Film Forward

One Network Is Launching A New Program That Will Get More Women Behind The Camera

"It shouldn’t be harder for our daughters to direct than for our sons."

For the 2015-2016 TV season, 91 percent of series employed no female directors and women directed just 17 percent of all television episodes. These kinds of statistics show the sad truth: that being behind the camera is still very much a man's world on TV. NBC, for one, is setting out to tackle this issue head on by fostering new talent with a new initiative.

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The news came out today during the network's presentation at the Television Critics Association summer press tour, when NBC Entertainment President Jennifer Salke announced the program, titled "Female Forward." This is the broadcaster's attempts to — in partnership with Lesli Linka Glatter, who directed the Gilmore Girls pilot back in 2000 — increase the pool of talented female directors.

"Female Forward" will give 10 women the chance to shadow an NBC series for up to three episodes with the caveat of having an in-season opportunity to direct at least one episode of the series they are shadowing. This program is set to begin during the 2018-2019 season on 10 NBC series. There are plans to expand the number of series as well as the number of female directors it includes, Deadline reports.

"It's been a collective and urgent goal of ours to identify more female directors. We strongly believe women can and should be at the forefront of telling compelling stories, and I hope the guaranteed directing component will have real impact on our shows as well as the industry," Salke said.

Glatter, for her part, said she thinks programs such as this "can actually make a difference" and are a "game-changer." Glatter, who has been nominated for five directing Emmys thanks to credits Mad Men and Homeland — and with an Oscar nomination, too — added, "It shouldn't be harder for our daughters to direct than for our sons. It should be an equal playing field."

While it is important to increase the prevalence of female directors on TV, let's also not forget that women of color are at more of a disadvantage in this realm than their White counterparts. That 17 percent statistic mentioned at the start of the article — which also shows that 81 percent of first-time television directors that year were men — breaks down to, of all TV episodes that year, 14 percent being directed by White women and just 3 percent by women of color.

There's a lot of work to be done, but it's good to see networks like NBC making attempts toward progress.

Cover image via Ron Batzdorff / NBC

The ways we watch TV and movies have evolved, and it's time for the talent in front of and behind the camera to do the same. Film Forward speaks on the initiatives to diversify the film industry and the stories it tells. New articles premiere every second Thursday of — and throughout — the month.

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