A big part of why there’s so much misogyny in society is because we keep teaching people misogyny. It permeates our culture, literature, movies, television–everything. For much of American history, the leading voices in the creation of all that have belonged to men (specifically, white men).
Trying to change that–to bring more women of all races into the rooms where movies and television programs are conceived and written–is more than simply balancing a board in Human Resources. It’s about showing television and movie viewers new characters, settings and plotlines that aren’t oriented around the “male gaze” or dominated by a perspective in which white men always run everything.
In fact, this February 2018 Guardian story paints a pretty dire picture of gender inequality in the television industry:
Creators of new shows in the 2017-18 season were 91% white and 84% male, marking a step backwards for both gender and racial diversity behind the camera, researchers with the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) reported on Tuesday. Despite modest gains in the diversity of casts in film and TV – and widespread evidence that diverse content yields box office success and high ratings – white men still occupy the vast majority of creative positions, the study found.
A couple years ago, NBC Entertainment started the Female Forward program, designed to put more women into the television director’s chair. Consider Female Forward to be a small step in the direction of gender parity.
“With only 21% of scripted television episodes directed by women in the 2016-17 season, now more than ever it’s important to provide talented female directors with the same opportunities as their male counterparts,” states this NBC webpage on the program. “NBC’s annual initiative Female Forward aims to solve that problem by giving female directors a pipeline into scripted television… In the program, selected female directors are given the opportunity to shadow on up to three episodes of an NBC series. Their experience culminates with an in-season commitment for each participant to direct at least one episode of the series she shadows.”
This year, Brenna Malloy of Los Alamitos has joined the program. Here’s an excerpt of Malloy’s bio, from her own webpage:
From Los Alamitos, California, Brenna graduated from the University of San Francisco after earning a BA in Media Studies with a minor in theater. At Chapman University, Brenna continued her education by earning an MFA in Film Production with an emphasis in directing. She was closely mentored by directors David Ward and Martha Coolidge, and shadowed Martha on episode 103 of “Angie Tribecca”. Brenna participated in the competitive Filmmaker-In-Residence program with Gary Foster p.g.a. while developing her master’s thesis film “Rocket”. “Rocket” throws the audience into the world of 1950’s dirt track racing, a world Brenna’s family history is steeped in. The film has won a Student Academy Award, an Individual Merit Award for Best Director at the Richmond International Film Festival, awards in China, the UK, and has screened in over forty festivals in eight countries including a screening at the Director’s Guild of America in Los Angeles.
In February 2020, Malloy will direct an episode of Chicago Fire (she’s in Chicago right now, shadowing the series crew, an NBC spokesperson told me). Then she’ll direct her own episode of the show, which should air sometime in late April/early May of 2020.
Click here to watch a six-minute reel sampling Malloy’s work as a director.
Anthony Pignataro has been a journalist since 1996. He spent a dozen years as Editor of MauiTime, the last alt weekly in Hawaii. He also wrote three trashy novels about Maui, which were published by Event Horizon Press. But he got his start at OC Weekly, and returned to the paper in 2019 as a Staff Writer.