The Hollywood Diversity Officer’s Dilemma: “Everybody’s in a Different Place”

Some change:

The industry has moved quickly to hire and elevate executives focused on diversifying teams and content — in a changing landscape, the complex role “is tiring, but it’s rewarding.”

When DreamWorks Animation executives wanted a fresh perspective on character designs for one of their TV shows recently, they sent the illustrations to Janine Jones-Clark, senior vp of parent Universal’s global talent development and inclusion department. “They were creating an African American character,” Jones-Clark recalls. “My suggestion had to do with authenticity in hairstyle and texture.”

Her note is one of the small ways in which Jones-Clark — and others in Hollywood with the word “diversity,” “inclusion” or “multicultural” in their job title — are increasingly making an impact on not only who their companies hire but also the content they create. Chief diversity officer (CDO) is a relatively new job title; 47 percent of companies in the S&P 500 index have a CDO or equivalent, and 63 percent of those have been appointed or promoted to the role in the past three years, according to a recent study by executive search firm Russell Reynolds Associates. It’s a job with growing prominence in a Hollywood rocked by such social movements as #MeToo and Time’s Up, not to mention evolving audience demographics, and it’s one that requires a unique kind of emotional ambidexterity. Publicly, CDOs cheer on their companies’ progress and tout their inclusion programs, while privately they must nudge the most powerful people inside their organizations toward uncomfortable conversations about workforce and creative decisions.

“In any organization, everybody is in a different place when it comes to inclusion, and you have to meet people where they are,” says Julie Ann Crommett, vp multicultural audience engagement at Disney. “You build trust with a leader or employee that you are a safe person to have a conversation with. Then you can get on the real-real and hear something that they might not express in a wider room. It’s tiring, but it’s rewarding.”

The role has evolved, says Tina Shah Paikeday, one of the Russell Reynolds study’s authors and leader of the firm’s global diversity and consulting services practice. “Historically there was a focus on compliance [with federal laws],” she explains. “But today the successful CDO is able to chip away at the problem, to use data to tell the narrative within an organization.”

CDOs rely on a bag of tricks to get their perspectives across. Tiffany Smith Anoa’i, executive vp entertainment diversity, inclusion and communications at CBS Entertainment, has given dozens of her colleagues copies of the book The Hidden Brain, a data-driven exploration of unconscious bias by Shankar Vedantam. Once a publicist at CBS, Smith Anoa’i pitched the idea of her current role to former CBS executive Nina Tassler with a PowerPoint presentation featuring data on who’s watching TV and who’s buying the products advertised. “At the end of my pitch, Nina said, ‘We would be crazy not to make his happen.’ ”

There are triumphs in the job — Crommett points to Disney’s hiring of more women directors and directors of color, Jones-Clark to Universal’s creation of a program for female composers, one of the moviemaking roles in which women are especially scarce. But there can be disappointments, particularly, CDOs say quietly, when virtually the only people of color in a company are those working in the diversity and inclusion departments.

Whitney Davis, who recently wrote for Variety about her decision to leave a diversity-focused role at CBS, says she grew tired of fighting what felt like a losing battle, particularly when inclusion initiatives discovered talent like Tiffany Haddish, KiKi Layne, Kate McKinnon and Hasan Minhaj, but the company ultimately did not hire them. “It became taxing,” Davis says. “I was working to try to introduce my colleagues to these creatives and they weren’t getting jobs at CBS. I started to question my taste. And then I’d see them go to other networks and be very successful.” Davis sees the value of CDOs’ efforts. At CBS, for example, two of last fall’s new scripted series, God Friended Me and Magnum P.I., feature people of color in the lead roles. “I can’t imagine how far back we’d be without inclusion and diversity departments,” she adds. “But just having people in these departments, that’s not cutting it. Not if your board isn’t inclusive. Not if the people in power aren’t inclusive. If that’s the case, what’s the point?”

Source: The Hollywood Diversity Officer’s Dilemma: “Everybody’s in a Different Place”

Spielberg’s spiel against Netflix’s eligibility for Oscars has minority filmmakers bristling

An angle I hadn’t thought of:

When Steven Spielberg speaks about the business of Hollywood, everyone generally listens and few dissent. But reports that he intends to support rule changes that could block Netflix from Oscars-eligibility have provoked a heated, and unwieldy, debate online this weekend. It has found the legendary filmmaker at odds with some industry heavyweights, who have pointed out that Netflix has been an important supporter of minority filmmakers and stories, especially in awards campaigns, while also reigniting the ongoing streaming versus theatrical debate.

Spielberg has weighed in before on whether streaming movies should compete for the film industry’s most prestigious award (TV movies, he said last year, should compete for Emmys), but that was before Netflix nearly succeeded in getting its first best picture Oscar for Alfonso Cuaron’s “Roma” at last week’s Academy Awards. Netflix, of course, did not win the top award — “Green Book,” which was produced partially by Spielberg’s Amblin Entertainment, did.

Still, Netflix was a legitimate contender and this year, the streaming service is likely to step up its awards game even more with Martin Scorsese’s “The Irishman,” which The Hollywood Reporter said may also gunning for a wide-theatrical release. A teaser ad aired during the 91st Oscars for the gangster drama said “in theatres next fall,” instead of the “in select theatres” phrasing that was used for “Roma.”

But Netflix also isn’t playing by the same rules as other studios. The company doesn’t report theatrical grosses, for one, and it’s been vexing some more traditional Hollywood executives throughout this award season and there have been whispers in recent weeks that a reckoning is coming.

Now, Spielberg and others are planning to do something about it by supporting a revised film academy regulation at an upcoming meeting of the organization’s board of governors that would disqualify Netflix from the Oscars, or at least how the streaming giant currently operates during awards season.

This year “Roma” got a limited theatrical qualifying run and an expensive campaign with one of the industry’s most successful awards publicists, Lisa Taback, leading the charge. But Netflix, operates somewhat outside of the industry while also infiltrating its most important institutions, like the Oscars and the Motion Picture Association of America. Some like Spielberg, are worried about what that will mean for the future of movies.

“Steven feels strongly about the difference between the streaming and theatrical situation,” an Amblin spokesperson told IndieWire’s Anne Thompson late last week. “He’ll be happy if the others will join (his campaign) when that comes up. He will see what happens.”

An Amblin representative said Sunday there was nothing to add.

But some see Spielberg’s position as wrong-minded, especially when it comes to the Academy Awards, which requires a theatrical run to be eligible for an award. Many online have pointed out the hypocrisy that the organization allows members to watch films on DVD screeners before voting.

Filmmaker Ava DuVernay tweeted at the film academy’s handle in response to the news that the topic would be discussed at a board of governors meeting, which is comprised of only 54 people out of over 8,000 members.

“I hope if this is true, that you’ll have filmmakers in the room or read statements from directors like me who feel differently,” DuVernay wrote.

Some took a more direct approach, questioning whether Spielberg understands how important Netflix has been to minority filmmakers in recent years.

Franklin Leonard, who founded The BlackList, which surveys the best unproduced scripts in Hollywood, noted that Netflix’s first four major Oscar campaigns were all by and about people of colour: “Beasts of No Nation,” “The 13th,” “Mudbound” and “Roma.”

“It’s possible that Steven Spielberg doesn’t know how difficult it is to get movies made in the legacy system as a woman or a person of colour. In his extraordinary career, he hasn’t exactly produced or executive produced many films directed by them,” Leonard tweeted Saturday. “By my count, Spielberg does one roughly every two decades.”

It’s important to note that Netflix didn’t produce “Beasts of No Nation,” “Mudbound” or “Roma,” but rather acquired them for distribution. But if Oscar campaigns are no longer part of the equation in a Netflix-partnership, top-tier filmmakers are likely to take their talents and films elsewhere.

Others, like “First Reformed” filmmaker Paul Schrader, had a slightly different take.

“The notion of squeezing 200+ people into a dark unventilated space to see a flickering image was created by exhibition economics not any notion of the ‘theatrical experience,”‘ Schrader wrote in a Facebook post Saturday. “Netflix allows many financially marginal films to have a platform and that’s a good thing.”

But his Academy Award-nominated film, he thinks, would have gotten lost on Netflix and possibly, “Relegated to film esoterica.” Netflix had the option to purchase the film out of the Toronto International Film Festival and didn’t. A24 did and stuck with the provocative film through awards season.

“Distribution models are in flux,” Schrader concluded. “It’s not as simple as theatrical versus streaming.”

One thing is certain, however: Netflix is not going away any time soon and how it integrates with the traditional structures of Hollywood, like the Oscars, is a story that’s still being written.

Sean Baker, who directed “The Florida Project,” suggested a compromise: That Netflix offered a “theatrical tier” to pricing plans, which would allow members to see its films in theatres for free.

“I know I’d spend an extra 2 dollars a month to see films like ‘Roma’ or ‘Buster Scruggs’ on the big screen,” Baker tweeted. “Just an idea with no details ironed out. But we need to find solutions like this in which everybody bends a bit in order to keep the film community (which includes theatre owners, film festivals and competitive distributors) alive and kicking.”

Hollywood Diversity Report Finds Progress, But Much Left To Gain

While I always find these annual reports interesting and important, particularly enjoying sharing it this year from LA:

Gains have been made for women and people of color who work in movies and TV, but the numbers remain a long way from proportionately reflecting the U.S. population, according to a new study from UCLA.

The annual Hollywood Diversity Report looks at diversity both in front of and behind the camera. It also looks at box office and ratings.

The report states that evidence continues to suggest “America’s increasingly diverse audiences prefer diverse film and television content,” and that “diversity is essential for Hollywood’s bottom line.”

The report found that many top-rated, scripted broadcast TV shows have diverse casts. However, the report also notes that while people of color make up nearly 40 percent of the U.S. population, just a fraction of that number work as film writers (12.6 percent) or directors (7.8 percent).

The report also shows the number of female film directors nearly doubled from 2016 to 2017 — but only to about 12.6 percent of all directors.

Darnell Hunt is a professor of sociology and African-American studies at UCLA and co-authored the study. He notes how industry attitudes toward diversity have changed since his group’s first study, published in 2014.

“When we started to study diversity … it was kind of seen as a luxury, as something that you’d get around to but it’s not what’s driving day-to-day business practices,” Hunt says. “Over time, as it became clear that audiences were becoming more diverse and that they were demanding diverse content, diversity itself was seen as a business imperative. Like, ‘We have to figure out ways to create more diverse products because that’s what today’s increasingly diverse audiences are demanding.’ That’s a relatively new phenomenon that … most people would not have been talking about that, you know, five, 10 years ago. Today, everyone’s talking about it.”

Where is Canada’s multicultural television space?

Interesting commentary on television programming diversity:

Russell Peters’s much awaited return to television was finally satiated with the CTV show The Indian Detective, which aired last December. The sitcom has been five years in the making, and it’s a first for Peters, a Canadian stand-up comedian who began his career in Toronto. It tells the story of Doug D’Mello (played by Peters), a Canadian investigative cop who travels to India to meet his father and gets caught up in a criminal investigation. But the show has already received mixed reviews from audiences across the board. Reviewers have called it out for perpetuating stereotypes about India and failing to engage with its audience, both in Canada and abroad. The show received an overall rating of 6.6 on IMDB, although Rotten Tomatoes gave it a generous 87 percent.

Spread over four episodes, the series sought to set a new trend in Canada by internationalizing the setting of its production, with large parts of it being shot in India. The Indian Detective’s transnational location gets one wondering if CTV was hoping to create an international sensation, or at least engage with Canada’s vast multicultural population.

The show is the most recent addition to a short list of multicultural-themed TV programs produced by major Canadian public and private broadcasters, such as CBC and CTV. Canadian television, though, remains a limited-option entertainment platform that is often overshadowed by the U.S. With just over 58 percent of Canadian households consuming cable TV in 2016, the story of Canadian television programming remains rather humble. Its 2016 revenue was just over $7.2 billion.

Why aren’t Canadians watching traditional cable? Though there are technological and other reason for decline in cable subscriptions, one question must be considered: Who are the TV shows in Canada made for? If we were to look at the last 10 years of shows produced by two of Canada’s major broadcasters, CBC and CTV, they are primarily targeted to Canadians and Europeans. But Canada, the champion of multiculturalism, should prioritize TV programs with themes and characters that appeal to its vast multiethnic community, sponsored and produced by its public and private broadcasters. That doesn’t seem to be the case. Between 2007 and 2018, there were just three TV shows that focused on multicultural themes: Little Mosque on the Prairie, Kim’s Convenience, and now, The Indian Detective.

In the last three years, The Indian Detective and Kim’s Convenience have targeted a non-traditional audience within the Canadian media space, which could indicate a trend followed by other such productions. Kim’s Convenience, a CBC show that first aired in 2016, tells the story of a Canadian-Korean family and their convenience store in Toronto. The show portrays the city’s transforming multicultural community, and the family’s attempt to “fit in.” Kim’s Convenience explores the mores of the family-run convenience store, where you can find everything—jokes, too. The show plays out the conflict between the first-generation Korean parents and their kids who grew up in Canada without accentuating it with overplay of accents and cultural difference—something The Indian Detective banks on.

Canada has tried in the past to promote multicultural and multiethnic broadcasting by giving special provisions to the ethnic broadcasting category. The Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission’s (CRTC) Ethnic Broadcasting Policy of 1999 decided to allocate airtime to television and radio shows in third languages—that is, any language that isn’t English, French, or an Indigenous language—over the mainstream. But the CRTC’s broadcasting policy only applied to ethnic broadcasters, and encouraged them to create content in third languages. The only policy for non-ethnic public broadcasters—the public and major private broadcasters—is to dedicate up to 15 percent of their airtime toward ethnic programming, and which could be increased up to 40 percent by the conditions of the licence. The provision to incorporate ethnic programming remains a minor part of the overall policy, which is strictly focused on promoting a siloed concept of multicultural broadcasting. The CRTC policy has been relatively successful at adding a small set of private stations that includes broadcasters such as Omni TV, a Rogers Media production. Omni TV is a consortium of multicultural television programming which offers speciality channels broadcasted in languages such as Mandarin, Cantonese, Tagalog, and Punjabi. 

Specialized television satellite services such as Omni TV have been working hard to bring more multicultural TV options for Canada’s vast multiethnic population, but it is a small dent in the spectrum of broadcasting made possible by Canada’s public broadcasters such as the CBC. As a person of South Asian heritage, I consume media in Punjabi and Hindi, a large set of which is made possible by the CRTC’s funding for ethnic programming. Apart from a very small set of productions, most of it succumbs to advertisements by mortgage brokers, realtors, and real estate brokers—and some just roll all three into one program. The distinction between a news or current affairs program and an advertisement for a product or a service seems to blur into one long segment. Programming that was meant to promote a cultural dialogue between Canada’s vast ethnically diverse communities is being used for investment advice, for instance, in various languages. On the contrary, a successful example of multicultural programming is Hockey Night in Canada, which is a broadcast of hockey games with commentary in Punjabi.

In the United Kingdom, the BBC has long ago realized the need to incorporate multicultural programming, and has been promoting TV shows and media that appeal to its multicultural population on the British Isles. The BBC has a dedicated radio station for Asian audiences—the Asian Network—broadcasting throughout the day; the radio channels primarily cater to the U.K.’s large population of Asian heritage. A successful example of the BBC’s investment in multicultural programming can be traced through the career of Sanjeev Bhaskar, a prominent BBC presenter. Sanjeev is best known for Goodness Gracious Me, The Kumars at No. 42, India with Sanjeev Bhaskar, along with other regular appearances on BBC TV shows. He is among a long list of people of colour that have appeared on the network’s shows; other such figures include Mera Sayal, Idris Elba, Thandie Newton, and Gurinder Chaddha. The BBC’s production of multicultural situational comedy is well-established history that Canada could learn from. Some of the popular examples of multicultural comedy and drama from Britain include Real McCoy, Desmond’s, The Lenny Henry Show, Citizen Khan, and many others over the years.

Though multicultural programming options are thriving in Canada more than ever, it has resulted in a limited dialogue—broadcasting programs that many other Canadians can’t access, and vice-versa. But the recent productions of Kim’s Convenience and The Indian Detective are a positive trend that both major broadcasters should develop further. The CBC and CTV should rethink their strategy for Canadian television to remain relevant and keep up with the changing demographic of Canada. As the media landscape, both print and visual, faces its biggest financial challenge in years, there is a need to consider who consumes the TV shows and programs in Canada—and are Murdoch Mysteries or Heartland relevant to its multiethnic population?

via THIS → Where is Canada’s multicultural television space?

ICYMI: The Hollywood Acting Coach Under Fire for Urging Students to Pose as Hispanic


A recently-leaked audio clip, which appears to reveal a well-known Los Angeles-based acting teacher named Lesly Kahn advising a student to change her name and present as Latinx, has been circulating on social media.

The Daily Beast spoke with the woman who recorded the conversation, who asked to remain anonymous. She confirmed that it was a recording from an intro acting class of Kahn’s last Saturday.

In the controversial clip, Kahn can be heard urging an aspiring actress to change her name to “Rosa Ramirez,” insisting that, “Just the fact that your name is Rosa Ramirez is gonna get you a meeting.” When the young woman, who describes herself as “100% Ashkenazi Jewish,” says that no one has ever told her to change her name, Kahn expresses incredulity.

After confirming that the woman isn’t already on IMDb, Kahn proceeds to outline a plan of action for “Rosa Ramirez,” telling her to “wear something fucking red, wear some fucking sparkly earrings” and get new headshots taken. After reiterating that she should “come up with the most Latin name you can come up with,” Kahn further advises her to “stop admitting to being a huge Jew” because “it’s just not going to help you.” In the background, others can be heard laughing as Kahn says to “keep us posted” on “the saga of Rosa Ramirez.” Later, Kahn even advises the student to document her transformation on Instagram, suggesting that the exposure might be able to help the not-currently-working actress book a series.

The woman who recorded the interaction told The Daily Beast that it wasn’t the only disturbing conversation she witnessed in Kahn’s intro acting class. She recalled that, after the recorded incident, there was a point where the students were asked to share their biggest weaknesses as actors. One woman responded that “her weaknesses were that she is white and old.”

“I just sat there like ok, cool, here we go again,” the woman who recorded the class told The Daily Beast. “This was Lesly’s opportune moment to shut this all down, but of course, every Caucasian female in the room was like, ‘Oh yeah, me too!’ and then the original woman said, ‘I mean, I just have to say it, it’s racist.’”

When she tried to speak up, the woman responsible for the leaked audio clip alleges that Lesly said something along the lines of: “I’m not willing to have this conversation.”

“I’m just sitting there soaking this all in,” she recalled, “being a woman of African descent thinking, ‘Yeah, must be so hard for all of you white people to get jobs in Hollywood!’ That could have been the moment to address what had been said, but instead I was shut down.”

While she had had every intention of joining the group when she first arrived, she left class and told the office that she wouldn’t be coming back. After describing the uncomfortable “Rosa Ramirez” incident, she was given two email addresses to reach out to with her complaints. She told The Daily Beast, “I of course emailed them immediately as soon as I got home, and neither one of them has reached out to me.”

She confessed that she was “honestly kind of stressed out” by how the story blew up, adding, “I’m not out for attention.” In fact, she wasn’t recording with the intention of publishing anything, but rather for her own class notes. She shared the clips with “some of my friends of Latin descent” in an attempt to gauge if the interaction was as disturbing to them as she had perceived it to be. “And so one friend gave it to another friend, and that’s how it’s gotten around,” she explained.

“Equality feels like oppression when you’re accustomed to privilege.”

Reflecting on Kahn’s behavior, she said, “It’s not ok for her to be out there preaching this to fresh-faced people who may be new to this city and know that she has a reputation, and take everything she says to be gospel truth. Let’s say this girl goes out there like, ‘My name’s Rosa Ramirez,’ and then everybody finds out that she’s of Jewish descent. She’s going to look really stupid, and there goes her career.”

She added: “Equality feels like oppression when you’re accustomed to privilege. At the end of the day, that’s what it is, and that’s why so many people are crying right now, because it’s like ‘oh my goodness, there are other people getting things,’ but that doesn’t mean there’s any less for you.”

According to their website, Lesly Kahn & Company claims to offers “real-world career guidance and feedback” to actors, in classes that include acting essentials, technique clinic and comedy intensive. Additionally, they provide career counseling, on-set coaching and private classes. The website warns that LK & Co. isn’t for “the faint of heart,” adding, “We want you to work your butt off now, so that soon you can live your dream.” Their Facebook page boasts frequent shout-outs to former and current students. On February 22, they postedan article about One Day at a Time, the Netflix reboot that centers around a Latinx family in Los Angeles, captioned, “Kinda thrilling for me to see so many Kahnstituents working together. Ed Quinn, Todd Grinnell, Gloria Calderon Kellett and Isabella Gomez—just wow.”

Kahn’s bio lists a BFA in Acting from NYU and an MFA in Acting from The Yale School of Drama. Writing on her own experience in the industry on the Lesly Kahn & Company website, Kahn recalled, “Everything was out of my control: would I ever GET an audition? If so, when? How? Would the role be right for me? Would ‘They’ think it was right for me? What were ‘They’ looking for? Who were ‘They’ anyway? How should I look? What should I wear?!”

She concluded, “Of course, I couldn’t do anything about any of it. Still can’t. Neither can you. But if you’re willing to try some stuff, I can probably fix it so that, at the very least, you can always count on your acting. Wouldn’t that be a relief?”

Reached by phone, the office of Lesly Kahn & Co. referred The Daily Beast to Lesly Kahn’s social media statement. In the statement, which was released on her Twitter and Facebook pages on Monday, Kahn wrote, “I sincerely apologize for my recent comments. I believe in diversity and inclusion in the arts and in all areas of life. As a Jewish woman, I understand the pain that can come from being discriminated against. On behalf of myself and my company, the most sincere apology is extended to my students, current and former, and all others affected. I deeply regret the offense my words have caused. I value and respect people of all ethnic backgrounds, am extremely sorry and will use this learning experience to ensure against that type of incident in the future.”

When asked about Kahn’s statement, the woman who recorded the incident responded, “She had to do that to save face,” adding, “She’s not sorry for what she said, she’s sorry she got caught. Her heart’s not changed. She’s still the same person she was on Saturday.”

Dani Fernandez, one of the individuals who’s shared the audio clip on social media, is a former student of Lesly Kahn’s. Comments on Fernandez’s social media postings seem to illustrate a pattern of disturbing behavior in Kahn’s acting classes. One commenter recalled their negative experience in an intro class at Lesly Kahn & Company, alleging, “Some of the highlights were telling students to look up porn on their phone to get in the mood. Asking a girl if she’s ever done anal in front of the class.” The commenter, who wishes to remain anonymous, told The Daily Beast that the class they attended was not personally led by Kahn.

Sarah Ann Masse is an actor, comedian and writer who also took an intro class at Lesly Kahn & Company. Masse told The Daily Beast that she was first put off by comments that Kahn made in class. “She started talking about how she had been an actor, and she felt she struggled because she looked Jewish, and there were very few parts for Jewish-looking actors,” Masse recalled. Kahn eventually explained that she got a nose job “to look less Jewish.”

She took the class with her husband, who stayed behind and talked with Kahn after Masse had gone to check her class recommendations in the office. When they met up at the car, Masse says that her husband informed her, “I was talking to Lesly, she was crazy complimentary of you, talking about what a talented actress you were, but she told me that she thought you needed to get a nose job or else you wouldn’t get work.” Both Masse and her husband were disturbed by the alleged conversation. “My reaction was to be really angry, because first of all I think that for anyone, but especially for an acting teacher to suggest body modifications to their students, is super destructive,” Masse told The Daily Beast. “I was also really angry that she said it to my husband and not to me.”

Masse alleges she called Lesly Kahn & Company to report the exchange, and says that the man at the desk was “very upset and apologetic,” saying that Lesly would reach out to her. Masse never heard back from Kahn. She told The Daily Beast that she subsequently wrote about her experience in an all-women’s Facebook group, and “many people” came forward with similar stories of being urged by Kahn to change their appearance or undergo cosmetic surgery.

When the audio clip of Kahn leaked, Masse “was horrified.” She observed, “It’s bad enough to tell young women that they need to modify their bodies to have a career, but then she starts playing this ‘game’ of let’s pretend to be a different race, let’s pretend to be a different ethnicity—as though race and ethnicity are things that you can just put on or adopt…I think there’s this myth going around in the industry right now that it’s really hard if you’re a white actor because everybody cares about diversity, and that’s not true.” She concluded, “If [a role] is clearly supposed to be Latinx and you send in a bunch of white actors pretending to be that, you’re responsible for perpetuating the whitewashing and brownfacing that goes on in this industry.”

While Masse disclosed that she was nervous that speaking out about Kahn could result in professional blacklisting, she told The Daily Beast, “I can’t stand by and say nothing when I know the truth about my experience.”

Another performer, who wishes to remain anonymous, told The Daily Beast that Lesly Kahn suggested that she get collagen injections, a nose job, and a chin lift during an intro class, reportedly saying, “It’s really hard to get work when you’re too Jewish-looking.”

Buried deep in Lesly Kahn and Company’s five-star reviews on Yelp, it’s possible to find a few buried testimonies that mirror the leaked audio. In one negative review from 2016, a Yelp user wrote, “Lesly and her assistants also spent most of class complaining that everyone who was booking was ‘Latin and 17’ and if they could they’d ‘make us all 17 and Latin,’” adding, “Kinda racist and also inaccurate.”

On Twitter, Fernandez condemned “the mentality that Latinos are taking all the acting jobs (which is so far from the truth) and therefore white people should be allowed to do this.”

Articles and studies consistently show that Hollywood has a ways to go in terms of inclusionand rightful representation. A 2017 piece in The Verge pointed out that, “While Latinos make up 17 percent of the US’s population, television representation of Latinos in 2017 lagged behind at a mere 8 percent, the greatest racial disparity among minorities.”

When a self-identified Jewish woman tells a student that her only chance for success is presenting as Latinx, she’s playing into the paranoia that white performers are being pushed aside for people of color. This seemingly indefensible position is harmful on multiple levels, implying that performers of color who are finally being cast are merely filling quotas, or are being hired for their ethnicity as opposed to their talent or skill.

For the next four years, remember: Art doesn’t belong to the left: Brendon Ambrosino

An amusing if ultimately silly article.

Yes, of course, Ambrosino is right that we should all try to see and understand the perspective of others.

But that does not necessarily mean accepting their views, particularly when they are anti-democratic, misogynistic, racist or bigoted, as many of Trump and his followers have been, with no post-election pivot to a more inclusive tone. So it’s not just about art ‘belonging’ to Democrats, it is about civic values and respect belonging to us all:

As the election proved, entertainment and media elites who live on the coasts are severely out of ideological step with the rest of the nation. Some small-town folks from the middle of the country enjoy Broadway shows as much as New Yorkers – and they open their wallets when Broadway shows and the Rockettes tour through their largely white, blue-collar towns. Best, then, not to alienate them by sending the message that performing arts are against Trump supporters. Especially because, if some of these people really are as backward as we’re told, wouldn’t you want them to be in the front row of, say, Hamilton, so they can experience the beauty of diversity in action? Trump supporters could learn a lot from a theatre; no need to make them feel unwelcome there.

There are rumours that Mr. Trump might cut arts funding, which would be a terrible decision. But think about the way his mind works: If professional artists are sending the message that art belongs to Democrats, then why would his administration keep funneling money there? Same thing with Mr. Trump going to see Broadway plays or concerts: Why would he do that if he thought he was showing up only to be lectured? This is the new leader of our country – and various arts communities would do well to let him know he is welcome to enjoy their art.

If you’re angry with Mr. Trump’s supporters, go to a quiet room, close your eyes, and try to imagine three logical reasons why they might be happy with a Trump presidency. If you can’t come up with these reasons easily, then that’s a failure of imagination on your part. (There are plenty of these sorts of unimaginative people on social media.) That suggests to me that our country is in desperate need of a renewed artistic vision, one that transcends petty political infighting.

I believe Dostoevsky was right when he said that beauty will save the world. Best, then, not to keep it under a political bushel for the next four years.

Source: For the next four years, remember: Art doesn’t belong to the left – The Globe and Mail

The burdens and expectations of this year’s critically acclaimed, diversity-forward films – The Globe and Mail

Good read on the industry’s ongoing diversity challenge and how this year’s films are strong award contenders (I saw Moonlight at TIFF and well worth seeing):

You know Moonlight even if you haven’t stepped inside a movie theatre in months. Ever since Barry Jenkins’s intimate drama about one black man’s coming of age premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival this past September, it has dominated the cultural conversation. Walk a block in any major city and you’ll encounter giant bus ads touting its brilliance. Read any film critic’s year-end Top 10 list and you’ll find it near the top (Metacritic has the film topping 52 lists). Ask any industry insider and they will tell you Moonlight is the film to beat at this year’s Academy Awards.

Which is all quite a radical shift from this time last year, when the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced its nominations for the 2016 Oscars, and exactly zero non-white performers were nominated in the acting categories. For the second year in a row. In an instant, the social-media hashtag #OscarsSoWhite became easy shorthand for the industry, with the Oscars themselves cast as, in Chris Rock’s words, “the White People’s Choice Awards.”

But Moonlight, and a handful of other films, might represent a long-overdue turnaround. In the last quarter of 2016 – what is traditionally known as awards season, when studios release their prestige pictures – there has been a notable surge of heavily marketed, critically acclaimed, diversity-forward films dominating the marketplace: Moonlight, certainly, but also the historical drama Hidden Figures; the interracial drama Loving; the Barack Obama biopic Barry; two monumental documentaries from Ava DuVernay (13th) and Raoul Peck (I Am Not Your Negro); the tearjerker Lion starring Dev Patel; and the powerful Fences, directed by and starring Denzel Washington.

All promise to be strong presences at this year’s Academy Awards – and all offer the hope of a sea change in the industry, an acknowledgment that Hollywood is finally waking up to the need for diverse voices, both in front of and behind the camera.

Or is it the mere illusion of a sea change?

The industry has been down this road before, after all. In 2002, Denzel Washington and Halle Berry became the first black performers to win both top acting Oscars in the same year (for, respectively, Training Day and Monster’s Ball). Five years later, seven performers of colour dominated the 2006 Academy Awards’ acting categories: Will Smith, Djimon Hounsou, Eddie Murphy, Rinko Kikuchi, Adriana Barraza and eventual winners Forest Whitaker and Jennifer Hudson. But instead of those moments leading to permanent change, the industry fell back on whatever promises those recognitions may have implied.

“When Denzel and Berry won, the industry said, ‘Well, that’ll do for the next 20 years! Good job, everyone, pack it up!’” jokes Darnell Hunt, director of UCLA’s Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies and an expert on diversity in the film business. It’s a good line, but there are real tears mixed with the humour. While Hollywood considers itself a bastion of liberal values and progressive politics, it has consistently proven loath to highlight diverse performers and filmmakers, and in recent years has even lost what little progress had been made. (Last February, Hunt released a study that found that film jobs still go to “overwhelmingly white male performers and filmmakers,” with minorities losing ground in acting, writing, directing and producing jobs since his previous study came out in 2015.)

Is Moonlight, then, and its fellow crop of Oscar favourites – each worthy in their own way, each carrying unfair burdens and expectations – part of a deliberate reaction to the #OscarsSoWhite controversy, or a simple matter of good timing bereft of any meaningful industry change?

“In the case of Loving, it certainly isn’t a reaction – the movie’s been in the works for four years, and that’s just the kind of gestation period it takes for features,” says Peter Saraf, one of the drama’s producers. “But we are seeing more films that are starting to engage on issues that have been ignored for a while.”

Cameron Bailey, artistic director for the Toronto International Film Festival, agrees, though adds that there’s another factor to consider. “What we’re seeing is a reaction to the establishment that elevates movies to the public consciousness. The companies that sell and buy movies, the exhibitors, the critics – all those areas are probably paying more attention and are more conscious of trying to address diversity than a year or two ago,” says Bailey, whose festival this past fall hosted premieres of Moonlight, Loving, I Am Not Your Negro and Lion, as well as a sneak peek of Hidden Figures. “It all makes it impossible to ignore the great work coming from African-American or Asian American or Latin American artists.”

This cultural elevation, Bailey says, can be framed as an evolving democratization of just how movies get valued. “It used to be critics telling audiences what was great and what they had to see. And it still is, but it’s also Twitter and Facebook now, and Black Twitter has also been incredibly vocal and increasingly influential,” he says, referring to the loosely defined network of social-media users focused on interests to the black community, from politics to the arts. “Look at the reaction on Black Twitter to, say, the new Black Panther movie being developed by Disney. Every time there’s a casting announcement, Twitter freaks out! That’s great, but what it tells you is that people who make movies and green-light them are finally paying attention to social media – and if they want to make money, they follow that interest.”

“We talk about the industry as if it’s a monolith, and of course, at the end of the day, it isn’t – all those people sitting in those rooms making decisions are ultimately paying lip service to the notion that they want to get their product to an audience,” says Nina Shaw, a lawyer and industry power player who represents some of the top black artists working in Hollywood today, including DuVernay and musician John Legend. “So when you see something you like, you tweet about it, and use all your social-media outlets to encourage other people to do the same. And I’m telling you, the folks on this side of town are looking at those things and using them as indicators as to what audiences want to see.”

Source: The burdens and expectations of this year’s critically acclaimed, diversity-forward films – The Globe and Mail

The Largest Ever Analysis of Film Dialogue by Gender: 2,000 scripts, 25,000 actors, 4 million lines

The_Largest_Ever_Analysis_of_Film_Dialogue_by_Gender__2_000_scripts__25_000_actors__4_million_linesA really good example of the kind of detailed analysis that provides a more rigorous evidence base for trends, preferences, and biases. Check out the interactive graphics, which are particularly well-designed, informative and effective:

This project was born out of the less-than-stellar response to our analysis of films that fail the Bechdel Test. Commenters were quick to point out that the Bechdel Test is flawed and there are justifiable reasons for films to fail (e.g., they are historic). By measuring dialogue, we have much more objective view of gender in film.

Many of the findings are anecdotally obvious to women in the film industry. But nobody wanted to do the grunt work of gathering the data. We spent weeks just matching scripts to IMDB pages. It’s still not perfect, but we’re now in a much better place than “you know…women are never love-interests when they’re older than 40. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯”

All of our sources are available in this Google Doc and as much data as we can share (without getting sued) is available here on Github. Or if you don’t know how to code, here’s an easy way to comb through every film, genre, and year.

Source: The Largest Ever Analysis of Film Dialogue by Gender: 2,000 scripts, 25,000 actors, 4 million lines

Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy, Oscar winner, says Canada informs her work

Nice Canadian connection:

Pakistani-Canadian filmmaker Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy, who won the Academy Award for documentary short, credits her time in Canada for helping inform her powerful storytelling.

“When you live in a country like Canada, you begin to realize how right things can be,” Obaid-Chinoy told CBC inside the Oscars press room after her win. “Then when you travel back to Pakistan and to other countries which are in conflict, you can see what’s going wrong.”

Her winning documentary short, A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness, is about honour killings, told through the eyes of Saba Qaiser.

“She wanted her story told,” said Obaid-Chinoy. “The impact of her story is tremendous, because it is going to change lives, and it’s going to save lives, and there can be no greater reward than that.”

Qaiser, 18, fell in love with a man against her family’s wishes. Shortly after they eloped, her father and uncle shot her in the head and left her for dead. Her survival led her to become a rare voice for women in similar situations and the one needed for Obaid-Chinoy to tell the story.


Pakistani-Canadian journalist and filmmaker Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy accepts the award for Best Documentary Short Subject Film for A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness at the 88th Academy Awards in Hollywood, California Feb. 28. (Mario Anzuoni/Reuters)

“I think it’s important to see what what human beings are capable of,” said the filmmaker.

Obaid-Chinoy, who now lives in Pakistan but has spent a lot of time going between Toronto and her home country, said her work has prompted difficult conversations that often risked her life but that there is “payback” in doing so.

The filmmaker and journalist also won an Academy Award for her 2012 documentary Saving Face, about women in Pakistan searching for justice after suffering acid attacks.

That win made her the first Pakistani to capture an Oscar.

“The power of being nominated for an Academy Award really does mean for a country like Pakistan that you can change laws.”

Source: Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy, Oscar winner, says Canada informs her work – Arts & Entertainment – CBC News

Racial Diversity Grows On Network Television, But Will Quality Lag Behind?

For those who watch US network TV, a take on the upcoming season in relation to diversity and quality:

The good news from the big broadcast networks’ upfront presentations earlier this month, where they revealed their new shows for the next season, is that television’s turn toward inclusion seems like more than a passing fad.

Of 42 new shows planned for next TV season on the Big Four broadcast networks, 13 series (or 30 percent), either star non-white actors, feature a mostly non-white cast or feature non-white actors as co-leads. Given that we’re 15 years past a TV season when no new show on the top four networks had any non-white actors in the cast at all, those numbers look like progress.

These numbers also suggest that talk about white actors losing parts en masse to great crowds of performers of color — sparked by a story filled with anonymous sources that read like the dying gasp of Hollywood’s white, male privilege — was overblown.

But there may be bad news: A look at early information and trailers for many of these shows — most pilots aren’t available to critics yet — hint that the new crop of programs may not be nearly as groundbreaking or innovative as the stuff we saw this past TV season.

… Regardless of the economics of television diversity, recent history indicates that networks have to take a more active part in seeking out incisive, groundbreaking shows and roles for non-white stars – in the way Fox has encouraged producers to maintain diversity on its recent shows.

The networks also need to empower non-white producers to create shows, in the way ABC has worked with 12 Years a Slave screenwriter John Ridley to create American Crime, and Fox backed The Butler director Lee Daniels to make Empire.

It’s part of the constant struggle to create television that reflects the racial diversity of America without amplifying its problems with stereotyping and prejudice. And what’s obvious from a look at the new shows coming next season is that the struggle is about to get more complicated than it has ever been.

Racial Diversity Grows On Network Television, But Will Quality Lag Behind? : Code Switch : NPR.