Here we are yet again: Awards season, a harsh reminder of just how much Hollywood is lacking in diversity. Not only are the nominations of the Golden Globes and Academy Awards starkly white, year in and year out (this year, zero non-white actors received Oscar nominations), but the build-up to the ceremonies further reinforce the glaring issue. Lilywhite magazine covers litter newsstands; the Oscars hosts a luncheon in which the only person of color invited is The Weeknd.
It’s always a splash of cold water to the face, the reminder of just how pervasive racism is in the Hollywood system. With the #OscarsSoWhite hashtag and celebrities speaking out—for better and for worse—on the inequality of the current system, we’re seeing more and more pushback against an industry that clearly needs a drastic overhaul. But it is a consistently painful process, particularly because the problem continues to repeat itself, and the hope for a resolution is slim. Just today, a study released by the Media, Diversity and Social Change Initiative at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism found that Hollywood is a “straight, white, boys' club.”
“There’s an epidemic of invisibility,” Stacy L. Smith, the report’s co-author said. “It’s time for the entertainment business to move forward, as well… Everyone deserves to see their stories seen and heard.”
In our ideation process of creating the “Racism in Hollywood” roundtable, we wanted to delve behind the scenes in Hollywood. Typically the conversation has been owned by people who are in front of the screen, and has been overly focused on the industry’s end results—movies, television shows, and the awards they receive. We felt that the people behind the scenes have not been properly heard in this discussion, and often have a more comprehensive view of the Hollywood’s current problems.
In speaking with industry professionals from different and integral backgrounds behind the camera—in casting, producing, and writing—we hope to start a conversation that can penetrate layers deep enough to get people thinking about realistic and actionable solutions for the lack of opportunity and inclusion in Hollywood.
To that end, we sat down with Devon Shepard (Executive Producer of Legends Of Chamberlain Heights, Co- Executive Producer of Being Mary Jane), Tracy "Twinkie" Byrd (EP of Twinkies Hollywood Monologue Slam, Casting Director/Producer Southside with You), and Debra Martin Chase (Television & Motion Picture Producer, Executive Producer of Zoe Ever After) to talk about their experiences in Hollywood.
Over the course of this week leading up to the Oscars, we’ll drop our five part series including a full cut of the conversation and related editorial content. Ultimately, we want to incite others in the industry to have real conversations beyond the Oscars. This should be a year-round conversation about the issues pertaining to race in a way that will finally provide a tourniquet that can stop the artistic “whitewash” and cultural hemorrhaging that the lack of inclusion has caused in Hollywood.
Join us. Watch the five-part discussion, and share your thoughts. And most importantly, continue the conversation, even past Oscar Night, because this is a constant struggle, one that we all must keep in the foreground in order to have any hope for change.