Director, producer, and writer Ava DuVernay has some advice for Hollywood: say “yes.” Specifically, say yes to women. In a heartfelt Twitter thread, DuVernay expanded on an ongoing message about the necessity of consciously creating opportunities for women in the film and television industry.
“Here are the 25 women directors who helmed #QUEENSUGAR over our three seasons,” she wrote, attaching a photo with all 25 women’s headshots lined up. Queen Sugar, created by DuVernay and executive produced by the powerhouse all-woman team of DuVernay, Melissa Carter, and Oprah Winfrey, kicked off its third season last month. Season 3 continued the show’s trend of featuring only women in the director’s chair — a Hollywood rarity.
“For 21 of them, it was their first episode of television,” DuVernay continued. “They’ve since gone on to direct for many shows. They just needed a first YES. To my fellow EPs [executive producers], as you staff up for fall, consider saying YES.”
Here are the 25 women directors who helmed #QUEENSUGAR over our three seasons. For 21 of them, it was their first episode of television. They’ve since gone on to direct for many shows. They just needed a first YES. To my fellow EPs, as you staff up for fall, consider saying YES. pic.twitter.com/cQm0Gi00xV— Ava DuVernay (@ava) June 7, 2018
In the same thread, DuVernay underscored how first opportunities enable a future. These women are so obviously qualified, committed to their craft, and tenacious in their hustle. But to DuVernay’s point, that first “yes” is vital. A “yes” means access to everything from resources to clout to public exposure, especially in an industry that defaults to men both on and off camera.
After directing for Queen Sugar, these women have gone on to work on other high-profile TV projects. Tina Mabry went on to direct episodes of Dear White People, Insecure, and Pose. Kat Candler has since directed for Being Mary Jane and 13 Reasons Why. Neema Barnette helmed episodes of Luke Cage and Blindspot. So Yong Kim tackled American Crime, Transparent, and Halt and Catch Fire. The list of talented women and popular television continues.
Other series that #QUEENSUGAR directors have gone onto direct: American Crime. Underground. Scandal. Grey’s Anatomy. Power. Ozark. Transparent. 13 Reasons Why. Insecure. Luke Cage. Greenleaf. Dear White People. Black Lightening. Love Is. Agents of SHIELD. Survivors Remorse. Star.— Ava DuVernay (@ava) June 7, 2018
DuVernay’s message is also pretty strategically timed, as she makes clear in her initial tweet. It’s pilot season, after all, the annual time of year where the television industry makes headlines as schedules are shuffled around, shows are cut and picked up, and studios are looking for new ideas and talent to green light.
DuVernay wants to give women a chance to fill those roles and make their mark in the industry. With a noted disparity between the number of women in the audience and the number of women actually creating our favorite shows, she really does make a very good point.