Action, she said: TV holds potential for female directors

By Lynn Elber ,AP

NEW YORK — When writer-producer Marti Noxon, ��Gone Girl�� author Gillian Flynn and a studio executive met with a potential star for the upcoming TV adaptation of another Flynn novel, the actress was struck by something unusual.

��I don’t think I’ve ever had a meeting with all women,�� Noxon recalled the actress, who typically worked in movies, commenting. ��I said, ‘Get used to it.’��

Behind-the-camera hiring both in film and TV is so statistically dismal that the American Civil Liberties Union last week called for an investigation into the industry’s ��systemic failure�� to hire female directors.

However, while the percentage of big-screen directors has slipped, TV is displaying its potential for significant change. The contrast is due in part to studios’ obsession with costly action movies that are entrusted almost exclusively to veteran male directors.

It also stems from the unique and influential role of the TV showrunner: the person who steers writing and production on a series.

Formally titled executive producers, showrunners generally come from the ranks of screenwriters. Although women are underrepresented as TV writers �X holding less than a third of cable and broadcast jobs, according to a Writers Guild of America study �X the ones who rise to the top can pull other women along.

Noxon is proof of that. Her Bravo series, ��Girlfriends’ Guide to Divorce,�� hired four female directors in its debut 2014-15 season.

��That is a conscious effort,�� she said. ��But the great news is it’s not difficult because they’re supertalented.��

The ACLU’s request for a hiring probe by state and federal civil rights agencies coincided with last week’s unveiling of freshman network series for 2015-16, a window into the current state of female hiring in TV.

New series with female showrunners include ��The Catch,�� created by Jennifer Schuur, and ��The Family�� from Jenna Bans, both on ABC; ��Crowded�� from Suzanne Martin, ��Hot & Bothered�� from Chrissy Pietrosh and Jessica Goldstein, and ��Heartbreaker�� from Jill Gordon, all on NBC; and CBS’ ��Code Black,�� with Noxon among its executive producers.

They join a field of returning shows topped by women that include ��Fresh off the Boat�� from Nahnatchka Khan and ��Secrets and Lies�� from Barbie Kligman, both on ABC.