An interesting bit of news came out yesterday that back in October film industry insiders held a two-day think tank to brainstorm ways to promote the interests of women in the industry. The think tank was led by a “facilitation team” who has done similar work for companies like Google and NBCUniversal—one of the few movie studios openly dedicated to diversity (see also: Fast/Furious, Straight Outta Compton, Pitch Perfect, Trainwreck, Fifty Shades of Grey). The event was attended by over forty studio executives, producers, creatives, and agents, though the heads of the major studios were all absent. The only representative from one of the big four studios was Sue Kroll, head of distribution at Warner Brothers.
I’ve said it for years—diversity is a commitment. It takes dedicated effort to overcome the inherent biases that plague all corners of our world, not just entertainment. So it’s nice to see people making the commitment to increase diversity in the film and television industry. I’m a little disturbed by the lack of participation from the major studios, but the head of HBO Films, Len Amato—who brought Effie Gray onto Project Greenlight—and Erik Feig, co-president of Lionsgate was there, too. So was Victoria Alonso, one of the chiefs at Marvel Studios, who advocates for more diverse hires behind the scenes. So it’s not like there weren’t some heavy hitters on hand.
The Sooper Sekrit Girls R Hard Club came up with four ways to promote the interests of women in film, including “unconscious bias training”, a “gender parity stamp” to identify companies and productions working toward equality, ambassadors from the think tank who will promote these interests within their own companies, and a fellowship program to help women navigate the industry at the beginning and mid-levels of their careers.
Out of all their ideas, the fellowship program strikes me as the most immediately valuable. A lot of female filmmakers struggle to make their second film after their breakout, and they don’t get invited into the studio process the way their male counterparts do. By pairing female filmmakers with more established mentors who can advocate for them with their contacts, maybe we can start getting more women at the pitch table for Star Wars: The Next One, or Jurassic Park 17: Dinosaurs In Submarines.
It’s just weird they kept this secret. Why? The lack of diversity in the film industry has been well publicized over the last few years, with studios eating sh*t especially hard this year with things like Maureen Dowd’s fantastic New York Times expose on the issue coming out. So why act like actually trying to solve the problem is a dirty secret? A lot of people in the industry get their backs up whenever the issue of inclusion comes up because no one wants to be seen as a bad guy, but for once they’re actually doing something! Embrace it, don’t hide it. And while you’re at it, don’t forget that minority filmmakers could use more support, too.