Diversity

Hollywood’s Leading Ladies Turn Out in Full Force

 The Women in Film Los Angeles Awards

Last night, a glittering crowd came out for the annual Women in Film Los Angeles Crystal + Lucy Awards, sponsored by Max Mara, Lancôme, and Lexus. Industry heavyweights and leading ladies including Lake Bell, Jane Lynch, Katherine Langford, Michaela Watkins, and Letitia Wright turned out in full force at the iconic Beverly Hilton hotel, packing the ballroom to capacity to honor 45 years of WIF as they advocate for and advance the careers of women in the industry.

The star-studded evening featured a host of female entertainment icons such as Grey’s Anatomy’s Ellen Pompeo, who presented the Lucy Award (named for Lucille Ball) for Excellence in Television to ABC Entertainment president Channing Dungey—who most recently made headlines when she canceled the network’s Roseanne revival following Roseanne Barr’s racist Twitter comment. Beyoncé protégés Chloe x Halle performed and presented the Artistic Excellence Award to the Grammy Award–winning songwriting and production team Nova Wav, aka Denisia “Blu June” Andrews and Brittany “Chi” Coney, whose work last year included A Wrinkle in Time. And actress Alexandra Shipp, of X-Men fame, received the Max Mara Face of the Future Award.

Oscar-winning actress Frances McDormand finally shared the story behind her acceptance speech “inclusion rider” closer, which set the film world abuzz earlier this year. “A couple of nights earlier, I heard about the idea at a dinner party from agent Blair Kohan,” she recalled. Fast-forward to the awards ceremony and “in the excitement of having all those women rise to their feet and stand with me in that room, I got flustered, and I improvised—little did I know. Now I know a lot more. And I’m here tonight to take some responsibility for my actions and to restate a call to action. If I may use a sporting metaphor: If you want to go fast, go it alone; if you want to go far, do it together.”

The last award of the evening—the Crystal Award for Excellence in Features—went to Brie Larson, who used the moment to promote a new kind of inclusion rider—this one calling for more diversity among film critics. “If you make a movie that is a love letter to a woman of color, there is an insanely low chance that a female critic of color will be able to review your movie,” she said. “I am thrilled to announce that [next year] Sundance will ensure that at least 20 percent of their top-level press passes will go to underrepresented critics.” She added that the Toronto International Film Festival would do the same. There was a physical takeaway from the night, too: McDormand’s red and black “Inclusion Rider” bumper sticker—inspired by the Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri movie signs. “Every revolution needs really good merch,” she quipped.

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Why Racially Tone-Deaf Marketing Keeps Happening

by Stanley Lumax

“Have you lost your damn minds?”

That’s what The New York Times columnist Charles Blow asked H&M after the brand became the latest case study in racially insensitive marketing.

H&M’s product listing featured a young black child wearing a sweatshirts that read, “Coolest monkey in the jungle.” Before that, Unilever’s Dove ran an ad including a black woman who had been “cleaned up” to have white skin. A Nivea ad—which also ran last year—promoted a face cream that offered “visibly lighter skin” for black women. Gap and vegan brand Tarte Cosmetics also ran ads that proved problematic for minority audiences.

Yet such brands seem to face no significant short-term business repercussions. It’s not like their sales just fall off a cliff.

While the initial reaction is to question whether these brands have lost their damn minds, the bigger issue is whether these decisions were all made with sound minds in the first place. We aren’t dealing with start-ups that lack the experience, time, or discipline needed to facilitate best practices.

If the decision-makers are not crazy, then we must ponder if this insensitivity is deliberate. In this age of hot takes and attention-driven controversy, I, for one, wonder whether these marketers somehow write it all off as a case of all press being good press.

With each of these branding faux pas, there is plausible deniability. Someone loses their job, an apology is made, and after a week (or less) we move on.

If these acts are not deliberate PR stunts, then one must turn back to the industry’s ongoing struggles with diversity: Just 6.6% of those employed in the ad industry are black versus 12.7% of the U.S. population. Hispanics comprise only 10% of the industry versus 17.6% of the general population. And just 11% of the world’s creative directors are women. In many cases, there is clearly no one involved in the process who thinks to stop, assess the cultural impact of an idea and ask, “Do you realize how that might be interpreted?”

There’s no easy fix for this situation, but hiring a more diverse team at your ad agency is an absolute necessity. I know from experience that if you are the only African American on staff, you will often be asked to speak for every black person in the U.S. That means you go from being just another account guy to the voice of 37 million people. Black America is not a homogeneous population; no cultural group on earth is.

You can’t say, “Stan saw it, so it’s okay,” and assume that it’s been vetted. That’s not how life or advertising works.

What’s the Solution?

Start with championing holistic diversity initiatives and hiring practices that are sensitive to race, gender and class. By doing so, you create an environment that is not only diverse in demographics, but also in terms of perspectives and life experience. Such diversity allows for a healthy debate and the opportunity to learn from and educate one another.

Brands also have to take on the challenge of destroying toxic, pressure-filled environments that produce groupthink. We have to create a space where all viewpoints can be aired and valued equally. This includes listening to and discussing ideas that we don’t like and might even deem offensive, in an effort to learn, teach, and grow.

As creative professionals, honest and open dialogue is a must. That’s the only way we can create work that positively impacts our culture.

 

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At Sundance, The Films Took A Hard Look At Race In America

Storytellers behind seven major movies are working through the themes that haunt our national headlines.

Courtesy of Sundance Institute
Clockwise from left: “Monster,” “Tyrel,” “Sorry to Bother You.”

“Representation” has become a buzzword over the past few years, often used to excoriate the limited diversity that Hollywood brings to our big screens. But, with the Sundance Film Festival come and gone, and a new year of movies revving up, it’s clear that when it comes to matters of race, popular culture has taken note of our national talking points.

No fewer than seven major Sundance movies tackled race relations in America and the issues related to them ― and that’s not counting documentaries. Storytellers had police brutality (“Blindspotting,” “Monsters and Men”), wrongful imprisonment (“Monster”), the Ku Klux Klan (“Burden”), microaggressions (“Tyrel”), code-switching (“Sorry to Bother You”) and the foster care system (“Night Comes On”) on their minds.

We’re witnessing a phenomenon in which socially-minded artists are processing the topics that make headlines almost daily. More than any other Sundance lineup before it, 2018′s was a heady and searing crop, aptly reflecting our national mood.

One year after Jordan Peele’s “Get Out” raised the bar for veiled social commentary, “Tyrel” presents a similar premise, sending a young black man (Jason Mitchell) into the woods for a weekend getaway with a batch of white dudes. Meanwhile, “Monsters and Men” evokes the real-life killing of Eric Garner and the persecution of NFL iconoclast Colin Kaepernick, and “Burden” (which won the festival’s audience award) portrays tensions among neighbors sharing turf in the South.

“Blindspotting,” a passion project co-written by “Hamilton” breakout Daveed Diggs and performance poet Rafael Casal, is a hip-hop-inflected tour through Oakland, California, where gentrification has tarnished the area’s working-class restaurants, and black residents watch white cops shoot their black neighbors at traffic lights. In “Monster,” racial profiling lands even a college-bound teenager (Kelvin Harrison Jr.) with a bright future behind bars. These movies portray a world, not unlike our own, in which only whiteness gets ahead; just ask the telemarketer Lakeith Stanfield plays in the surreal comedy “Sorry to Bother You,” who is advised to use his “white voice” if we wants to get sales.

For Hollywood, indie filmmaking is a platonic ideal, painting a progressive image that puts Sundance and its ilk one step ahead of the wider industry, in terms of style, content and representation. Still, that hip image doesn’t always prioritize women and filmmakers of color. (Women helmed 37 percent of this year’s lineup ― an above-average figure that still lacks parity.) But with 2018′s movies, the festival claimed a newfound sense of topicality. The conversations unfolding on Twitter, in the media and in many Americans’ homes are resurfacing right before our eyes. Artists are doing their best to sort out the issues plaguing the country.

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A minority, women owned globally focused distribution platform for multicultural independent filmmakers

FilmCloud Distribution Announces Independent Film Signings during South by Southwest Film, Music and Interactive Event

AAHollywood(TM) Market Films Now Available on FilmCloud Distribution’s Global Streaming Platform

Austin, TX – FilmCloud Distribution, LLC announced at SXSW that it has acquired several new titles during the film festival from indie filmmakers, adding to the platform’s growing library of multimedia content. Independent Filmmakers are excited about FilmCloud’s distribution model and their ability to generate revenue from distributing their films through FilmCloud Distribution.

Indie filmmakers are excited and encouraged by the new distribution model. “FilmCloud looks good,” proclaims Fedor Lyass (Moscow, Russia by way of LA) filmmaker and director of photography of the highly anticipated Hardcore Henry. “You are doing the right thing!” Dallas’ award winning director Jacolby Percy (Richetus Cry) agrees, “I really like the layout. The overall look is sleek, easy to use, and doesn’t have a lot of clutter like most streaming sites. Being able to navigate and find what you’re looking for is always a priority when your film is shown on any platform.”

FilmCloud has opened its AAHollywood market segment for FREE viewing during SXSW and through April 1, 2016. A limited number of quality independent films are immediately available for streaming on any device, anywhere in the world.

AAHollywood(TM) is FilmCloud’s trademarked market designation for its “All Americans’ Hollywood” or North American market, representing the diversity of the independent filmmakers throughout America; specifically African-American, Latin American, Native American, Asian-American, as well as independent filmmakers of European descent who support and tell the stories of America that are inclusive of All Americans.

Go to www.myFilm-Cloud.com and click on the North American continent to see the current and growing library of films. FilmCloud has a backlog of films currently under quality review. Those approved will proceed to contract and then on to FilmCloud’s global distribution platform.

FilmCloud Distribution LLC will be hosting its second event for independent filmmakers in Austin, Texas during SXSW at Coopers Old Time Bar-B-Que, 2017 Congress Ave, 78701. Come out and learn about the FilmCloud’s platform, Saturday, March 19th, at 11am – 12:30 pm.

Filmmakers may add their independent film to FilmCloud’s streaming platform today at no cost.

About FilmCloud Distribution LLC

FilmCloud is a minority, women owned company that operates a globally focused distribution platform for multicultural independent filmmakers. They are intensely focused on helping the filmmaker generate revenue and viewers for their films.

Article Source Dallas Weekly

New Initiatives for diversifying Hollywood

Tuesday, Mar 22, 2016 02:35 PM CST
Justin Lin: If we want more diversity in Hollywood, “the general public has to demand it”
The “Fast & Furious” director’s plan to support Asian American artists is one of several new diversity programs
Paula Young Lee

In 2016, the fact that Hollywood made a sequel to #OscarsSoWhite has energized longstanding conversations regarding systemic racism and sexism in the entertainment industry. In its wake: a rash of new initiatives aimed at diversifying television, film, and theater. As the squeaky wheels of progress turn inside the Hollywood machine, a few film directors are doing their part to pull it into the 21st century.

Director Ava DuVernay (“Selma”) founded the film distribution collective, Array, and hired women and people of color for the currently-filming production of the OWN network television series “Queen Sugar.” “Star Trek: A New Hope” director J.J. Abrams’s production company, Bad Robot, will henceforth require that women and people of color be submitted for writing, directing and acting jobs in proportion to their representation in the U.S. population. A new non-profit, We Do It Together, aims to finance and produce films, documentaries, TV and other forms of media that will challenge stereotypes regarding women, and its advisory board includes directors Catherine Hardwicke, Hany Abu-Assad, Amma Asante, Marielle Heller, Katia Lund, Małgorzata Szumowska, and Haifaa Al Mansour, among others.

In 2010, YouoffendmeYouoffendmyFamily (YOMYOMF), the Asian-centric blog and entertainment website founded by director Justin Lin (“Fast and Furious” series, currently filming “Star Trek Beyond”) initiated a competition, “Interpretations,” which asked aspiring Asian-American filmmakers to develop and shoot a 3-minute short around a four-line script. A resounding success, it is being run again this year, with a script written by Tony-award winning playwright David Henry Hwang. The four lines are:

Don’t do that.
Of course.
I have my doubts.
What is it?

(Confused? Here is a funny example of how it works.) The winners get the opportunity to craft a project for the initiative’s lead sponsors, Comcast and NBC Universal (NBCU).

In a recent interview, Lin told me the more the public gets behind these works and artists—both in front of and behind the camera—the more we’ll see things start to change.

“After I made ‘Better Luck Tomorrow’ and started taking meetings in Hollywood, I quickly learned that Asian Americans weren’t even in the conversation as a minority, since there wasn’t even a significant enough audience, and especially an audience for Asian American content,” he said. “I think it’s changing now with shows like ‘Dr. Ken,’ ‘Fresh Off the Boat’ and ‘Master of None,’ but obviously when we look at the film side, there’s still a lot to be done.”

“Interpretations” is the first initiative for the nonprofit YOMYOMF Foundation, which supports Asian American talent, and more programs are on the way. Lin says he started the foundation because he knows talented artists are out there, they just need opportunity and mentorship.

“I’m the child of immigrants. My Taiwanese parents came to America with no money and supported my brothers and me as small business owners in Orange County, which is close to L.A. but about as far away from Hollywood as you can be. I didn’t know anyone in the industry, but had a great deal of people help me along in my path,” said Lin. “I made a lot of mistakes along the way, but feel incredibly lucky to be in the position I am now and to be able to play a small part in trying to support talented, aspiring young filmmakers out there through a program like ‘Interpretations’ who, like me, had the desire and passion, but no connections to the industry.”

Lin also says if we want to see more diversity in film, “the general public has to demand it.”

“It’s about supporting the many talented artists and filmmakers out there trying to create work from that marginalized point of view,” he said. “Go out and buy tickets to their movies and plays, support their crowd sourcing campaigns, show the industry that there is a viable audience for this work.”

The pronounced under-representation of Asian-Americans in the entertainment industry has not gone unremarked. The Asian American Arts Alliance of New York, for example, just announced the launch of a new theater fellowship aimed at supporting young artists and directors of Asian descent by providing them with a stipend, mentorship, and other forms of support. When marginalized groups have limited access to opportunity, it shows up in various ways, including the ongoing drama of #OscarsSoWhite. As the Economist explains:

Oscar nominations have not dramatically under-represented black actors. Instead, they have greatly over-represented white ones. Blacks are 12.6% of the American population, and 10% of Oscar nominations since 2000 have gone to black actors. But just 3% of nominations have gone to their Hispanic peers (16% of the population), 1% to those with Asian backgrounds, and 2% to those of other heritage.

Given that Asians are not only are 60 percent of the world’s total population but Asian-Americans are also the highest income and fastest growing racial group in the U.S., it is statistically improbable that they are barely a blip at the entertainment industry’s most prestigious award ceremony.

YOMYOMF announced the second “Interpretations” competition this past weekend at the annual film fest organized by the Center for Asian-American Media in San Francisco. CAAM Fest, explains YOMYOMF creative director Phil Chung, “has been supportive of Justin from the very beginning when he came here with his UCLA feature, ‘Shopping for Fangs’,“ and so there has been a longstanding connection between Lin and the organization. “Seeing the packed 1,400 seat Castro Theater for CAAMFest’s opening night,” Chung tells me, “was a visceral reminder that there is a huge audience out there hungry for Asian American content–stories by, for and about our communities.”

 

A few television executives have already figured out that this audience is out there. Karen Horne is Senior Vice President of Programming Talent Development & Inclusion for NBC Entertainment and Universal Television. For many years, she explains, Comcast and NBC Universal have supported CAAM Fest, so partnering with “Interpretations” was a natural segue. The company’s diversity push (opportunities linked here) date back to 2000, when NBC “initiated a diverse staff writer initiative that has given start to many people like Mindy Kaling, Alan Yang, Danielle Sanchez-Witzel and many, many more,” she emphasizes. “Our initiatives go far beyond my department as well. It is company-wide and is a part of our DNA.” The winners of “Interpretations” will be featured at NBCU’s Short Film Festival finale in October.

Horne couldn’t promise me that NBC Universal would pick up where ABC left off and build a new comedy around John Cho, of the late, lamented sitcom “Selfie,” but did affirm that casting for new shows under development is “still underway, and I’m enthusiastic that this year, we will see more diversity across the board.”

The key phrase is diversity across the board. When all the other factors are taken into account, the tiny number of Asians in popular media is especially egregious, but Natives and people of Middle Eastern descent are so marginalized they often don’t even get mentioned in “diversity” conversations. The point is that Lin, DuVernay, Abrams and other directors are implementing their convictions, taking financial risks, and using their focused spheres of influence to change cultural perceptions. The result? Great visual storytelling and fantastic entertainment. Let’s demand more of this.
Paula Young Lee is the author of “Deer Hunting in Paris,” winner of the 2014 Lowell Thomas “Best Book” award of the Society of American Travel Writers. She is currently writing outdoor adventure books for middle grade and young adults. Follow her on Twitter @paulayounglee

Op-Ed: Riding the Conversation Wave about Diversity

by Sheree L. Ross

All of the diversity talk since the Oscars is a very good thing. Already new production companies are being formed in Hollywood by women deciding to own our narrative, but it will barely be much more than just a conversation unless we see greater action out of studio executives and powers that be, that isn’t just predicated upon the momentum of bad press. 

It is great to see our allies – like high profile filmmaker  J.J. Abrams  and Women Filmmaker’s of Color like Queen Latifah  making concerted efforts to change the paradigms around Hollywood’s overwhelming diversity problem, yet let’s take a second and expand this conversation to include not only what’s going on in Hollywood but the diversity of location.

Diversity thinking (as it relates to our domestic film and television industry) should also start to include filmmakers, production  companies and studios all throughout the United States. This country learned an important lesson a few decades ago about company towns. Detroit and the people who worked for those car companies could never have imagined the long term economic devastation that continues to have withering effects. I believe those who run Hollywood aren’t imagining, nor can fathom, the long-term effects of their blockbuster spending, monopoly mind-set, and narrow parameters around casting, production location and story lines.

With the increasing affordability of making movies and media, the plethora of exhibition platforms and ever increasing media innovations the powers-that-be of Hollywood can’t continue to ignore what is clearly a shifting paradigm. There are so many talented filmmakers who live all over the US by choice or by economics. Many of us don’t want to live in Hollywood for varying reasons, and yet it often feels impossible to think of any levels of success without doing so. And just before you think I am off the subject of diversity, believe me this is a conversation about diversity most of all. Any industry that is disproportionately dominated by white men gathered in one geographic location has a severe diversity problem.

And again, yes, there are waves of change happening in small ways in Hollywood every day. Certainly Channing Dungey, the first black woman to be president of a major network is  an incredible move forward, but it’s 2016, this shouldn’t be as big a deal as it is.

What if Hollywood were to open itself up to be more like other big industries, where it doesn’t demand it be the sole beacon to riches and success? Every actor, producer, director and Broadway wannabe doesn’t have to move to New York to fulfill their dreams of the stage and make a living (it’s a bonus, not a requirement). In fact, there are few industries I can think of that control their product with such a myopic segregationist viewpoint. Even in tech you can live in your parents basement or college dorm, create something and become a billionaire overnight-ish, you don’t have to move to Silicon Valley or Austin in order to thrive. 

I do realize that there are successful companies outside of Hollywood –  Harpo and Troublemaker Studios are at the top of these success stories. But I think most would agree that there is something inherently screwy about a system that has the deck stacked so in favor of just the Hollywood big boys.

It is definitely time for a new paradigm. If those of us in this industry work towards more diversity – in casting, on sets and when writing our screenplays – and stop holding Hollywood as the Mecca to all things film (which ultimately dilutes talent pools in Indie communities) then the economic structures of sustainability and profitability can change. I believe that this could eventually even impact television, which as we all know is nearly an impossible dream unless you want to live in Los Angeles or New York. These shifts in thinking and action will help the economics of filmmaking communities of color, women, LGBT – all independent filmmakers.  Sure, it’s not going to happen overnight, but these conversations are inroads. Let’s continue the conversation but add lots of action, great ideas and solutions so we, as independent filmmakers, can create a diverse and sustainable industry for us all.