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Dr. Stacy L. Smith Has Fast-Tracked a Plan to Make Film Criticism Truly Diverse and Inclusive — TIFF

In a TIFF keynote speech, Smith unveils her newest study regarding the (lack of) diversity in Hollywood, and offers a plan for fixing it right now.

Dr. Stacy L. SmithWomen In Film Crystal and Lucy Awards, Show, Los Angeles, USA - 13 Jun 2018

Dr. Stacy L. Smith

Rob Latour/Variety/REX/Shutterstock

Earlier this summer, Dr. Stacy L. Smith and the USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative made waves when they introduced their newest study about Hollywood’s widespread lack of inclusion and diversity. Dubbed “Critic’s Choice?,” the study examined the demographics of critics reviewing the top 100 films of 2017, finding that 63.9 percent of those reviews were written by white men, versus white women (18.1 percent), underrepresented men (13.8 percent), and underrepresented women (4.1 percent).

Famously, that study pushed Oscar winner Brie Larson to use her Crystal + Lucy Awards speech to address the issue. Now, Smith has released a follow-up that attempts to suss out if the single year tracked in the first report was somehow an anomaly.

Spoiler: It wasn’t, and in a keynote speech at the Toronto International Film Festival Friday afternoon, Smith further broke down her findings, while also offering up solutions for her self-professed “impatient” mind.

For its very own “sequel,” the second study expanded to include reviews of the 300 top-grossing films from 2015-2017 posted on Rotten Tomatoes. The results were similar, finding that 21.3 percent of the reviews were written by females and 78.7 percent by male critics, while 16.8 percent of reviews were written by critics from underrepresented racial/ethnic backgrounds and 83.2 percent by white critics.

You can read the full report here, which further digs into statistics involving not just who makes up the current critical body, but the kinds of films they are tasked with reviewing.

Smith, who billed her data as “highly depressing,” is eager to offer solutions, including a two-pronged plan to push the industry to adopt a standard of inclusion among its critics that reflects the demographic breakdown of the groups examined in the report: white males, white females, “underrepresented” males, and “underrepresented” females. As Smith told the crowd assembled for her keynote, the national demographic breakdown for the aforementioned groups is 30/30/20/20. So how can the critical body reflect that?

First, Smith proposes that “publication outlets work with studios and make a pledge for 30/30/20/20,” adding that, “The world in which we live should match who is reviewing these films.”

Second, the rest of the industry can start using the recently announced TIME’S UP CRITICAL opt-in database, which Smith explained has been designed as to “allow studios, talent, film critics associations, and representatives to find contacts, to find critics from a variety of different backgrounds and groups.”

She added, “What’s really important is Hollywood can use this tool, [and] publication outlets and studios to build a diverse community when it comes to reviewing content.”

Later, Smith was asked by Black List founder Franklin Leonard about her hope for the next steps in this evolving discussion, to which she wryly responded, “world domination!”

Read More: Brie Larson Promises ‘I Do Not Hate White Dudes,’ But Laments Lack of Inclusion Among Film Critics

“I think what’s next is, we really need to elevate all voices in the pipeline,” Smith said. “And I don’t mean ‘pipeline’ as in ‘young, rising talent,’ I mean the pipeline in the C-suite, the studio execs, publications outlets, working in concert for three things: diversity, inclusion, and the North Star, belonging. Enough is enough. We need a strategy and we need a plan, because I am impatient, and I don’t want this to go on to perpetuity, when it could be fixed in a few years.”

You can watch Smith’s full keynote speech, plus a panel featuring a number of diverse film critics that followed her talk, below.

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