Meet Director Tina Cesa Ward
“I only wanted to direct film. But the day I decided to try something different, a new medium, is when everything changed for me.” – Tina Cesa Ward
Tina Cesa Ward credits Spike Lee’s DO THE RIGHT THING with waking her up “to what a movie can be.” Until then, Ward was only familiar with Hollywood blockbusters, and didn’t realize that there were independent films with important characters rarely seen on the big screens. Inspired by the likes of Ingmar Bergman and television shows like BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER, Ward knew she wanted to be a director.
Early on in her career, Ward “never thought there were obstacles” to being a female director, but looking back, she admits that she was just “blind to them.” After her successful series ANYONE BUT ME, she stopped getting work, all while watching as her male counterparts with less success got hired for female driven work. It became clear that “even if you are successful, women still have to work just as hard after success to prove themselves and convince others to hire them.” Part of the reason might be, Ward speculates, “that women directors with great skill and credentials don’t have the representation needed to get in line for those directing jobs. So, that leads me to believe there is a big problem on the agent/manager level.” Since agents and managers are sort of the gatekeepers to the industry, Ward suggests they “need to be active and open to talking to women directors and getting them work.”
However, being a working female director doesn’t just fall on the shoulders of the agents and managers. A lot of it has to do with being flexible and open to other mediums. Ward says, “I’m someone who grew up wanting to be a film director and of course, like most of us was very snobby about it. I only wanted to direct film. But the day I decided to try something different, a new medium, is when everything changed for me.” After opening herself up to episodic on the web, Ward started working consistently and felt great about the work she was directing. “Had I not taken the leap of faith…I wouldn’t have accomplished what I’m so proud that I have.”
While being successful can mean different things to different people, Ward has learned that it’s important to understand what “success” is to you. “Whether it’s directing a blockbuster, winning awards or getting two million views on an episode, it’s important to know what success looks like to you. Not that it can’t change, but sometimes just knowing that you’ll feel good about what you’ve done if you get two million views on an episode can ease the stress of an already tough field to be in.”
Ward says knowing what success as a director means to you, “will help you enjoy the privilege of telling stories to an audience that is listening.”
Ward is excited to be releasing a limited series comic book later this year called DELEGATES. She’s been working on it for the last 18 months. A “fun sci-fi political adventure” with a female lead set mostly in Africa, Ward and co-writer Bin Lee are very proud to bring characters to comics that are not normally seen in that medium.
She is also continuing her work as the Chair of The International Academy of Web TV. After several months of working to merge the IAWTV as part of the The Caucus for Producers, Writers and Directors, Ward is happy that the deal is now done, leaving her open to focus on her first love: directing.
Directing-wise, Ward is currently developing some exciting new shows for the web and TV with “one of the leaders in digital production.” She hopes to be able to talk more about them soon, but in the meantime, her passion to help women in the industry continues to inspire her to walk into pitch rooms looking to bring more female characters to digital and TV, so then “I can hire more highly trained women to bring it all to life.”
Follow Tina Cesa Ward on Twitter @tinacesaward for updates on all her upcoming projects.