Fair representation starts in film school production companies

On Monday, the Directors Guild of America published another analysis detailing the lack of diversity in Hollywood. In its analysis of television directors currently working in the industry, the organization found that of the 4,061 episodes of television filmed during the 2015-2016 season, only 702 females directed them. This means only 17 percent of television directing work is done by women. Sixteen percent of jobs went to men of color, while the absolute lowest number went to women of color at 3 percent (meaning Caucasians accounted for 14 percent of women directing jobs).

This isn’t news. I understand because I wrote about it last year when the DGA released a similar study and when other organizations have released their studies too. Lack of diversity is nothing new to the industry or to this column, and so it can feel a little redundant to restate.

“There’s a long road ahead for true change to be realized — because for that to happen, the pipeline will need to change at the point of entry,” said Paris Barclay, president of the DGA. “Employers will need to implement new hiring practices — from getting more people in the door and interviewing more diverse candidates.”

Both Barclay’s statement and the report urged me to think about what’s really happening in the industry, why these statistics keep repeating themselves and how students today can tackle these issue head-on. The solution must not be to simply inform employers to alter hiring practices, as this will only lead individuals to point fingers at someone other than the DGA.

In the 2014 Bloomberg documentary Celluloid Ceilings, director Maria Giese made a motion for further discussion in the DGA’s Women Diversity Committee to speak about allowing female minorities more opportunities.The DGA rejected the motion, and as a result, Giese claimed that people within the DGA metaphorically “blacklisted” her from working. I’m sure this isn’t the only case of denied motions or actions for the DGA — which has had only one female president in the 80 years of its existence. So, change has to come from elsewhere.

Next week, I will travel to Oregon to direct a short film I’ve written. While I am partly afraid to admit what I’m about to admit, I am also torn because I am so thankful to work with the crew I have. They were willing to work for reduced rates, travel a long distance and commit to the project, something I cannot thank them enough for. On the other hand, I’m frustrated.

In the last two months, I spent a lot of time searching for women to work with for this film — an excruciatingly difficult process. The crew I am ultimately using comes as a package deal — which is not uncommon — and yes, the crew is mostly men. Small production companies often work to create a team of in-house filmmakers and technicians (from production designers to gaffers to sound people) who are used to working with each other and working with producers. It benefits all parties and helps low-budget filmmakers who need things to run as smoothly as possible when they are creating something as volatile and prone to problems as filmmaking.

Don’t get me wrong — I do not have a prejudice against men, and the group I’m working with now is amazing. I completely understand their mentality of wanting to work with each other, because most of them share similar backgrounds and have known each other for years. But this opportunity has also made me reconsider my role as a woman in film school.

I do not know many female producers, nor do I know many female-centered production companies. Not to say they don’t exist, but there are definitely less women in these positions than men as I have seen from both the professional and educational levels. So, as I’m thinking about what can be done, I realize that change needs to begin here at USC, the best film school in the world. If it doesn’t begin here, where and when will it start?

Activist Maria Giese spoke to Fortune in 2015 about discrimination in Hollywood.

“Film school classes are 50-50 male and female because of Title IX,” Giese said. “Young women think this is going to be great, but don’t realize the level of bias they’re going to face in Hollywood.”

I find that perhaps this discrepancy is created by the differences in approaches between genders. Most female producers I know (or women who want to go into producing) opt for the more traditional route of interning, to assistant work to creative executive etc, while male producers tend to strike out on their own and form production companies out of school, working on low-budget projects of friends or friends of friends, rather than diving straight into the office right away.

I do admit that there is a certain level of optimism with going to classes, in which many of my peers are women. But we, as students, must face the facts and start making a change. We must stand united and create avenues for one another after we finish our education and make it into the real world.

Minnie Schedeen is a a senior majoring in cinema and media studies.  Her column, “Film Fatale,” runs on Wednesdays.