Monday, January 2, 2017

Representation In Hollywood And The Power Of Responsibility

So it looks like the Oscars will be more diverse than the last two years where rather embarrassingly, all the acting nominees were white. While it is a symptom of a greater disease, the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite at least had people talking about the greater conflict at play. The Academy does have a responsibility as to who they invite into their membership. But I want to use this opportunity to bring up something that I've wanted to say for quite some time and is something many people might not realize something when it comes to the moviemaking process:

EVERYONE has a responsibility.

As I just mentioned, the Academy has a responsibility to be more inclusive with their membership. But it is on the studio heads, and those with production companies that decide what movies get greenlit, to be more inclusive with who they cast and even who they hire behind the camera as well whether they're producers, directors, editors, cinematographers, etc..

Ever since the Oscar nominations last year were announced, A-list people like George Clooney and Reese Witherspoon, who have their own production companies, have expressed their disappointment over the lack of inclusivity. While it is nice that they've said how disappointed they were and how they want to see more representation, SAYING you want to see it is a lot different than acting on it. I mean, Kevin Feige has SAID he wants to make a Black Widow solo movie. But no word on whether it's been greenlit yet. So to those who have the power to make movies happen and actually want more inclusivity behind and in front of the camera, don't say how you want it to happen, just make it happen. Don't try. Just do. Now, I admit that nobody should mainly be hired for their race, gender, sexuality, etc., what I'm saying is that people from many different demographics should still be considered in the hiring processes as they are trying to look for the best actors, director, etc., for the job.

As audience members, we also have a pivotal role in the moviemaking process because since Hollywood is built on supply and demand, Hollywood supplies what we demand. With our dollars, we help decide what movies gets made. The critics have a role as well because they review films so that they can recommend what viewers should or shouldn't watch.

While critics and audiences aren't always in sync, audiences should at least take slight note of what the critics are suggesting we go see. That way, we don't have situations like with Queen of Katwe and The Edge of Seventeen: Two films that were critically buzzed and helped promote the diversity agenda yet nobody saw them. I may have said this before plenty of times, but if we want to encourage more representation in Tinseltown, we need to keep putting our money where our mouths are. If there's a film coming out that has positive critical buzz and is a film where you're able to see yourself or your community represented, go and check it out.

One of the most important people involved in the moviemaking process is the writer. It is typically the writer who gives a description of the main acting roles, choosing their race, age, personality, sexuality, and gender. As Viola Davis pointed out in her historic Emmys speech, you cannot win awards for roles that are simply not there. So it's on the writers to make sure the roles ARE there and that they write the best roles for people of color, women, LGBTQ+ people, disabled people, etc.. It's the writer's job to write the best roles for people from all walks of life.

So as you can see, whether we are on a film set or seeing the results of the final product, we all have a role in the filmmaking process. It is on the studios and casting directors to be more inclusive with their casting and hiring decisions, the audiences to support the offerings by the studios, the critics to judge and recommend movies for audiences, the writers to write the best stories, and even the talent agents to scout for amazingly diverse talent so they can fight for them to get more work. Even if they don't get the best work, what matters is they simply get more work. Once our overall film world gets more diverse, then THAT is when the Academy Awards get more diverse. The Academy Awards are typically a reflection of the film world and hopefully, in the years to come, they will start to reflect its progress.

So while we may likely see #OscarsSoWhite be put to bed this year, that doesn't mean everything is fixed. Progress is slow and can't be fixed overnight. But all we can do is just do our part.