In the wake of #OscarsSoWhite and The 88th Academy Awards round the corner, now seems a GREAT time to be talking about improving diversity in Hollywood!
As any regular Bang2writer knows, B2W is always up for diversity, especially when it comes to female characters, but also marginalised voices in ALL spheres, including (but not limited to), BAME, disabled, and LGBT people – in front AND behind the camera.
So many thanks to DuSable Productions who have been in contact with this VERY eye-opening infographic, below!
As I mention in my book, Writing & Selling Thriller Screenplays, we hear ALOT about this mythical demographic of 15-25 year old white males being the most sought-after movie-going audience. However, in recent years research has shown this is NOT the case when it comes down to what’s being spent – and by whom. Time for Hollywood to reflect this?
So DO make sure you check out DuSable Productions’ current screenwriting competition: they’re seeking diverse writers for a movie project. Full details under the infographic. Good luck if you enter!
DuSable Productions has launched a screenwriting competition, seeking a writer of diversity to develop a film adaptation of Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Ira Berkow’s non-fiction book: “The DuSable Panthers: The Greatest, Blackest, Saddest Team from the Meanest Street in Chicago.”
Winner will receive $5,000 writing stipend and will develop the screenplay with the rest of the Production team. To enter, send an original screenplay to the link by March 25th, CLICK HERE.
For more information, check out www.dusableproductions.com.
I’m not sure why you believe the people viewing the films should be the ones involved in the creative process. Do you not believe that those in the power positions have worked hard to be there? I mean, some of them started back in the 50-60s with home cameras. They weren’t given the position because of what they are, they earned the position by producing movies people want to see. If Hispanics and Blacks and women go to the movies so much , then presumably they like the movies they’re seeing. After all, hard to imagine all those $1billion superhero blockbusters are not popular.
Anyway, where do these statistics come from? Quite a monumental task to gather the data for movie-goers as there’s no biometric scan on tickets. Also, seriously, African-Americans go, on average 2x / month?! On average?! I mean across the entire population?! That statistic alone doesn’t sound strange to you? Finally, I think you’d find that comic/SF geeks are the demographic that sees the most movies, on average, as they will see the same move 4-5 times and with all the superhero/action movies lately…
References are at the bottom of the infographic if you want to look the stats up, Edwin. And if you think white people just to happen to be the only ones attempting to “earn” their place in the creative process or that audiences are “perfectly happy” with what they’re offered already, then maybe you need to do some more research of your own, TBF.
Great blog post! Perfect example of this is Beasts of No Nation, hugely popular with film fans, critically acclaimed, seen by millions world-wide but with only a limited 2 week distribution in the cinemas in USA so the Oscars sadly ignored it, probably not even bothering to consider it, not realising how good it is. http://www.ew.com/article/2016/02/05/nominated-nothing-beasts-no-nation
The lack of diversity in story-telling is undermining cinema going audience numbers, driving audiences looking for the next great story to (often superior) television output and cable features like Beasts of No Nation. Of course, there are successful exceptions in cinemas, with superheroes doing well, but the cable companies are offering a wider range of stories with a wider range of characters – wide in terms of age, gender, sexuality, race, ethnicity and physical ability. The predominantly white and male film studio bosses are just not offering the stories people will pay to subscribe to. Yes, there are a lot of white men working in cable TV too, and I’ve nothing against that – all talent should have the opportunity to create the stories people want to see. But the film studio bosses have blinkers on, shutting out what they can’t imagine audiences wanting to see – non-white leading characters, older characters (particularly women), a range of female characters, ie real people on the screen, not just token gestures as ‘sidekicks’. All the while, television and cable films are offering this in greater and greater abundance. Consider the range of casting in The Wire, Breaking Bad, The Walking Dead, The Knick, etc etc, and then look at Avengers Assemble – four white guys and a white woman.
Things are slowly getting better, with Quentin Tarantino offering some great casting, and a lot of (strangely British!) black actors making it big in films. But too slowly for the audiences who are clamouring for greater diversity in story-telling.
Wow! Let me think here. Okay, maybe these numbers are correct, maybe not. When I first got wind of the protests about “Oscar’s So White”, I was annoyed. It really irks me that we must or are expected to always bend our work to accommodate everyone’s ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation to tell a story. That’s bull crap! By my name and opening comment, you would not suspect that I am anything but white. Well, you’re wrong.
We are in danger here. What are we willing to sacrifice for the sake of color or anything else? Quality of work? Because isn’t that what the Oscar’s look at?
I pulled up statistics for those of color who have been nominated and won and compared them to Hispanics. Guess what? If Latinos wanted to scream, now they would have a right because the numbers are minuscule by comparison. There has been only one Oscar Best actor win and that was in 1950! and only four nominations. Three supporting actor wins, and one was the same actor twice, Anthony Quinn! None, Zip, zero for Best female, and two for supporting roles, Rita Moreno in West Side Story and Lupita N’yong o for her role as a black woman for Twelve Years a Slave. I also looked up the % of population stats. This is how it measures up. The number of whites make up 77+% of the population, blacks are 13+% and Hispanics 17+%. based on the current US census. Now the number of blacks nominated and who’ve won far surpass the Latino numbers even though there are fewer blacks to Latino. Do blacks attend theaters more? I don’t think so. The biggest turn out I ever saw was in Tennessee (I just happened to be there visiting) and it was for a Madea film. Everyday it was packed. So, it depends on where you live and how many blacks there are in the area, but do they go as often as the above figures indicate? Based on blacks being 13% of the population, it still doesn’t measure up.
I also believe those “white” numbers could be skewed in other ways as well, because there are many Latino’s and people of other races who do not look anything but white, or list themselves as anything but white, so how would you really know? How many actors are mixed? Many.
Now if there were Black or Latino actors with the caliber of acting as Meryl Streep, for instance, who is undeniably the most versatile actor out there and was getting those parts, and still being snubbed, then everyone would have something to complain about.
I have a feature with a Latina lead, and was about to change her to a black lead, partly because of the hoopla and I still may, but at the same time, why? I’m sure there are many other writer’s doing the same thing. Then I thought of both ethnic groups or one of each. Like Neapolitan. Anyway, I’m still thinking about it.
There are also big named black writer/ director/producers who have jumped on the bandwagon of “OSW”, but why aren’t they looking for good quality material for the black population? That goes for all the other ethnic writer/producer/directors. What kind of material are you selecting that can optimize the profile of your ethnic group? What kind of story is it? And, who’s funding? Ah! There’s the rub.
WHO ARE THE BACKERS? No one can make what can’t be funded. Is a big name white star going to get more funding to make a good quality feature? Probably. So many things to consider in this equation. So before everyone points fingers. Bottom line is what sells?
Erm, there’s loads of BAME actors who have the versatility of Streep. It’s just Streep benefits from the current status quo. BAME actors don’t have equal opportunities to the same kind of roles and I’m sure Meryl Streep would confirm this, too. That doesn’t stop her being a huge talent or diminish her achievements in any way.
“It really irks me that we must or are expected to always bend our work to accommodate everyone’s ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation to tell a story.”
Nope, it’s just the implication that white people (specifically men) are “real people” whereas *everyone else* is representative of ISSUES in storytelling. But fact is, whether we want to get political or not, audiences WANT more diversity than we’re currently getting, hence the likes of #OscarsSoWhite. So you’re bang on when you’re saying it’s about what SELLS – so give the people what they want. It’s a no brainer!
Great post Lucy. (And wonderful thoughtful contributing comments.) Here is an element that may have been overlooked though: books. Hollywood has been running scared for years. Well, maybe not scared, just overly cautious and they have been relying on a ready made market by looking to bestsellers and adapting those to the big screen. – I wish I knew how that wa$ working for them.
Well said Jo! Change the players making the decisions and the decisions made will be changed. -Or so one would hope. I sat across from a rep with Will Smith’s production company and pitched a feature involving Harriet Tubman. I still wonder if it wasn’t what they were looking for or if it was that it was pitched by a white woman that garnered it a pass.
The numbers truly do say it all. Thanks for your thought-provoking comments and defence, Lucy. At the end of the day, it truly does come down to ‘lack of opportunity’, and the fact that more people aren’t taking more risks on films that aren’t white/male/straight enough. Which is weird, because the box office numbers do stack up in favour of risks, particularly in South Asian themed films. Slumdog Millionaire (half of which wasn’t even in English), Bend It Like Beckham, East Is East and The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel all stand in the top 20 independent box office UK films of all time.
This is what they did on ‘Grey’s Anatomy’: “The series was designed to be racially diverse, utilizing a color-blind casting technique.”
If you enter the ‘BAFTA Rocliffe New Writing Competition’, they will remove your name and stamp a number on your screenplay. The readers know nothing about your race, ethnicity, sexuality, age… Why can’t all screenplay competitions be like this? It’s not complicated, is it? It eliminates the need to have competitions that target specific groups in society.
I wish they would do the same with CVs – remove the personal details and just look at the experience. Surely, this isn’t difficult to do?
Simple things but they could go a long way in addressing some of the imbalance.