

Nell here..... I believe at the top it is really tough but there are a lot more outlets now [then there was only ABC,NBC,CBS,PBS and 7 major studios.] Now it is much more spread out and many doors to wiggle through and do satisfying things --especially in TV. I used to make lists of every show and who to contact and then go contact them. If you want a salary of $20 million that's harder.

Looking back I think I was writing those screenplays because I wanted passionately to make those films. I understood that "spec" scripts didn't get made very often but at least it was a way to meet people and be considered as writer and/or director. That didn't work very well either. Most of the fiction work I got "for hire" was from PBS. Being a government agency they were less discriminatory. So time to activate the ERA again. Or something. What? Ask ACLU how to help their lawsuits?

Also PBS no longer makes many independent fiction pieces. Maybe they could be pressured to start that again. Especially with cheaper budgets now possible.

A BIG plus now......people are more aware. Women can use this awareness as a psychological weapon internally and externally. Keeping this awareness alive is a job for all of us. Keep pushing.

Right now I am turning those wonderful unproduced screenplays about girls and women into novels.

dianaemmeline-44 karma

Diana here. Your efforts were directly aimed at changing the Hollywood institution's hiring practices. What do you think of a shift in focus to ACTORS as, at least partly, responsible for changing the Hollywood landscape?

Original_Six-12 karma

The lack of parts for women is a huge problem that reflects the fact that most Hollywood films are written by, for and about mainly white men. Women can be wives, mothers, girlfriends and victims of violence. We applaud any demand by actors (both male and female) that Hollywood must reflect the real America.

DrunkleDick27 karma

Doesn't the market decide what films are made? If movies "written by, for and about mainly white men" are the most successful then doesn't it make sense that that's what movies get made?

I'm all for different movies being made, but Michael Bay making a movie about CGI robots and explosions doesn't reflect the "real America" and it's going to outperform almost anything else unfortunate enough to open on the same weekend.

Is it really discrimination, or are filmmakers just going with the formula that nets them the most profit?

Original_Six-10 karma

The market does decide what films are made. And are you aware that the ticket sales for films about women are huge? Unfortunately, each one is considered a 'fluke'. Marketing and distribution are mainly controlled by men.

AliceWasFirst-96 karma

Next week is the UN Commission on the Status of Women to be held in New York. Do you think now is an auspicious time for women directors to make a demand for 50/50 BY 2020 employment? Do you think 50/50 BY 2020 is viable in Hollywood?

Original_Six34 karma

Lynne here - Among Chris Rock's most brilliant comments on the Oscar telecast: "When your gramma is swinging from a tree, don't worry about who won best cinematographer.... etc." The UN Commission should be concerned with saving women's lives, ending honor killings, female mutilation and voting rights. AND ... 50/50 by 2020 is Science Fiction.