In its annual report on the ethnic and gender diversity of the television industry, the Directors Guild of America in November identified Twentieth Century Fox Television as the industry leader in hiring diverse voices behind the camera. The DGA Episodic TV Director Diversity Report found that women and minorities helmed 45 percent of the studio’s 553 episodes of television produced during the 2016-2017 season, including episodes of shows such as “Empire,” “The Americans,” “This Is Us” and many more.
“I have to credit the Current team who feel personally responsible for giving more opportunities to female and diverse directors,” said Carolyn Cassidy, SVP and Head of Current Programming at TCFTV, about the report. “We’re always looking for new voices behind the camera. With the help of our production department, we educate ourselves on new diverse and female directors and aim to integrate them into the pipeline at 20th. Some of our finds this season have really elevated episodes of ‘Empire,’ ‘The Exorcist’ and ‘Fresh Off the Boat,’ to name a few. Giving these directors more chances to succeed with us is a real priority.”
Changing the Face of the TV Industry
In addition to leading the industry overall, TCFTV also hired more people of color to direct television than any other studio, with 23.3 percent of its episodes directed by ethnic minorities. The company was second only to Amazon at hiring women directors, with 28.9 percent to Amazon’s 33.5 percent. These figures combined to make the overall 45 percent. The DGA also concluded that diverse hiring increased across the industry this year to a record 22 percent, making 2016-2017 the most inclusive production season ever.
21st Century Fox is committed to supporting and developing the next generation of storytellers through programs that nurture their creativity and create a strong pipeline of diverse talent to the entertainment industry. The Fox Directors Lab (FDL), for example, was launched in 2014 to increase the number of women and minority directors working in Hollywood. The program annually recruits up-and-coming directors for an intensive three-week course that includes mentorship from directors, showrunners, and executives. Participants from past years have gone on to direct episodes of “American Horror Story,” “You’re the Worst,” “Snowfall,” “Empire,” “Scream Queens” and more.
Studio executives at TCFTV not only shepherd the talent that participates in programs like FDL but also takes active roles in shaping the conversation about diversity in Hollywood at large. Dana Sharpless, SVP, Current Programming at TCFTV; Reena Singh, VP, Current Series at TCFTV; and Jonathan Frank, EVP, Current Programming at FX all participated in this year’s DGA Directors Development Initiative, speaking on panels and serving as mentors to young directors. Ann Calfas, EVP of Labor Relations, now serves as Co-Chair of the DGA-Producers Joint Diversity Action Committee, an industry-wide body that meets several times per year to determine the best ways to support directors with diverse voices and backgrounds at the studio level.
Championing Screenwriters and Filmmakers
Twentieth Century Fox undertakes similar efforts to increase diversity behind the camera on its film projects. This year, the studio announced it would partner with the American Film Institute on the Fox Filmmakers Lab. The program gives alumni of the AFI Directing Workshop for Women exclusive access to the studio’s production, creative, and marketing executives. This past spring, the filmmakers pitched original ideas for a short film based on a Fox franchise or reboot to key creative executives. In November, 21CF Global Inclusion hosted a breakfast to honor the inaugural class of 25 female filmmakers.
The group also operates the Fox Writers Lab, a fellowship program that spans film, TV, and digital storytelling. Finalists spend 14 weeks on the Fox Lot meeting the company’s creative executives, receiving feedback on their scripts, attending master classes with writers and directors, and hearing from some of the industry’s most experienced figures through guest speaker sessions. At the conclusion of the program, the participants receive staffing meetings for current Fox series and one fellow will receive a first-look development deal to option their original scripts. Many have gone on to write for Fox series such as “Lucifer” and “Star.”
Learn more about 21CF’s company-wide diversity efforts, including its suite of programs to support women and minority directors. The 21CF Global Inclusion team is currently working to launch the 2018 edition of the Fox Directors Lab, submissions for which will open in the spring.