Everyone agrees it’s a problem, but will there be change?

oscar nominees

LA Times: The Multi-Ethnic Coalition calls for diversity in Hollywood
“When people do not have their image in front of others, we lose our voice,” said Sonny Skyhawk, founder of American Indians in Film and Television…

…The group cited “whitewashing” by studios, referencing instances in which minority characters were either played by white actors — Emma Stone as an Asian American in “Aloha,” Ben Affleck as an Hispanic in “Argo” — or ethnic roles that were rewritten to accommodate white actors.

The alliance also argued that Hollywood has a tendency to limit roles for actors of color to films about historic or extraordinary figures such as Martin Luther King Jr. or Jackie Robinson, or an “especially dignified slave or maid,” Mayeda said. “It is about how we are perceived by the American public as a whole,” said Alex Nogales, president of the National Hispanic Media Coalition. “If we are absent, we don’t have visibility. If we’re [cast] in a negative way, that’s how we will be treated.”

NY Times: What It’s Really Like to Work in Hollywood* (*If you’re not a straight white man.)
Sam Esmail: Growing up, I [thought] white male was the norm, the default character in every story. I never thought other possibilities could exist.
Ken Jeong: A U.C.L.A. acting professor gave me good marks in my performance and [said]: “You’re a good actor, which is why I’m telling you, stay the hell out of L.A. …
America Ferrera: I was 18 and putting myself on tape for a movie I really wanted. I got that phone call: They cast a Latino male in another role in the film; they’re not looking to cast [a Latina]. So I defiantly bleached my hair blond, painted my face white and made the audition tape. I never heard back. I just remember feeling so powerless. What do you do when someone says, “Your color skin is not what we’re looking for”?

UCLA Bunche Center for African American Studies: 2015 Hollywood Diversity Report PDF

NPR (on Bunche Report): Diversity Sells — But Hollywood Remains Overwhelmingly White, Male
If you want an accurate picture of ethnic and gender diversity in the United States, don’t look to Hollywood. That’s the conclusion of the “2015 Hollywood Diversity Report” conducted by the Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies at UCLA. The report quantifies the striking — if not surprising — racial and gender imbalances in film and television, both behind and in front of the camera, by comparing the representation of minorities to their actual proportions of the population. “At every level, in every arena, women and minorities are under-represented in the industry,” says Darnell Hunt, the study’s co-author and director of the Bunche Center. “And the only question really is how serious, how egregious that level of under-representation is.”

Mother Jones (on Bunche Report): Hollywood’s Lack of Diversity Is Costing It Millions. Here’s Why.
The researchers examined 163 films released in 2014 and found that the films with truly diverse casts (there were only eight) also had the highest median global revenues and returns on investment. The median film among the 55 with mostly lily-white casts grossed less than half as much—and barely broke even..

Huffington Post: Hollywood’s Diversity Problem Starts At The Top, UCLA Report Finds
Time Warner executive director of diversity and corporate social responsibility Jonathan Bean recently spoke to The Hollywood Reporter and agreed that executive attitudes have a major ripple effects in the industry. “I don’t believe it’s malicious,” Beane told THR. “It’s just that people have a better eye for talent when it looks like them and has the same background as them.”

Variety: Diversity in Hollywood: Failure of Inclusion Plagues the Entire Industry
When the study looked into film studios’ executive ranks in 2013, 94 percent of CEOs and/or chairs and 92 percent of senior management were white. Television executives didn’t prove significantly more diverse either. The report found that 96 percent of chairs and/or CEOs and 93 percent of senior management were white.

The Guardian: Racial diversity in films has flatlined – Hollywood needs to rewrite the script
In the words of Viola Davis, winner of an Emmy this week: “The only thing that separates a woman of colour from anything else is opportunity.” But a compilation of lines spoken by people of colour in recent successful films showed how seldom non-white characters speak. If you’re a black man, you are allowed to be a rapper, a bouncer, a drug dealer, a convict, a gang member, a rapist or a wife-beater. You can be a noble slave, the normcore best friend, a duplicitous merchant or space-pirate. You also get to die first. If you’re a black or Hispanic woman, you can be a prostitute, a maid, a nanny, a crack addict, a stripper or a dead body. If you’re an east-Asian woman you can be a geisha, a witch, a concubine, a submissive wife, a waitress in your father’s restaurant or a kidnap victim. Middle Eastern men can be terrorists or local peasants, and east-Asian men can be sadistic enforcers with martial arts skills.

Huffington Post: Okay, Straight White Men, Time To Give Someone Else A Turn In Hollywood
Hollywood is so overpowered by straight white men that it feels like a Tea Party convention at a country club in Connecticut. There are more straight, white male superheroes named Chris than women or minorities with powers combined, but the evidence isn’t purely anecdotal. As delightfully delusional as it may be to subscribe to the idea that straight, white men just happened to consistently be the most talented actors, writers, directors and producers available, the fact is that the current state of the industry is the result of a systemic problem built on enduring practices of gendered and racial discrimination. This week provided some hard evidence to corroborate that.
A condemnatory University of Southern California study, cited by the American Civil Liberties Union, found that less than 2 percent of the 100 highest-grossing films from 2013 and 2014 were directed by women. Of the 3,500 episodes of TV released in that time, just 14 percent were directed by women. But perhaps the most telling information comes from the ACLU’s own investigation, which cites a female director who was informed by a potential employer that they had “already hired a woman this season.”

Huffington PostAva DuVernay Says Too Many Films Focus On The ‘White, Straight, Male’ Perspective
“I don’t consider it a challenge to say it’s a black film or a Liberian film or a film by a Japanese filmmaker. These are all the nuances. This array, which is what we’re celebrating, is a good thing,” she said, referencing her newly-rebranded distribution company ARRAY. “The bad thing is that there’s not balance. It’s imbalanced. We’re seeing too many films with only one voice, from one dominant white, male, straight gaze … and everything else is lopsided.”
…DuVernay also spoke to the small percentage of black filmmakers whose work actually makes it to the big screen. In fact, one 2013 study found that only 6.5 percent of the directors behind the 100 top-grossing films were black, none of whom were black women.

Albert Manero, Robert Downey Jr, Bionic Arms and Using Your Power For Good

Source: YouTube, Limbitless Solutions, Facebook
Free Instructions: EnablingtheFuture, Thingiverse

Albert Manero is a doctoral student in mechanical engineering (UCF), Fulbright Scholar and founder of a volunteer organization, Limbitless Solutions. They’ve designed a cheap (less than $350 in materials) bionic prosthetic arm for children, made on a 3-D printer, and put the design up on the internet for free.

Due to the small size, children’s prosthetics are harder to make and expensive ($40,000 and up). The costs are exacerbated because children outgrow them and need new ones, so insurance doesn’t cover it.

“We were all bound to the belief that no one should profit from a child in need of an arm,” says Manero.

‘Ride’ – Written, Directed, Starring Helen Hunt

Source: YouTube (release date looks to be May 1, 2015)

Serena Williams Returns to Indian Wells to Benefit The Equal Justice Initiative

Source: Time, YouTube, Omaze, EJI

Serena Williams: I’m Going Back to Indian Wells

The tennis star writes exclusively in TIME about her decision to return to a tournament that has haunted her

We were outsiders.

It was March 2001, and I was a 19-year-old focused on winning and being the best I could be, both for me and for the kids who looked up to me. I had spent tens of thousands of hours—most of my ­adolescence—­serving, running, practicing, training day in and day out in pursuit of a dream. And it had started to become a reality. As a black tennis player, I looked different. I sounded different. I dressed differently. I served differently. But when I stepped onto the court, I could compete with anyone.  (Article continued at the source.)

Disney Screws Up Royally

Source: BuzzFeed

If Disney’s Live-Action Cinderella Had Her Natural Waistline

Well, this would have been refreshing.

There has been a lot of controversy about the size of actor Lily James’ waistline in the upcoming Disney movie. Lily James even admitted to going on a liquid diet to fit into the corseted dress. Disney reps deny using any CGI to alter her waist, although let it slip that they used CGI to make her feet smaller.

Even if Disney didn’t use CGI, what if they had put Lily James in a normal dress and she didn’t have to be on a liquid diet just to get into it? Check out how much difference a subtle change makes in the results we created below:

disney cgi jpg

Still looks like a beautiful princess to us. (More photos at the source.)

Speaking Up

Source: BuzzFeed

31 Times Celebrities Gave The Best Damn Responses To Sexist Questions


emma watson twitter

mindy kaling copy


(More at the source.)

Netflix’s ‘Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt’

Source: Netflix, YouTube (trailer)

Fingers Crossed for Davis, Henson and Washington

Source: TV Line


Emmys 2015: Are Taraji P. Henson and Viola Davis About to Make History?

“Remember the historic whiteout that hit Hollywood on Jan. 15, 2015? We’re not talking about the weather, of course, but rather this year’s Oscar nominations — in which not a single person of color snagged one of the 20 major acting nominations.

For a study in opposites, you need look no further than the 2015 Emmy race for Lead Actress in a Drama Series — which is shaping up to be a groundbreaking contest between How to Get Away With Murder‘s Viola Davis andEmpire‘s Taraji P. Henson.

Just how historic are we talking? Since the inception of the category in 1953, no black woman has ever taken home the statuette. What’s more, two or more black women have never been nominated for the Lead Actress in a Drama division in the same year.

In fact, if Scandal‘s Kerry Washington lands her third consecutive nomination this year — and Henson and Davis aren’t unspeakably snubbed — half of this year’s nods in the category would go to African-American actresses… ”  (Complete article at the source.)

Scandal Takes on Ferguson

Source: Vulture (Recap Season 4 Episode 14 ‘The Lawn Chair’)


Scandal Recap: Justice for Brandon

” “Mother, mother. There’s too many of you crying. Brother, brother, brother. There’s far too many of you dying.” An instrumental of Marvin Gaye’s classic song “Mercy, Mercy Me” plays as the camera pans from Brandon Parker’s dead body to the Capitol building, visible from the scene of the tragedy. It was a juxtaposition of a symbol of freedom with proximity to an event showing the institutional oppression of American citizens. It was a kick in the chest.

It hit me in the core from start to finish because it picked at our collective open wound regarding race in America, specifically police brutality toward black lives. It presented it to us on an ugly platter and made strong statements that were not just bold, but necessary.

Pulled from the real events related to the murder of Michael Brown Jr. in Ferguson in August 2014, this episode of Scandal focused on the killing of black teenager Brandon Parker by a police officer. It tells the whole story, from the militarization of police in response to peaceful protesters to the media blackout caused by the attempts to silence members of the press. It includes the police department’s attempts to bury security tapes, as well as the highly unlikely narrative leading to the boy’s murder… ” (Complete article at the source.)

‘Aziz Ansari: Live at Madison Square Garden’ Premieres on Netflix March 6

Source: Netflix, YouTube (trailer), YouTube (clip)

Eyeroll-Face Palm: yes, audiences want diversity – no, there isn’t any – but there’s no solution?

Source: Deadline

letterman's writing team

WGA Study: Most Jobs Go To White Guys in Their 40s

“The number of jobs for women, minority and older TV writers took a nose dive last year, according to a new study by the Writers Guild of America, West. “Women and minorities have actually lost ground as compared to their white male counterparts,” the study found, “both in terms of overall staff positions and in higher-level executive producer ranks.”

Minority writers saw a nearly 7% decline in employment last season…

…Ironically, it’s the guild’s own members – the showrunners and executive producers – who do most of the hiring. But it’s the networks, studios and production companies who hire the showrunners, and the report found that minorities held only 5.5% of those jobs during the 2013-14 season, down from 7.8% two years earlier, an overall decline of nearly 30%…

…This lack of diversity at the beginning of the hiring process almost assures a lack of diversity at the end of it, the report’s author told Deadline…

…Compared to their percentages in the general population, the report found that “minorities were underrepresented by a factor of nearly 7-to-1 among executive producers.”

… “The market by itself is not going to fix it; there are too many obstacles,” Hunt said. “It’s not going to correct itself. Something else is going to have to happen.”…

…research is beginning to confirm the common-sense notion that increasingly diverse audiences desire more diverse storytelling. When diverse voices are marginalized or missing altogether in the writers room, it is less likely that the stories told will hit the mark.”…  “(Complete article at the source.)

Over 125 Years Later, Journalist Nellie Bly Gets A TV Show

Source: Deadline

nelly bly

Nellie Bly’s Historic Race Around The World Being Developed For Television

“It’s the best of journalism meets The Amazing Race meets Around the World in Eighty Days. Phineas Fogg, move aside. One of the most daring stories in history is that of investigative journalist Elizabeth Jane Cochrane (aka Nellie Bly) who in 1889 decided she would try to beat the fictional record in Jules Verne’s now classic story and go around the world less than 80 days.  At the same time, because competition is the name of the game in journalism, Cosmopolitan sent their own reporter Elizabeth Bisland, out to beat not only the 80-day fictional Phineas Fogg record but also try to one-up Bly who was working for Joseph Pulitzer’s New York Worldnewspaper.

Now that story, based on Matthew Goodman’s bestselling book, “Eighty Days: Nellie Bly and Elizabeth Bisland’s History-Making Race Around the World” is being developed for television by Zero Gravity Management’s Christine Holder and MarkHolder with producer Lloyd Levin (Boogie NightsUnited 93Watchmen) and Beatriz Levin…

… Beyond captivating the nation, the lives of both the well-respected journalist Bly and her competitor Bisland were forever changed by the journey. Bly ended up winning the race by four and a half days and set a world record. She had circumnavigated the globe in 72 days.”  (Complete article at the source.)

The Memoirs of Lynsey Addario, Photojournalist

Source: New York Times (book review)

lynsey addario

‘It’s What I Do,’ by Lynsey Addario

“The modern battlefield can induce a peculiar strain of skewed logic among those sent to chronicle it. Upon a landscape where it is often mortally dangerous simply to stand in one place, how much worse can it be to venture a little farther, to get a bit closer? And having assumed the added risk of getting closer, how then to leave before you’ve taken the perfect image, conducted one last interview? What makes such calculations especially tricky is that most modern battlefields have no recognizable boundaries or rules of conduct; they bear less resemblance to any traditional war movie than, say, to “Mad Max.”…

… As Addario points out, hitting it big in journalism often carries an element of luck, of being in the right place at the right time. For her, that came in the summer of 2000. Living in South Asia and eager to examine the role of women under the rule of the fundamentalist Taliban regime, Addario, under the cloak of a chador, spent several weeks insinuating herself into the lives of Afghan women, emerging with a remarkable portrait of a culture few outsiders had glimpsed. That portfolio might have received limited attention, until the United States went to war with the Taliban after the Sept. 11 attacks…

…The very best photographers develop an ineluctable bond with their subjects, an intimacy built on patience and trust; in the strongest photos here, such as her portraits of women rape victims in Congo, her ability to capture their strength and vulnerability is profoundly touching…

…In her uncommon ability to connect emotionally with her photographic subjects, Addario has been given entree into a world of sorrows and hardships that most would find too much to bear, and that require a certain amount of stoicism to withstand…” (Complete article at the source.)

Jennifer Lawrence Teams With Spielberg to Play Photojournalist Lynsay Addario

Source: Hollywood Reporter

lawrence spielberg

Jennifer Lawrence, Steven Spielberg to Adapt War Photographer’s Memoir

“Warner Bros. has won a bidding war for the movie rights to It’s What I Do: A Photographer’s Life of Love and War, a memoir by Lynsey Addario.

Jennifer Lawrence is attached to star in a package that also includes director Steven Spielberg and producer Andrew Lazar.

Addario is a war photographer who has spent time in war zones ranging from Afghanistan to the Congo to Somalia. She is one of the few females in a predominantly male club and was also at one point kidnapped…”  (Complete article at the source.)

Stories That Embrace Our Fellow Earthlings

earthlings poster

There’s a new PETA video on YouTube narrated by Joaquin Phoenix about the horrific Chinese dog-leather industry. A few seconds of this exceedingly graphic video was all I could take, and all I needed to remind me of the power of film to so swiftly, albeit heartbreakingly, enlighten, and the power of our purchasing dollars. With this forewarning, I’ll link to it here.

Documentaries such as Blackfish and The Cove highlight egregious lapses of humanity towards our fellow earthlings.  There are many sources to watch and learn more about these documentaries online: The Humane Society’s ACE award winners list is here.  The Top Documentary Films website includes free online viewing of documentaries with Nature and Environment categories.  Tribe of Heart is dedicated to making films that ‘awaken compassion and deepen understanding of the inter-connectedness of all life.’  Wikipedia has a section on ‘Documentary films about animal rights.’

The Cove
Earthlings (complete on YouTube)
Food, Inc
Silence of the Bees (PBS Nature, complete on YouTube)
Jane’s Journey

blackfish poster

Take ‘Empire’ For Example…

Source: Vulture

empire 2

Empire Continues to Surge, Breaks On-Demand Record

“The #DripDrop don’t stop. Fox’s Empire is breaking ratings records — and not just the ones measured by Nielsen. Vulture has learned that the Lee Daniels–Danny Strong hip-hop soap opera has become the first TV show to rack up more than 1 million views on Comcast’s XFinity TV on-demand platform within a week of its linear TV debut…

…Last night’s episode saw the show grow its audience yet again, with preliminary Nielsen data showing Empire surging to roughly 14 million viewers and a 5.3 rating among viewers under 50. That’s up nearly 2 million viewers since the show broke the 1 million barrier on Xfinity. And among viewers under 50, Empire last night scored the highest-rated regularly scheduled episode of any broadcast network drama since Grey’s Anatomy in September 2010. Overall, Fox says Empire is on pace to be broadcast TV’s fastest-growing drama since the first season of House, in 2004. You can almost hear Fox execs counting those dollar dollar bills, y’all…” 

Fine, it’s ‘show BUSINESS’ – so will you diversify for the money? (Diversity = Higher Ratings = More $$)

Source: Hollywood Reporter

racial diversity 1

Diverse Casts Deliver Higher Ratings, Bigger Box Office: Study (Exclusive)

Hollywood’s racial and gender diversity is increasing. But it’s not increasing quickly enough, says Darnell Hunt, lead author of the second annual Hollywood Diversity Report by UCLA’s Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies, set for release Feb. 25. “Hollywood is not progressing at the same rate as America is diversifying,” says Hunt, the center’s director and a sociology professor. The U.S. population is about 40 percent minority and slightly more than half female, but, in news to no one, women and minorities are represented onscreen and behind the camera in drastically lesser proportions, the study indicates.

The problem isn’t audiences: During the years the study surveys — 2012 and 2013 — viewers preferred films and television shows with moderately diverse casts, according to Nielsen ratings and box-office reports. “Audiences, regardless of their race, are clamoring for more diverse content,” says co-author Ana-Christina Ramon.

The study blames the lack of diversity on agencies, guilds, studios and networks — “an industry culture that routinely devalues the talent of minorities and women,” reads the report.  (Complete article at the source.)

diversity 2

Arts By and For the ‘Elite’

Source: Hollywood Reporter

students at eton

James McAvoy: Dominance of Rich-Kid Actors in the U.K. Is “Damaging for Society”

“…McAvoy was concerned that people from all walks of life are not getting the same opportunities to work in the arts, and his chief worry was about how this will become a bigger problem five or ten years from now.

If the trends are allowed to continue, McAvoy said, ‘That’s a frightening world to live in, because as soon as you get one tiny pocket of society creating all the arts, or culture starts to become representative not of everybody but of one tiny part, and that’s not fair to begin with, but it’s also damaging for society.’ …”  (Complete article at the source.)

The Gifted ‘Amigos’ Iñárritu, Cuarón, del Toro, Lubezki, Prieto, Caballero…

Source: globalpost

inarritu, cuaron, del toro

How Mexicans became Hollywood’s best directors

Birdman’s Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu just became the second Mexican in a row to win the Oscar for best director.

“…The success of “Birdman” means Mexicans have won best director for two years running. In 2014, Alfonso Cuaron won for “Gravity,” his groundbreaking sci-film film that featured Sandra Bullock floating around a junkyard of orbiting satellites and made a whopping $716 million at the box office.

“Birdman” also won for best original screenplay writing and cinematography. It was shot by Mexico’s Emmanuel Lubezki, his second Oscar in a row after grabbing best cinematography for “Gravity” last year.

Recent Mexican filmmaker accolades don’t stop there. Guillermo del Toro won a cabinet of effects awards for his 2013 sci-fi monster flick “Pacific Rim.” Rodrigo Prieto is shooting top flicks like “Argo” and “The Wolf of Wall Street.”

So who is this band of Mexican artists and how did it fight to the top of one America’s most competitive industries?

Directors Gonzalez Inarritu, Cuaron and del Toro have become known as the “Three Amigos,” also the title of a book about the success of their “transnational filmmaking.” But the group extends beyond directors to the cinematographers Luzbeki and Prieto and others, including Oscar-winning production designer Eugenio Caballero…”   (Complete article at the source.)

Alex of Venice

Source: YouTube