Hollywood’s track record, when it comes to inclusivity, is downright awful. The pay gap situation is stunning and ridiculous. Women are severely underrepresented; the number of speaking parts in films overwhelmingly go to white men instead of women and people of color; and the actors and directors call out injustices over and over again. Today, in a New York Times article about producer Nina Jacobsen, one line really clarifies the issue.
Jacobsen is a film and television producer—her credits include The Hunger Games and The People v. O. J. Simpson: American Crime Story—and she founded the production company Color Force. The company is currently working on the second season of American Crime Story, which, according to the Times, focuses on Hurricane Katrina. As Laura M. Holson writes:
For the project, Ms. Jacobson sought writers of different socioeconomic backgrounds who understood Southern culture. “It was actually the most awkward thing I’ve had to do, call all these agents and say, ‘Hey, I need your black writers from the South,” said Allison Friedman, an executive at Color Force. The production company received 200 writing samples, which it winnowed down to 20 potential candidates. Of those, the company hired a diverse crew of eight writers.
“There were great writers I’d never heard of,” Ms. Jacobson said. “And that’s a problem.”
Jacobsen and her team are doing the important work of making sure the show will be inclusive both in front of and behind the camera, including the writers’ room. But that work shouldn’t be so tough, so “awkward.”
There’s obviously a vital infrastructure missing if great writers of color aren’t being funneled into the system, so that Hollywood producers—with power, money, and the ability to hire—can tap into that talent.
That line: “There were great writers I’d never heard of,” really sums up the problem. As Slate points out in the video below, all-white writers rooms lead to tired, unoriginal storytelling with underdeveloped characters of color. Kudos to Jacobsen for trying to end the status quo .