Calls on the Entertainment Industry to Diversify Talent on Set

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On the day Hollywood kicks off its awards season with the announcement of the 2018 Golden Globe nominees, a national nonprofit that addresses high unemployment among multicultural young adults is asking the industry to take intentional steps to diversify talent working on set, from the actors on screen to the key grips, writers and post-production professionals behind the scenes.

In its industry review “Creating a More Inclusive Creative Economy,” a pointed critique of the entertainment industry’s “homogeneous” workforce, LeadersUp cites research that shows the percentages of African Americans, Hispanics, Asians and other ethnic minorities appearing in films have remained constant since 2007. It further points to a study by University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism and the Annenberg Foundation (July 2017) examining the portrayal of gender, race/ethnicity, LGBTQ individuals, and people with disabilities in 900 films that found 70.8 percent of the characters were white; 13.6 percent African American; and 3.1 percent Hispanic. Out of 1,006 directors, 56 or 5.6 percent were African American, and only 3 were women; 30 or 3.0 percent were Asian American and 2 were women. Overall, 41, or 4.1 percent of the 1,006 were women.

The creative sector delivers $620 billion in revenue a year to the U.S. economy, employing 4.7 million people in 2015. A breakdown by race and ethnicity of employees working in off-camera careers isn’t available. But industry insiders convened by LeadersUp have shared that the lack of diversity among set and post-production workers and in the writer’s rooms is stark and widely known.

“Even as America moves toward a majority multicultural demographic, which has already happened in cities where major studios are headquartered and hire staff and cast members, the film industry’s workforce continues to be overwhelmingly white,” the report states. “The arts and entertainment world has long touted its commitment to diversity but has never actually lived up to its own branding.”

The report is the first in a series in which LeadersUp will examine barriers and seek solutions to increase participation by racial and ethnic minorities in the creative economy, which includes arts and entertainment and technology (products and design services). Talks continue around a discussion during the Sundance Film Festival, and LeadersUp will host Creative Economy Summits in 2018 in Los Angeles (June), the San Francisco Bay Area (August) and Chicago (September).

LeadersUp is based in Los Angeles, the entertainment industry’s seat of power with one of the most diverse urban populations in the world. “Yet, people of color are all but missing in behind-the-scenes careers that pay a mean salary of $48,952.52 a year,” the report states. “Film industry employees should reflect the diversity of the communities where productions and studios are located. It’s time to fling doors open to ensure that diverse talent has equal access.”

There are more than 418,200 workers within creative industries in the Los Angeles region. The Bureau of Labor Statistics expects “occupations related to arts, entertainment, sports and media to grow by 4.1 percent between 2014 and 2024 with 2.73 million people being employed in the sector by 2024, including the addition of more than 107,500 jobs.”

LeadersUp says there are two factors contributing to low numbers of diverse talent: (1) a lack of awareness among minority communities of the career pathways within this industry, and (2) very little intentionality within the entertainment industry to create on-ramps to employment for minority communities.

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