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Diversifying American Cinema, Part 1

Diversifying American Cinema, Part 1

In preparation for a panel that I will be moderating next week at the Tribeca Film Festival, today I sent an email to 75 leading figures in independent film on the topic of ethnic diversity.

As I explained in the email, during a recent SXSW panel discussion on the state of independent film, NY Times critic Elvis Mitchell raised a question about the lack of new African-American filmmakers emerging since the movement led by Spike Lee back in the 80s. Sitting in the audience listening to the panel of white males tackling the topic I was reminded that ethnic diversity is a major challenge within the specialized and/or independent film industry.

Its a fact that we lack diversity at all levels of the industry: filmmakers, producers, screenwriters, below-the-line, in acquisitions, production, distribution and exhibition, development, and indeed among journalists and at editorial publications. Is that the reason for the lack of diversity in American cinema?

To the group of 75 insiders who receieved this email today, I posed a number of questions: 1) From your vantage point, what is the state of ethnic diversity within the specialized/independent film industry? Not just in films, but within companies? 2) What can be done to make ethnic diversity within independent film a bigger priority? 3) How do programs like the new Tribeca All Access help, if at all? 4) Please pinpoint a specific film from a person of color that you have worked on and offer some insight on why it did or did not succeed. What were some of the challenges that you faced? 5) Is it difficult to reach ethnically diverse audiences? Why? What recent films can you point to that have reached those audiences? 6) Are there a lack of people of color pursuing jobs at various levels of production and distribution? If so, why is that? And what can be done to encourage that?

I’ve already had a number of intriguing responses and am looking forward to putting together this article and discussing this topic at the seminar next week. More to come on this topic in the coming days.

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