Blog 3, 2016
Hollywood’s Diversity Controversy – Women in Film
It’s vox populi, women, of any ethnicity or race, writers, producers, directors, and actors, are in the minority and make less money than their male counterparts in ‘Hollywood’ or the entertainment industry. Why is that? We could point fingers to Jews, they do run most of the corporations and are top decision makers in the industry, primarily in business to make a profit. We can shout all day and no change would come about. How then, can change come about? We the people, the consumers, are who really run the entertainment industry. So if we want to see more diversity behind the scenes or in front of the camera, it can only come about through us, the ones at the box office, sitting in front of our TVs and gazing into our mobile devices. The media is currently overflowing with commentaries about the lack of diversity in Hollywood. Shonda Rhimes, in her acceptance speech of the 2016 Norman Lear Award is laudable for saying that she did not create a new concept for television, she just wrote about life the way she sees it and courageously faced off the networks http://bit.ly/1ROFfUK. But it took education and many years for her to get to that point.
The comments and observations created by the Oscars’ lack of diversity in nominating minority representations sparked the interest of this blogger to do some research on who has the power in Hollywood and asked Google. Google said Jews run Hollywood. Furthermore, according to a Rense.com article http://bit.ly/1xtFpDF of 3/13/2 by Jewish actor Ben Stein who researched the matter, 60 percent of Hollywood decision makers were Jewish, and Jews accounted for only 2.5 percent of the US population at the time. But, he says, these are Jews who are “in love with America.” They buy farms in the south and send their children to Ivy leagues schools where they will one day settle into their nepotistic places in the entertainment industry. They earned this privilege through hard work and dedication to a craft and business, no doubt, and we cannot take it away from them just because it does not represent the majority of the population of America. But the movies made by Hollywood do reflect our cultural values and forge them. We as consumers can guide their decisions by the choices we make when we watch television and go to the box office. As a woman in film, even if I were Jewish, (which I might be), being Jewish alone would not increase my chances of making it as a writer, producer, or director in Hollywood. Instead of complaining, I ask myself, what can I do to get Hollywood’s attention to my stories? Where, who, will give me a chance, hear me out and decide that I have a profitable product that cannot be separated from its creator?
A staff writer of the New Observer, an online news publication, http://bit.ly/1QfYx1q wrote on July 6, 2014 that “Jews boast about the fact (of owning Hollywood) but if a Gentile says the same thing, they are attacked as anti-Semites.” The article goes on to say that Gary Oldman, actor best known for Batman movies, made comments on Mel Gibson’s drunk driving arrest in which he (Mel Gibson) made derogatory remarks about the Jewish people and had been “attacked” (Gary Oldman) by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) for saying that Hollywood was run by Jews. Oldman apologized for his remarks and mentioned that he had just finished reading a most interesting book about the making of Hollywood by Neal Gabler “An Empire of their Own, How the Jews invented Hollywood.”http://bit.ly/1LjMmQa. Furthermore, the staff writer mentions several Jewish corporate decision makers by name and is hard pressed to find even five that are not. Enough about the status quo of Hollywood. Concentrating on who the kings and queens of Hollywood are will not get anyone new into the game.
Today we are able to get more content distribution than ever before through Netflix, Hulu, the Internet, YouTube, Amazon, etc. Offering the public more choices has shown the industry moguls that the young male and female audience the industry caters to, the millennials, are an evolved audience ready to watch and enjoy really ‘real’ people on TV and film, as well as esoteric topics such as past life regression and future life progression, and diversity in the scenes including behind the scenes. Millennials are ready for real women who are not damsels on distress or looking for their royal prince. And that is exactly what Shonda Rhimes has done for television, the most diverse media of the day. Thank you Rhonda. But Miss Rhimes is not alone, paving the way was Debra Martin Chase, who gave Rhimes an internship opportunity when she ran Denzel Washington’s Production company, Mundy Lane Entertainment where she produced “Aaron Hanks,” an award-winning documentary, before moving on to Whitney Houston’s Brown House Production company and so on. She was the first African American woman to have a solo produced deal at a major studio. The list of African American women producers and writers is long and getting longer thanks to those who pierced the wall and amplified the themes that demonstrate the dollar value of diversity and pulled others up behind them. Hollywood surely vows to the profitability of diversity.
Being labeled as this or that ethnicity is very constraining as a filmmaker whose purpose is primarily to show the big picture in the concrete. Luckily today, developing universal, all inclusive topics and well rounded 3 dimensional characters with plot twists and turns that keep viewers on the edge followed by superb cinematography and dialogue is less costly and more distributable than ever. So we have come a long ways and the independent industry has made great gains. Among Latin women, there are basically no known producers and only one writer and director, Aurora Guerrero, a Chicana filmmaker leading the way. Of course even if they are not seen or heard they are out there, with their own voices and their own way of seeing. One day they will be stepping into their shoes, two of them, at the store, not waiting for Prince Charming to find us but writing and producing their own way into the trenches of the Hollywood palisades.
Take for instance, here in Miami there are several women filmmakers, Angela Terga included, and there is even a Women’s Film Fest. NATPE comes to Miami Beach on January every year bringing dozens of reps from Hollywood’s corporations. but besides being costly, you may realize if you attend attend that the relationships with buyers must be built way before and that emails to these corporate reps are not provided even after you pay the ticket to see them. In other words, NATPE takes your money and still leaves you in the dark. It sells hope. Those enthusiasts that think they can pitch and make a sale there are not doing their homework. Pitch Fests may seem like a good idea, but you run the risk of just giving away your best loglines which are free ideas that the corporate world of Hollywood can pay their ‘own people’ to develop. It happens all the time, independent creators say and attest to it in conversations. How can any of those cases be proved? Not at all. Before you pitch to any Hollywood rep you must sign a release form saying the studio may already have this idea in their files preventing any further pursuit by law if you see your movie idea developed and made into a multi million dollar enterprise a year or two later. Just don’t pitch without first copyrighting and developing the story well, putting it out into the world with your name attached to it, create at least a sizzle reel and more than one type of platform for it. There is however, no guarantee. There are thousands of filmmakers trying to do just that, gratefully, for if no one tried there would not be any hope and hope keeps the wheel of karma turning until an opening is reached to let in one writer, producer, director at a time. Once in, if that one person lets another climb on his/her shoulders, there will soon be a diversified Hollywood. By soon meaning maybe another century or so. Meanwhile if anyone knows how to find out where and when to pitch to Marvel, please leave a comment. That’s the top entertainment industry distributor and developer of content on this blogger’s horizon.
The best way to get in is to start early on in life and pursue an internship in one of the diversified (owned by African American celebrities) production companies out there. Latinos in their own countries are not competing with Hollywood even in their own turfs. When I visited Brazil I had hopes of seeing their own productions and all I saw was the same programming in Portuguese. What a disappointment! The same happens all over Latin America. Latin Soaps are the only original content that is being made by Latinos. Independent producers of movies and content in Latin American countries are worse off than here. The public does not respond well to their programming and movies mainly because they lack the capital to develop them with the Hollywood glitz. Some of the independent productions have competitive quality due to extremely good craftmanship but there is no capital for marketing and publicity which requires twice as much as the cost of production.
In other words, content creators cannot make it without Hollywood and Hollywood has to want their product, otherwise it can continue to put out reruns and in-house productions that seem to be more and more detached from reality in the world, and that’s where consumers can make a difference little by little in changing the look of Hollywood’s prefabricated cool. Nowadays African American themes, topics and culture are on the rise thanks to consumers who show up at the box office or watch TV infused with it. So even Spielberg has jumped on the band wagon and is producing another ‘slave movie’ about Harriet Tubman, the Moses of the enslaved African people. Does that make Hollywood more diverse? Perhaps in front of the camera, but not so much behind he scenes. If any independent producer wanted to develop their own African American of Latino history movie it would probably never make it in a pitch fest or at NATPE. It’s what’s trending in social media that Hollywood turns to, what sells at the Box Office and the popularity of Hip Hop and TV shows where men and women of African descent are more relevant than ever thanks to a Black President and the many Black actors and celebrities investing in their people and their themes and topics. This has made it more plausible than ever for educated minority representation of producers and writers on the rise to penetrate the walls of Hollywood. Channels like BET and BOUNCE have been necessary to show that diversity sells and it sells well. That’s just the beginning. Let’s hope that Latinos like Iñarruti can bring more Latinos onboard behind the scenes and in front of the camera whether ethnocentric or not in their content.
Take for instance my movie, the protagonist of “Isabel” is a Spanish Florida woman who falls in love with the Black Indian who kidnapped her and integrates Seminole culture actively supporting their struggle for justice and independence. But that’s just her past life. Today she is a Latino starlet trying not to sleep her way to the top but teases just enough. In the end, she gets what she wants, the role of her life and the boo, with the help of her friends and just how well she played the part. Talent is a value that Hollywood pursues. Working on yourself, your trade, craft and ideas will not only get you ready for the test, it will attract that which you seek to your door.
In the words of Sojourner Truth “That’s all old Sojourner has to say today.”