This morning was The Hollywood Reporter’s Power 100 Women In Entertainment breakfast. There’s plenty to talk about from the event— Tina Fey, who dubbed the event “where the thigh gap meets the pay gap,” received the Sherry Lansing Leadership Award, and THR’s mentorship program shone a light on what powerful women have to offer— but the speech that’s getting the most attention is Ryan Murphy’s.
Murphy received the first-ever Equity in Entertainment Award. Earlier this year, he established a program called Half, dedicated to mentoring women, LGBTQ, and POC in television. Murphy also committed to hiring those same groups for at least 50% of the directing jobs on his shows. In his acceptance speech, he said that even though his shows had better hiring practices than most, surpassing the industry’s average of 17% of directing jobs going to women, he was ashamed when he realized he still wasn’t doing nearly enough.
When gearing up to shoot the brilliant “Marcia, Marcia, Marcia” episode of The People v. O.J. Simpson, Murphy was committed to hiring a female director to tell Marcia Clarke’s story. But when that director had to back out for medical reasons, Murphy himself stepped up to direct the episode.
I felt I had failed. I have always had female directors on my shows, but why here didn’t I feel I had a roster of women around me who I could turn this important episode over to? Why weren’t these women on speed-dial? Why did I make the choice that was easier for me, but not for the material, or the world in general?
And that’s where the big holes in these hiring practices are. Even when shows and producers and studios hire more diverse voices, there’s still a long way to go before things change on an industry-wide, institutionalized way. Yes, we need more women and POC hired. But we need them to be hired on the level where those communities have equal representation in the industry. We need for them to be hired at all levels, from grips to producers and studio heads— to weave themselves so widely and so deeply into the web of Hollywood that they become part of that fabric, not just patches sewn into it.
FYI: Ryan Murphy is looking for female grips. #THRwomen— Chris Gardner (@chrissgardner) December 7, 2016
Murphy spoke in his speech about the “unacceptable way.. that female directors are treated and marginalized in our business.” In musing over that 17% statistic, he tried to figure out how this had been allowed to happen. And he stepped up to own his role and pledge his dedication to doing better, for no other reason than it’s the right thing to do (and will inevitably make his work better).
I am sorry. It was my fault. I could have done better. I am going to do better. And I have no interest in sleeping with you, I just like you a lot.
In less than a year, Ryan Murphy has surpassed his own goals and has employed women to direct 60% of his shows’ episodes. Given that women are central characters on so many of his properties, good for him for realizing that hiring women on all levels of telling those stories is a smart and necessary move.
What I have learned is if you have power and you want to bring positive change, everyone will conspire to help you do that. But you have to speak up.
Check out Ryan Murphy’s full speech here: