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What's it like to be a black, female director in Hollywood?

Film director Angela Robinson arrives at

ALESSANDRO ABBONIZIO/AFP/Getty Images

Film director Angela Robinson arrives at the UK film premiere of 'Herbie Fully Loaded' at the Vue cinema in Leicester Square in London 28 July 2005.

Last week on the program, we talked about a new study out of UCLA which looked at diversity and the lack of it in Hollywood.

The report found that as lead actors in films, minorities were under-represented by a factor of more than 3 to 1. Things seem even worse behind the scenes, as film directors are underrepresented by a factor of 3 to 1. Female directors, for example, are underrepresented by a factor of 12 to 1. 

So what is it like to be an African American woman trying to carve out a career as a director? We turn to Angela Robinson, who has worked as a director and producer of projects such as "The L Word" and "True Blood."

Interview Highlights:

Is there a lack of women and people of color in Hollywood?
"Oh yeah, it's crazy. It's actually weird. It's sometimes actually shocking because I feel like I live in fairly PC universe and that's kind of how I have crafted my life, but the sexism is kind of intense in that there are often like I go days and days without seeing a black person and years and years without encountering a woman director."

Why do you think this is?
"I feel like it is kind of a perfect storm of money and power, and that the culture of Hollywood is kind of a "our kind of people" type of place, for a lack of a better word…It's one of the rare professions where you give somebody a $1 million, $5 million, $10 million, $50-100 million dollars to go make something. It's kind of a terrifying endeavor for everybody to begin with. So there's kind of a culture of fear around relinquishing any sort of power around that and I feel like people are scared to kind of go even an inch outside of their comfort zone at all, literally for class, race, gender, sexuality, like anything.

"Then you'll find things, it's really bizarre. You'll be on set and somebody will say, "Oh, we don't hire women directors." And it's not even frowned upon. It's just a fact. In 2014 they will be like, "Oh yeah, we don't hire woman directors." Or they will say, "We tried them once." And the interesting thing is that I think in Hollywood in general it's a very liberal PC place, but everybody knows you're not suppose to be racist and everybody knows you're actually not suppose to be homophobic, but weirdly sexism is still pretty institutionalized.

Do you see many gays and lesbians in the direction chair?
"Actually yes. In a strange paradox, I see all that and in many respects actually being gay has helped me in Hollywood. I was once talking to woman director… she was saying that sometimes she felt at a disadvantage being a straight woman because there was always sex on the table, like 90 percent of who you're dealing with is men…When sex is off the table when you're gay, then strangely I feel like it's easier to communicate or weirdly the men you're working with kind of ascribe a masculinity to what you're doing, which they view kind of in sync with the role of director."

How do we fix this?
"I actually think this is a conundrum, which I do a lot of mentoring especially to women directors. This is kind of my bag. The main thing is I think women have to hire other women whenever they get into power and the difficult thing, I feel like quite technically, is that often women will get a shot, but they won't get a second shot. Whereas men often will. The strange thing about directing is there is not a lot of ways to practice without spending a lot of money so you basically kind of get times at bat, but the only way to get better at it is to do it a lot and men often get a lot more chances to 'fail' than women do."

What different perspectives do women and other ethnicities bring?
"This specific example happened on True Blood last year where there was this episode I was writing and there was a character who was being created, a white guy who was really eccentric and I guess went back and wrote it as a black woman. I just changed the character because it had to be a white guy. I was just like, "Why not just make this a black woman?" And I try to do that whenever I can. Just change it."


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