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'Visibility Means Credibility' : Women Directors Available, Ads Say

July 18, 1986|NANCY MILLS

Saying they are tired of being perceived as invisible, a group of 111 women directors have ordered full-page ads in the trade papers Daily Variety and the Hollywood Reporter to remind the film and television industries that there are qualified women available.

"Despite rumors to the contrary, there are qualified women directors working in the film and television industry today," says the ad, first scheduled to appear in today's Daily Variety. The same ad, with a line reading "Paid for by individual members of the Directors Guild of America," will run in next Friday's Hollywood Reporter.

According to the organizers, the ad is timed to influence TV producers and network production executives now in the process of locking in directors for 1986-87 series.

"If even one woman gets a job through this ad, it will be worth it," observes Cynthia Tivers, one of the 10 women who put the ad campaign together. "We felt it was a very positive step to take at this time."

Officials of the Directors Guild of America, where affirmative-action programs for women have been promoted, refused to comment on the women's trade ad.

Tivers, who has directed episodes of "Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous" and "The Start of Something Big" and produced and directed "PM Magazine," says the ad grew out of a discussion among three women who observed to one another that people were still commenting on the dearth of women directors.

It's a reaction to the frequently heard comment, "Oh, I would have considered a woman for that project, but I didn't know there were any."

"It's so hard to believe that so many who are so knowledgeable about all aspects of this business are still unaware of the great strength we women directors represent," Tivers says.

The three women plus seven friends met a few weeks ago to explore ways to publicize all the work women directors were getting. After deciding a trade ad would be the most effective, they set about calling the 344 female DGA directors.

"We weren't able to reach everyone," Tivers acknowledges, "but given the timing and the fact that people were on location or on vacation, we managed to talk to about 60% of the women.

"Some did say no because they didn't want to draw attention to themselves in a way that might backfire. Others were producing and felt it would be inappropriate, but their hearts were with us. A few were currently in negotiations on a deal and felt it might be taken negatively on the part of the production company. They preferred to be discreet. Some simply said no."

One who said yes was Martha Coolidge, who begins directing her next film, John Hughes' "Some Kind of Wonderful," later this month. "I thought it was a really good thing to band together for the ad," she says. "I put my share in and my name to support women directors . . . Anything we can do to help is good."

The 111 participants shared equally in the cost of the two placements. Tivers said they included the "Paid for by individual members of the Directors Guild of America" line to make it clear the DGA had no financial involvement in the ad and to point up their professional qualifications.

"I've spent a lot of time around the DGA, taking classes and being involved in activities. Women are very verbal about their work. There have always been discussions among us about women directors and the difficulties we seem to face in our field. This ad is really a culmination of that," Tivers said.

Although women make up a minuscule percentage of the DGA's 7,800-member roll, there are still more of them than most of the industry's employers know.

"I would never would have guessed there were that many women directors," said Deborah Aal, president of the Leonard Goldberg Co. "I could name a handful of the more prominent ones. I think visibility is the key. Part of the way this business functions is that visibility means credibility."

The women who created the ad say one goal is to extend the visibility of women directors beyond the handful who have gained exposure through major studio movies.

"Some women do have this high visibility," said Nancy Malone, who will be directing episodes of "Dynasty" and "Hotel" this season. "I was at a University of Richmond conference a few weeks ago and people said they were becoming more aware of women directors. I asked them to name the women they could think of, and they said Susan Seidelman, Martha Coolidge and Amy Heckerling.

"It's like subliminal advertising. You think because you see a few names on a marquee, it's done and safely tucked away. Women are not there by a long shot."

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