Female Directors Discuss the Positive Impact of Ryan Murphy’s Half Foundation

2017 has been an incredible year for female directors. Patty Jenkin’s Wonder Woman is the highest grossing domestic superhero movie of the year and one of the highest-reviewed superhero movies of all time. Sofia Coppola became the second woman ever to win “Best Director” at Cannes Film Festival for her work on The Beguiled. And Kathryn Bigelow’s Detroit is already generating Oscar buzz. The unfortunate side of these recent achievements is that it didn’t happen much sooner; women have traditionally not been offered the same opportunities as men when it comes to directing major Hollywood projects. While the successes of Jenkins, Coopola and Bigelow are promising, it is clear that more needs to be done to provide equal opportunities for women in filmmaking.

Fortunately, Ryan Murphy (the famous showrunner of American Horror StoryScream QueensAmerican Crime Story, and Glee fame) addressed this problem head on with his creation of the Half Foundation last year. In a recent profile piece, Deadline explains that the Half Foundation, “aims to have 50 percent of all directorships filled by women, people of color and members of the LGBT community and to then help with outreach efforts and provide connections for and mentors for directors.”

Here is a video of Murphy explaining the purpose of the foundation during an American Film Institute interview when it was first announced in 2016:

In a little more than 12 months, Murphy’s initiative has made numerous positive changes in the filmmaking community. Deadline reports that numerous female directors spoke at panel yesterday during FX’s TCA Day to share how the program has helped them specifically.

Alexis Ostrander had this to day about the Half Foundation: “Ryan Murphy and the Half foundation have literally changed my life… I don’t know if I’d be directing right now, and I have three episodes this Fall because they gave me my first shot.”

First shots seem to be the most difficult opportunity for female and minority directors to achieve. Maggie Kiley said that studios would often tell her: “‘We can’t be your first.’ They kept saying, ‘We’ll call when you have one under your belt.’ When I went to meet with the Half foundation, if felt like there was someone at the beginning who was willing to be your first. I felt completely ready and completely supported. Half is what has now launched me into this really exciting episodic adventure.”

Rachel Goldberg described an eerily similar situation: “Every meeting, they were like, ‘We can’t be your first.’ But I would watch my male counterparts get opportunities I wasn’t getting…” Goldberg said that Murphy explained to her how he planned to use his privileged position in Hollywood to enact change: “He told me, ‘Fifty year-old white men make changes, and I’m now a fifty year-old white man, so I’ll make changes.”

Liza Johnson stated that the problem of under-representation of women, people of color, and members of the LGBT community in director roles will not truly disappear unless studios change their way of thinking: “What does it take for a showrunner to believe that those skills translate? Or what does it take for a network to believe the showrunner? And somehow this foundation has easily streamlined that path that allows the confidence to go all the way up the food chain.”

Steph Green concluded, ““It’s true in Hollywood, you do either need an advocate or a group of advocates. This (the Half Foundation) is major change really fast. It’s advocacy and it’s power.”

Hopefully after their respective projects air this fall, Ostrander, Kiley, Goldberg, Johnson, and Green will become household names in filmmaking. Murphy’s shows are some of the most successful series on television, so the impact of his initiative will surely continue to grow exponentially the longer it runs.

Stay tuned to Horror News Network for more details on upcoming horror projects by female directors as they break!

John Evans
Staff Writer at Horror News Network
John has loved movie monsters for as far back as he can remember. He's since collected up as many comics, statues, and autographed material related to movies and music that he can get his hands on. He is particularly interested in the critical and analytical discussion of the best stories the horror genre has to offer. One of his largest works on the topic is a study on the portrayals of people with disabilities in horror films.
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