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Directors Guild President Paris Barclay on Academy Rule Changes: Treats a ‘Symptom,’ not the ‘Root Cause’

Directors Guild President Paris Barclay on Academy Rule Changes: Treats a 'Symptom,' not the 'Root Cause'

Barclay, a prolific television director, had stern words for Hollywood’s “‘old boy’ network and word-of-mouth hiring,” calling on executives to offer a clear plan for employing more diverse talent rather than vague promises to change. “Statements, statistics, pleas, and calls for action have done little to
move the needle,” Barclay writes, describing structural inequalities as an “industry plague.”

READ MORE: “Academy Members React to Rule Changes to Deal with Nominations Controversy” 

The news comes as the dramatic changes to the Academy’s membership rules, announced Friday following sharp criticism of this year’s lily white Oscar nominees, continue to reverberate through Hollywood and beyond. While seeking to double the number of women and people of color in the Academy by 2020, the body will also rescind voting privileges from members who haven’t worked within the last decade. (Those who have worked for a span of three decades after becoming members, been nominated for an Oscar, or won a statuette will retain lifetime voting privileges.)

Supporters of the move, including Ava DuVernay and Spike Lee, have praised the changes as a step in the right direction, while echoing Barclay’s claim that the whitewashed Oscar nominations are the symptom, not the cause, of the industry’s diversity problem. Others, including Academy members who stand to lose voting privileges, have condemned the new rules as unnecessarily punitive. Some have used more incendiary language, including one anonymous member who told the Hollywood Reporter that “It’s f—ing knee-jerk liberalism without taking into consideration what is fair.”

READ MORE: “The Academy’s Diversity Problem Is Complicated” 

“I read [Barclay’s] statement and I completely agree with what he
says,” said Marie Therese Guirgis, head of documentary at Brett Ratner’s RatPac Entertainment, who is not an Academy member. “This diversity issue largely starts at the hiring stage at the agencies [and] the production companies. It’s a big problem, when you walk in there is a
tremendous lack of diversity. It’s not overt conscious racism. People… hire people like them and it repeats itself — who they feel comfortable
with, shoot the breeze [with] about where [they] went to college and grew up. It’s a class issue as
well as a race and gender issue. He’s right on.”

The DGA itself has been criticized from within its ranks for not taking sufficient steps to promote the expansion of opportunities for female directors. Maria Giese, whose contact with the ACLU helped spur the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s ongoing investigation of gender discrimination in the film and television industries, wrote in a blog post in March 2015 arguing that by-laws adopted by the Directors Guild were intended to “silence” the activism of the DGA’s Women’s Steering Committee.

READ MORE: “Feds Launch ‘Historic’ Investigation of Gender Discrimination in Hollywood” 

“Upon close reading,” Giese wrote, “it became evident that the new By-Laws
would weaken the WSC by moving it away from its original intent of political
action for women in the US entertainment industry.”

Among Barclay’s suggestions for industry-wide changes are the commitment of additional resources to discovering and training a wider range of filmmakers, and the implementation of rules to make the hiring process more transparent and more fair. 

Read Barclay’s full statement below: 

Statement from Directors Guild of America President Paris Barclay

The current Oscar controversy has put a spotlight on a
condition that has long shamed this industry: the lack of women and people of
color across all aspects of opportunity and employment. The Directors Guild
believes that the industry and the community should be responsible for telling
all people’s stories and reflecting the diverse lives we lead.

Many times, with the best of intentions, a subject that is a
symptom of this industry plague, but not the root cause, is targeted. The
Academy’s decisions – to broaden its leadership and membership, and to limit
voting rights for those no longer active in the industry – are important
actions and may lead to greater acknowledgement of more diverse films and
people who make them. But this alone will do little to create more choices and
get more films and television made that reflect the diversity we all

Statements, statistics, pleas, and calls for action have
done little to move the needle. It is time to be clear – structural changes are
needed. Those who control the pipeline and entryway to jobs must move beyond
the “old boy” network and word-of-mouth hiring. They must commit to
industry-wide efforts to find available diverse talent that is out there in
abundance, or to train and create opportunities for new voices entering our
industry. Rules must be implemented to open up the hiring process and rethink
the idea of “approved lists.”

A small handful of executives had spoken of their intentions
to improve – none have put forward a clear plan of action. Only when those who
control the pipeline decide to individually, or jointly, take concrete action
will we see significant change.

This Article is related to: News



Though I agree that changes are needed in the Academy, this notion of expanding the acting categories is patently nonsense. It’s the actors who nominate actors, presumably the most integrated of all the guilds, and yet they still could not nominate Idris Elba (who should have been nominated, and, in my opinion, won). Perhaps it is the Actors Guild that needs whittling. It is not a secret that SAG-AMPAS members have a lot of strange bedfellows who are resistant to change.

That said, and separate from the race question, my fear is that the continued suppression of out actors (including transgender) will continue, regardless of the upcoming changes–perhaps even worsen. Lets not forget that not once has an openly gay actor ever won an Academy Award. This year, actors like Lily Tomlin, Ian McKellin, Sarah Paulson, Victor Garber, Mya Taylor, Kitana Rodriguez, Kristen Stewart, etc,. were relegated to the after-thought category. Clearly not consider potential nominees at all.

I lived in Los Angeles for two years, but I am a Torontonian, and my experience has convinced me that the biggest suppressors of gay/transgender people are Blacks, or in your neck of the woods, African Americans. In my homeland, Canada, I do not experience the out-right hatred, repulsion and disgust by Canadian Blacks that is visibly, aggressively shown by Blacks in America towards gay/trans people. In fact it is Disneyland in Toronto compared to American cities. The 2005 Oscar upset that the film Crash (ironically, in hindsight, written/directed by Canadian Paul Haggis) made over Brokeback Mountain was a shocking reminder where gay/transgender people were on the Hollywood Totem-Pole. And one need only remember Prop 8 which was largely passed because of the over 90% of Blacks who were against gay marriage (gay anything I would suggest).

So forgive me if I am a little apprehensive if there is a mass flood of Blacks into the voting academy, which is already homophobic. It surely will be great for them, and their closeted members, but I think it will also result in further marginalization of gay and trans people.

D Adair

Hmmm…. No comments. I often find many, many valid points from the readers. Does this mean that this issue has already become ‘yesterday’s news’. Shonda Rimes made a crucial point about her mission to make television that reflects reality the way she sees it. Bravo! So many talented artists will see the day that their labors and skills will be appreciated by audiences seeking more from this industry. See the story about film buyers scratching their heads about Netflix and Amazon. The modern and diverse opportunities for distribution will soon surpass in quality the crumbling studio formulas of top-heavy, no-risk tent poles that turn filmgoers away the high priced theater experience. We must put our $s where our mouth is and support these artists, as well. That’s what will ultimately make the difference.
$17 mil for BIRTH OF A NATION! Congrats Nate Packer on your brilliant effort!

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