- Friday, Aug. 18, 2017
Amanda Marsalis and DeMane Davis—directors who made their mark in indie features and are active in commercials and branded content via, respectively, production companies Backyard and Sweet Rickey—recently extended their reach into primetime TV, helming season two episodes of Queen Sugar, the critically acclaimed series on OWN, Oprah Winfrey’s network.
SHOOT covered Marsalis’ entree into TV series (SHOOTonline, 7/11) and did a Chat Room interview with Davis (SHOOTonline, 8/8). Each director expressed their gratitude to Queen Sugar creator Ava DuVernay for giving them the chance to diversify into TV.
Marsalis and Davis follow a number of women directors who have broken into the television ranks via Queen Sugar as DuVernay has committed to female filmmakers for the entire run of the show, thus far spanning seasons one and two. Most of these helmers had little or no prior TV experience, having come largely from the indie film world. At the recent Producers Guild of America Produced By Conference in L.A., DuVernay noted that all the season one directors on Queen Sugar have gone on to be heavily booked in TV. In fact, said DuVernay, none of the season one directors were available for season two due to commitments on a wide range of projects.
Initiatives akin to that on Queen Sugar are starting to emerge. Earlier this month, NBC unveiled its Female Forward program which begins with the 2018-’19 season. It will afford 10 women directors the opportunity to shadow up to three episodes of a scripted NBC series, in advance of an in-season commitment for each female participant to direct at least one episode of the series she has shadowed.
Spearheading the initiative are NBC Entertainment president Jennifer Salke and director Lesli Linka Glatter. Salke was reportedly inspired in part by producer Ryan Murphy when she was an exec at 20th Century Fox Television. Last year at FX, Murphy founded the Half Foundation which aims to have 50 percent of all director slots on his shows filled by women, people of color and LGBT members.
The need for such initiatives is clear. According to DGA stats in 2016, only 17 percent of all episodes on broadcast, cable and streaming services were female-directed, with minority women accounting for just 3 percent.