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Diversifying Hollywood Through Better Hiring and Training

How new legislation and production incentives are promoting diversity and inclusion
June 22, 2021

Joseph Chianese

Hollywood has been making efforts to improve diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) and empowering underrepresented minorities to become critical members of the global entertainment industry – and the stories it tells. We’ve seen progress already made through widespread adoption of new diversity standards. However, one critical area where the entertainment industry can enable positive, permanent, social change is in how it hires and trains. Ensuring the industry’s future workforce is more diverse requires extending current short-term successes into long-term sustained change. Here’s an overview of how Hollywood can make a difference, what DEI efforts it can push, and how production incentives can help.

Why Hollywood Can Make a Difference

In 2019, feature films and television (scripted and non-scripted), represented a $177 billion-dollar global industry. The impact that amount of money can have on local, state, and national economies is significant. “Huge amounts of money are spent quickly into an economy, but also spread around the economy in a way that possibly no other economic manufacturing style activity does,” Jonathan Olsberg shared in an Master Series Webinar on the Economic Recovery from COVID-19 Due to Film & TV Production. That’s especially because 77% of the industry’s spend goes outside typical entertainment industry needs. That’s why, for example, during COVID-19 the entertainment industry has been able to give a powerful boost to hard hit economies and industries (especially transportation, hospitality, and catering) around the world.

As the entertainment industry looks to improve diversity and inclusion, that financial power cannot just improve economies but generate a larger number of job and training opportunities for underrepresented workers. With the entertainment industry currently experiencing explosive growth in production, it has the potential to create permanent social change.

What Can the Industry Do to Improve DEI Hiring and Training?

As the industry returns to work and COVID-19 eases, there has been a return to the record-breaking pace of production last seen in 2019, driven in part by new streamers entering the market and existing streamers increasing their global footprint. Recent transactions like Amazon acquiring MGM Studios, and WarnerMedia merging with Discovery will only mean more production, not less. Growing demand for content (at times competitive) has created a need for hiring more production, finance, and accounting workers, among other positions. Therein lies an opportunity for the industry to hire and/or train underutilized and underrepresented segments of the workforce.

Some diversity hiring initiatives are already in place to help. Filmmaker Ava DuVernay’s ArrayCrew offers a database of below-the-line talent from diverse backgrounds. Staff Me Up has made diversity and inclusion a central part of its mission by partnering with numerous diversity advocacy organizations. Skill-specific groups, like The Alliance For Women Film Composers or Composers Diversity Collective, offer greater awareness and access to DEI hires through their own databases.

Training is just as important as hiring. Those already in the industry’s workforce – or outside of it – may not be fully aware of training and career opportunities that exist to fulfill the shortage in key production opportunities – like accounting. Some groups are addressing that: HUE YOU KNOW is an organization which promotes mentorship for BIPOC in media, and Hollywood CPR trains diverse students interested in the entertainment industry. The industry, however, must also develop its own apprenticeship programs, linking production workers with their potential employers. Those programs can then either help existing industry workers train up, or new workers train into the industry. Ensuring new and aspiring members within the industry can gain a foothold, can lead to a permanent place in it. More significantly, succeeding in creating a training (and hiring) infrastructure for current industry position needs won’t just create temporary measures, but enable long-term social change.

In addition, organizations like Reel Works mentor, inspire, and empower underserved NYC youth to share their stories through filmmaking, creating a springboard to successful careers in media and beyond. Reel Works matches teens 1:1 with professional filmmaker mentors to tell their stories and have their voices heard. It’s a powerful combination that changes young lives and creates films that have been seen by tens of millions of viewers worldwide

How Production Incentives Can Help DEI

An important way to leverage – and lure – Hollywood’s significant economic impact and job creation power is through production incentives. A $177 billion global industry can create a lot of change to cities, states, and countries outside of production hubs like New York or California. More importantly, it can create a lot of jobs that could be filled with local, more diverse, workers. Numerous states – including New Jersey, California, and Illinois – have tied their production incentives to diversity hiring and training for that reason.

Incentivizing DEI encourages the entertainment industry to help hire and train more workers who have the chance to become permanent members of a global industry, changing its demographic makeup in the process. That will result in what everyone is working towards: a future version of the industry that is inclusive and representative, reflecting the world we live in.

To stay up-to-date with changing legislation and production incentives, visit our newly launched production incentives site and utilize the industry's leading team of production incentives experts and tools.

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