In the lively and informative morning panel The Changemakers: Tactics for Equality and Diversity in Film and Television at the Produced By Conference at
the Time Warner Center in New York, the conversation focused on the importance of taking action and concrete ideas to ensure that more people of color and
women find opportunities in all levels of the film and television industry.
Founder, Duly Noted, Inc.; “Project Greenlight,” “Dear White People.”
Founder & CEO, MACRO
President, Gamechanger Films
“How to Get Away with Murder”
Founder & President, LTW
The report looked at 175 films, and 1,015 television shows over two years.
Lead actors: 75 % men, 25 % women
Directors: 94 % men, 6 % women
Writers: 87% men, 13% women
Television show creators: 71% men, 29% women
Lead actors: 83% white, 17% people of color
Directors: 82% white, 18 % people of color
Writers: 88% white, 12% people of color
Cable television show creators: 89 % white, 11% people of color
And perhaps what drew the loudest audience gasp from Skolnik’s last statistic:
CEO and chairs of the 18 studios: 94 % white and 100% men.
: The good news is, if there is good news, is that the audience is demanding much more of us, and certainly on television there has been an explosion of
diverse audiences on and off screen.
Skolnick asked the panel about some proud moments in their career.
In ‘Project Greenlight’ you are actually able to see an inclusive crew that looks like America. So, people watching in Middle America, for example, could
see that they have a voice and place in film.
: I’m proud of lead actress Viola Davis. We created the role together of Annalise Keating. The character is not perfect. The same is true for the gay
character, who is also not perfectly perfect. That’s not real or interesting. Viola plays the anti-hero – a character which men always do. She’s a
character people love to hate. It’s so nice not to write perfect boring people.
Skolnick asked the panel how their work has changed and how their art changed as the energy in this country has changed.
During his 15 years as an agent at WME agency days, Charles D. King recounted, “I was always the guy in the room saying, ‘Why can’t the role be this way?’”
King also emphasized the importance of making sure talent does not get pigeonholed, citing examples of director Tim Story going from directing “Barbershop”
to “Fantastic Four” and how he worked with his clients, including Terrence Howard, Michael Ealy and Paula Patton. “It was almost like the Underground
Railroad for a while.”
I don’t write ethnicity into characters. We cast colorblind. In the past, we ignored the race issue; we didn’t speak to it in the script. Viola Davis
encouraged me that the world is not colorblind. We got positive feedback for the show. We do address race and use it in strange, manipulative ways that
fits the tone in the show. The new PC is let’s talk about it (race).
What’s changed is my courage and mindset, and not accepting the status quo as gospel. When I started 10 years ago, I was told by companies; ‘Black people
don’t sell overseas’ but now I question that a lot more. That attitude is part of a system that is a self-perpetuating racist institution.
I don’t feel so alone anymore. I remember growing up in New Jersey, looking at images on television. I just wasn’t there. I wasn’t in Three’s Company, Charlies Angels, Give Me a Break — that was a mammy trope. Good Times wasn’t reflecting my
experience. I want to reflect the image of the other.
Later on, Brown added how the aftermath of the Project Greenlight flap was ‘shocking…It started a conversation. I’m grateful, it set a tone. Black Twitter
is real. Everyone kept strong.”
We need to learn how to be better allies and know when to ask questions. We’re not all done addressing these issues. We need to have honest conversations
and understand the solutions that are working in other industries.
Concluding the discussion, Skolnick asked the panel for one take away tactic to increase diversity.
I would love to have conversations over alternative distribution models.
Think about the interns and the assistants you’re hiring. That’s the way to mentor people; hire a diverse group of people. It starts there.
Live by what you’re preaching.
Stop talking about it, be about it. Whatever you’re doing, make sure it’s inclusive otherwise we don’t have any right to bitch about it
Learn the marketplace and learn the statistics. Read ‘The Ms. Factor: The Power of Female Driven Content Toolkit.’ It puts all the statistics together
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Award-winning screenwriter and filmmaker, Susan Kouguell teaches screenwriting at Purchase College SUNY, and presents international seminars on
screenwriting and film. Author of SAVVY CHARACTERS SELL SCREENPLAYS! and THE SAVVY SCREENWRITER, she is chairperson of Su-City
Pictures East, LLC, a consulting company founded in 1990 where she works with writers, filmmakers, and executives worldwide. www.su-city-pictures.com, http://su-city-pictures.com/wpblog