The Q Word


Quota, that is. I don’t like the word “quota”. At least, I don’t like the word “quota” as a proposed solution to the evident paucity of female directors at the helm of studio films.

This might sound counter-intuitive coming from me, a female director. After all, why would I oppose any policy that would increase my chances of being able to pursue my interests? Do I think that I’m just that special that I don’t need any help? Heck no, I need all the help that I can get. I just don’t think that having a government-imposed quota is going to be helpful. Sure, it might get more women hired as directors, but it is also going to completely undermine their ability to lead. There will always be that resentful question hanging in the air: did she get the job because she earned it or did she just get hired because they needed a woman? And maybe she will have earned it- maybe she is the most talented director in history, but it won’t matter: the “female” will be more important than the “director”.

No one likes being told what to do, no matter how good the cause is. I once received an email telling me that I had to take a mandatory online course about sexual assault policy at the university. Mandatory. As in, a hold was placed upon my registration until I took the course. Now, in principle, I’m all for creating an environment of informed vigilance towards preventing sexual assault. And in principle I am a big believer in knowing what the process might be for handling a complex and emotionally fraught situation like sexual assault. But I was so blindingly angry at being forced through the training and having my registration held hostage until I did so that I didn’t learn a damn thing. I was so angry that I made an effort to not learn anything. I wanted to punish the people forcing me to do something that I didn’t want to do more than I wanted to learn something that might make America a better society.

I kinda feel like a quota on female directors would have the same effect.

So since I’m such a smartypants, what do I think we should do to change this trend of no female directors? I suggest an Incentive. Namely, a tax incentive. Films are made on tax incentives these days: that’s why everybody goes to Atlanta or Louisiana for production. Why not a tax incentive applicable against the money paid to a female or minority director? Or any director from a protected class, for that matter? (Or writers. Or other crew. But for the sake of this argument I shall stick with female directors for the sake of simplicity). It would need to be nationwide (unlike Production Incentives, which are state-by-state) since it would need to apply no matter where the film went for production. And it would need to be across projects of all budget level (unlike the SAG diversity initiative, which only applies to low-budget films) since it would need to be a worthwhile incentive for the studios if we want women at the head of studio films.

There are several advantages to a tax incentive: it gives producers another tool to get films made, for one thing. For another it makes it appealing- but optional- to hire a female director but leaves the decision in the hands of the producer based on the needs of the project. It doesn’t take arbitrarily take away any opportunities for men, but instead levels the playing field. If the tax incentive were a percentage based upon the pay received by the female director then it would also be incentive for that pay rate to equal that of male counterparts: the better the pay, the better the break. Just saying.

Surely I can’t be the first person to have thought of this- why isn’t this a thing yet?

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~ by Gwydhar Gebien on November 13, 2015.

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