Whether or not you’re a fan of Ryan Murphy’s work (I mostly am not, although I am enjoying The People v. OJ Simpson: American Crime Story), you have to admire the man for actually taking action on the issue of women and minorities being underrepresented in Hollywood. Murphy has created “Half” as part of his Fox-based production company, which stands for making sure half of all director slots on his shows will not just be, essentially, white straight men.
Murphy spoke to THR about how he was inspired by publicist Nanci Ryder’s plea for the industry to tackle the “gender problem” during THR’s Women in Entertainment breakfast. “Nanci said, ‘People in power, you have a position and responsibility to change the industry,’ and I thought, ‘She’s right,’ he said.
According to the piece, women only make up 16 percent of TV director roles, while minorities make up 18 percent. Though Murphy was originally only focused on creating mentorship opportunities for women directors, he has since expanded that to all minorities (including the LGBT community). His Half program aims to be in place on his shows (Scream Queens, American Crime Story, and American Horror Story) by the end of 2016. He also hopes to create a database of contacts for other showrunners looking to take on this same challenge.
As part of Murphy’s efforts, Half will also be outreaching at film schools like AFI, UCLA, and USC to create mentoring partnerships, internships, and shadowing opportunities. “The industry has always been about, you come to us,” he told THR. “There’s not a lot of effort and inclusion, and I’m saying, ‘No, we’re going to go to you.’” To that end, Murphy has enlisted Dede Gardner, Nina Jacobson, Ali Adler (Supergirl), and Anthony Hemingway (American Crime Story) to sign up and be on board with the project.
Much has been said and written about recently regarding a lack of gender and racial diversity behind the camera in Hollywood, but so far, only Murphy seems to be getting down to brass tacks. “I personally can do better,” he said. Will his colleagues follow suit?
The People vs O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story airs Tuesday nights on FX.