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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.

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