The recent reports about years of alleged sexual harassment and assaults by producer Harvey Weinstein, filmmaker James Toback and other men in Hollywood, coupled with the #MeToo campaign, has sparked a wake up call in the business.
The questions now become: What’s next? And how can this be fixed? One answer lies in undoing Hollywood’s entrenched hiring practices, which leave women woefully underrepresented.
Rachel Feldman is a film and television director and former head of the Women’s Steering Committee at the Directors Guild of America. In 2015, she and other women directors were instrumental in getting the ACLU and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to investigate studios for discrimination.
Feldman spoke with The Frame's John Horn about the connection between sexual harassment and gender discrimination in Hollywood.
On opportunities for women directors right now:
Things are terrible. What is happening is that there is finally a small pool of accomplished women who are working all the time, and for some reason the networks and the studios believe that they are the only women who are available. The women who are not working, who don't have representation to vet them and get them in front of the studio executives who are doing the hiring, have really no way in. And there are thousands of highly-accomplished, talented, brilliant female directors who are ready to call Action! right now, and yet there's an assumption throughout our industry that what we need to do is train new directors. Now, pipeline issues are absolutely very important. It's important to have mentorships, it's important to have some shadowing programs. But for those of us who could fill the ranks overnight, we literally could bring us to parity tomorrow — if anyone wanted — with trained, accomplished women who have masters degrees, who've been directing for years. This could happen overnight, but the industry doesn't know it.
On what the Director's Guild of America and other guilds should do about this problem:
The guild does so many things so well and so beautifully, but they are another entrenched system that is a patriarchy. While as individuals they are very smart people who've been involved in civil rights, I don't believe that these men who run this organization really have a clue as to how to make change. As a former chair of the Women's Steering Committee, I tried very hard to promote a progressive agenda for women, and I was not greeted with a friendly attitude.
On the connection between employment discrimination against women directors and the allegations of sexual assault that are coming to light now:
It's the exact same syndrome. While we are not being raped, thank God, and we are not being physically accosted, we are prevented from having careers. I'm a person, and thousands of my colleagues are women who ... have been directing for decades in a variety of different ways, and we are being excluded from making a living. This is the same syndrome.
To hear the full conversation with director Rachel Feldman, click the blue player above.