In his Equity in Entertainment award acceptance speech Murphy said, “Despite the population of this country being around 52 percent female, only 15 to 17 percent of the working television industry directors are women. As a business practice, this should make no sense to us. Around 65 percent of the decisions made over what is watched and consumed in our country and around the world are reportedly made by women. How has this [disparity] been allowed to be accepted and tolerated for so long?”
He started off his acceptance speech by apologizing to all of the women in the room for not doing better and admitted that he was part of the problem. Murphy talked about directing one of the episodes of his show American Crime Story: The People v. O.J. Simpson entitled “Marcia, Marcia, Marcia”. Murphy’s epiphany about the film industry came when the woman who was supposed to direct the episode called two weeks before production saying that she thought she broke her knee and wouldn’t be able to come in. He decided it would be easier if he just directed the episode instead of finding another director.
Murphy admitted that he felt ashamed by this decision. He believed that it was important for a woman to direct the episode because it showed a feminist, lawyer, and single mom dealing with sexism and misogyny. He said, “I have always had female directors on my shows, but why here didn’t I feel I had a roster of women around me who I could turn this important episode over to? Why weren’t these women on speed-dial? Why did I make the choice that was easier for me, but not for the material, or the world in general?”
In 2016, Murphy launched the Half Foundation. The foundation works through Ryan Murphy Productions, which is an extension of 20th Century Fox Television. In an interview with the American Film Institute (AFI) he said, “I changed the rules of my entire company. Fifty percent of all directorial jobs from now on will be women and people of color. That includes gay people. That includes everybody. You’ve got to empower people who don’t have the resources to do it.”
Not only will the foundation work to include everyone, it will also provide a mentorship program for those who wish to share their stories. Murphy realized that the only way to create change is to speak out about something you see that is wrong and then make the change. According to the Hollywood Reporter, “Murphy has already more than delivered on his promise, with 60 percent of his directing gigs going to women. His stats far exceed the industry standard 17 percent.”
At the end of his acceptance speech, Murphy challenged everyone to start making changes. He said, “What I have learned is if you have power and you want to bring positive change, everyone will conspire to help you do that. But you have to speak up, hire people that don’t look like you and don’t share your point of view.”
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