Will Smith became a household name thanks to his starring role as “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” but nearly missed out on being the lead in Independence Day for fear of a black lead “killing foreign markets.” The director Roland Emmerich threatened to switch studios if they did not cast Will, and the movie went on to make $817 million. Other blockbusters, such as Black Panther and Crazy Rich Asians, challenged the assumption that Hollywood films with black or Asian majority casts could not garner success in domestic or foreign markets.
A report by UCLA in 2021 found that eight of the top 10 theatrically released films had casts featuring more than 30% people of color – a significant increase from the less than 10% of films in 2020. And better yet, it’s a positive feedback loop – audiences are growing more diverse as more people from different walks of life see themselves represented on the big screen. The diversification of film roles is more prominent among black populations, but the 2020 UCLA diversity report revealed Latinx, Asian, and Native persons were still barely represented in 2018 (with all three seeing less than 5% representation in top film roles).
Things are changing for the better…, but that’s reflected chiefly ON the screen. Behind the scenes, it’s more abysmal.
The Unseen Issues
In 2020, women held 32% of studio chair and CEO jobs, and people of color overall held just 8%. Moreover, in writers’ rooms across broadcast, cable, and digital platforms, only 24% of credited writers were minorities, and minorities directed only 21.8% of TV episodes in 2018 and 2019.
This data shows that even though things look like they’re getting better, they could be improving at a greater rate – people of color and their allies must work to make sure they continue working towards this goal rather than being lulled into complacency.
Addressing the Problem
It has become increasingly important to create training and education opportunities for communities of color to become participants in creating and have ownership of their representations in the film industry.
Several roadblocks prevent people of color from exercising greater creative control in Hollywood. There is also a lack of opportunity for people of color to enter various industry careers and a lack of exposure for those who don’t know they can seize opportunities in Hollywood (or don’t know how to).
The goal is to train a diverse group of people to take advantage of opportunities to amplify diverse voices without limiting them to scant BIPOC opportunities. In addition to providing opportunities to learn film, access to training should prepare participants to tackle the conservative roadblocks that exist when working within the industry.
To address these problems, the Diversity Production Pro’s mission is to:
- Create programs to address and reflect the needs of diverse communities.
- Create a space for participants to experiment, ask questions, and learn more about the techniques employed in visual storytelling.
- Increase awareness of existing diversity-focused programs. From fellowships to scholarships and festivals, the DPP is exposing people of color to industry-backed opportunities.
- Create engaging mentorship programs to teach the next generation of storytellers how to tackle challenges in the industry, specific to people of color.
The Diversity Production Pro equips communities with the tools to engage in a global conversation, empowering them to amplify their unique voices and perspectives. The community hub provides a network for people who work in the film industry and are beginning or enhancing their careers with training and education courses. In addition, the DPP Community’s diverse creative, collaborative social group connects film professionals through masterclasses, workshops, networking, and more.