It has been well established that Hollywood is a very white industry, in a town that is nearly three-fourths nonwhite.
The question is, what's the mechanism for change? How can minorities best put their weight on a business that clearly doesn't want to change?
The Los Angeles area's Multi-Ethnic Media Coalition has had some success in television by meeting with top network executives annually and going over their diversity hiring numbers. The organization has been doing this since 2000. And, if casting, directing and other hires are a good indicator of the coalition's progress, the program to hold TV's feet to the fire has been a success.
The big screen has been more reluctant to reflect America. A 2014 report by USC, for example, found that Latinos, representing 17 percent of America's population and nearly half of L.A. County's, got about 5 percent of major-film speaking roles.
The coalition, which includes the National Hispanic Media Coalition (NHMC), Asian Pacific American Media Coalition (APAMC) and American Indians in Film and Television (AIFT), says it's time to apply its annual TV diversity checks to the film business.
Today it announced an initiative under which its leaders would meet annually with top film executives at the Big Six studios — Sony, Warner Bros., Fox, Universal, Paramount and Disney — to gauge diversity efforts.
The coalition's television initiative includes an annual report card on minority hires. Alex Nogales, CEO of the National Hispanic Media Coalition, says the goal is to launch diversity report cards for the major studios.
“We're going to have apply Multi-Ethnic Media Coalition pressure,” Nogales told us. “We expect to see obstacles. We faced those obstacles before with the networks. We have to be here for the long run.”
According to a statement, the coalition will seek to have the studios “regularly provide data on their released films regarding casting, writing, producing and directing; to explore strategies for increasing diversity and inclusion of people of color in casting, writing, producing and directing; to regularly provide data on the number of people of color among the studios’ top creative executives; and to explore strategies for increasing those numbers.”
Nogales says the group will start asking the studios to sign memorandums of understanding in the next few weeks.
“The fact that all of the nominees across the top four acting categories at this year’s Oscars are once again white, impacts African-Americans, Latinos, Asian-Americans and Native Americans,” Nogales said. “Individuals from all of our communities have been denied meaningful opportunities for their work to be considered for Academy Awards. We’ve broken barriers in television, and we’ll do it again with film; studios need to know that representation matters—for recognition of hard work and talent, for combating negative stereotypes in our public discourse, and for the next generation of our future leaders in the film industry.”