Together We Rise: A Moderated Panel Discussion on Hiring Diverse Directors

Together We Rise: A Moderated Panel Discussion on Hiring Diverse Directors

November 20, 2019 A DGA Women's Steering Committee Event

DGA members and invited guests gathered on November 20, as the Women’s Steering Committee (WSC) presented the informative and inspirational event, Together We Rise: A Moderated Panel Discussion on Hiring Diverse Directors. Held at DGA Headquarters in Los Angeles, the evening featured a conversation with Directors and industry professionals regarding diversity initiatives and hiring strategies to promote inclusion in the industry.

The evening kicked off with a welcome from WSC Co-Chair Liz Ryan who reminded the attendees that the Guild has been engaging studios, networks and producers to be more inclusive in their hiring practices for over four decades, she added, “The DGA’s diversity efforts originated with the creation of the Women’s Steering Committee in 1979, when six female members of the Guild — Susan Bay, Nell Cox, Joelle Dobrow, Dolores Ferraro, Victoria Hochberg and Lynne Littman — convened to research the facts surrounding employment opportunities for women directors. Therefore, it seems apropos that on the 40th Anniversary of the WSC, we take time to discuss diversity efforts within the industry.”

After thanking WSC Activities & Events Subcommittee Coordinators Heather Cappiello and Suzanne Stanford for their work in putting this event together, Ryan introduced the evening’s panelists: Directors Anya Adams (The Good Place), Hanelle Culpepper (Star Trek: Picard), Carrie Havel (What Just Happened??!) and Tom Verica (The Umbrella Academy); and FX Networks Executive Vice President of Current Series and Productions, Jonathan Frank; and the event moderator, DGA African American Steering Committee Co-Chair Salli Richardson-Whitfield (Altered Carbon).

“Long before our greater cultural movement on diversity, the DGA for decades has pushed industry employers to adopt inclusive hiring practices,” said Richardson-Whitfield. “In 2014, the DGA achieved the requirement that all of the major TV studios must maintain or establish a Television Director Development program focused on diversity. After years of resistance, we’re finally seeing measurable change. Just this week, the DGA released a new report which found that — for the first time in history — nearly a third of all TV episodes were directed by women. Also for the first time, half of all new TV directors were women. There’s still work to do. Today, we’re here to talk about what has been working and how we, as an industry, can harness that momentum to create more opportunities and lasting relationships.”

Starting the conversation with FX Networks’ Frank, Richardson-Whitfield asked how their diversity programs are focused on creating and fostering long-term directing careers and how the network pushes its current executives to discover untapped talent. Culpepper revealed how she parlayed her past experiences in a diversity program into success as a director. Adams shared how she was able to move from 1st AD to Director and the dedication and the commitment required to maintain that successful transition. Verica was able to give a window into the Producer-Director perspective and discussed the key attributes he looks for when hiring a director and her/his team; and how he discovers new talent and prepares them to find ongoing success. Havel explained how she broke into the FLTTA world and her transition from Associate Director to Director.

The panelists all took a hand in exploring other topics such as: challenges newer directors may face as they move into episodic television and what initiatives are on the horizon to ensure further inclusion behind the camera.

The Together We Rise panel discussion was followed by a networking reception in the Atrium celebrating the Committee’s 40th Anniversary.

About the panelists

Anya AdamsAnya Adams
A DGA member since 2003, Adams recently wrapped on the pilot and second episode of the Netflix upcoming drama, Ginny & Georgia. Her other directorial credits include episodes of Black-ish, Single Parents, Fresh Off the Boat, The Good Place, Charmed, Bless This Mess, GLOW, American Princess, Speechless and the short, Lemonade Mafia.


Hanelle CulpepperHanelle Culpepper
Culpepper was selected for AFI’s prestigious Directing Workshop for Women (DWW) where her short, A Single Rose, won numerous awards. Her filmography includes the features Within and Murder on the 13th Floor. After participating in NBC Universal’s Directing Initiative, she helmed episodes of multiple series including: Parenthood, Counterpart, Mayans M.C., Criminal Minds, Grimm, American Crime, The Flash, Gotham, and NOS4A2. In 2019, Culpepper was chosen to direct the pilot for Star Trek: Picard, making her the first woman to launch a new Star Trek series in its 53-year history. She has been a DGA member since 2012 and currently serves as an Alternate to the DGA National Board and a Co-Chair of the WSC.


Jonathan FrankJonathan Frank
As Executive Vice President of FX Current Series and FX Productions, Frank oversees all facets of day-to-day production for FX Networks’ original programming slate. Series under his purview include Y: The Last Man, The Old Man, Taboo, Snowfall, Mayans M.C., Mr. Inbetween, Atlanta, Better Things, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Archer and the limited series franchise, American Horror Story. He also oversaw production on many of FX Networks’ acclaimed legacy series including The Americans, Damages, The League and Wilfred.


Carrie HavelCarrie Havel
Havel is a multi-camera television Director and Associate Director with over a decade of experience on some of Hollywood’s most successful unscripted franchises. In addition to her directing work on the alternative series Bring the Funny and What Just Happened??!, her other directing credits include: Talking Dead, The Joel McHale Show with Joel McHale, Unapologetic and Shark After Dark Live. Havel joined the DGA in 2008.


Tom VericaTom Verica
A member of the DGA Diversity Task Force, Verica has directed episodes of Grey's Anatomy, Private Practice, The Mentalist, Harry's Law, Boston Legal, Ugly Betty, American Dreams, Body of Proof, No Ordinary Family, The Cleaner, Army Wives and Dirty Sexy Money. He serves as executive producer and head director on For The People and acts opposite Viola Davis in Shonda Rhimes' hit, How To Get Away With Murder. He executive produced and directed on Scandal during its seven-year run. Verica joined the DGA in 2004 and he also currently serves on the Television Creative Rights Committee.


Salli Richardson-WhitfieldSalli Richardson-Whitfield (Moderator)
An industry veteran of over 30 years, Richardson-Whitfield was best known for her work in front of the camera before she made the move into the directing chair with episodes of the Syfy network’s hit series, Eureka, and Ava DuVernay’s Queen Sugar. Her directing resume now includes such shows as Wheel of Time, Reprisal, See, Altered Carbon, American Gods, The Punisher, The Chi, Scandal, Stitchers, Lethal Weapon, Survivor’s Remorse, Shadowhunters, Dear White People, Rebel, The Magicians, Black Lightning, All American and Black-ish. Her work on Luke Cage was nominated for an NAACP Award for Outstanding Directing in a Drama Series. Richardson-Whitfield joined the DGA in 2010 and currently serves as a Co-Chair of the Guild’s African American Steering Committee.



The Women's Steering Committee (WSC) was created to advance the professional interests of its members, and to heighten their visibility and career opportunities in the entertainment industry. The WSC currently promotes diversity through sponsoring networking events, screenings and seminars, and fosters relationships between the members to provide support, mentoring and networking opportunities. The WSC’s current Co-Chairs are Maria Burton Hanelle Culpepper and Liz Ryan. The WSC Activities & Events Subcommittee Coordinators for this event were Heather Cappiello and Suzanne Stanford.

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