When it comes to diversity, inclusion and representation, Hollywood is far from where it needs to be, but we are seeing progress. However, there are many blind spots that have been overlooked and foundation cracks that get bigger and bigger every day. If that doesn’t fix them, the industry will have more problems than it can fix – one of them being the undervaluation of black-led projects.
McKinsey & Company has published a study on the film and television industry which is not all that surprising, but which is very revealing about the work that needs to be done to achieve equality in front of and behind the camera. The research is the first integrated view of the data and reveals the many obstacles faced by black talent in the film and television production ecosystem. It also highlights the economic impact of these inequalities and offers solutions to strengthen inclusiveness.
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The company analyzed data from more than 2,000 films and interviewed dozens of industry professionals, including writers, directors, producers, agents, actors and executives, and worked with the BlackLight Collective, a coalition of black executives. and industry talent, including Franklin. Leonard from the blacklist.
Research has revealed that media and entertainment is a foundational industry with revenues of nearly $ 150 billion annually. That said, Hollywood has the potential to earn an additional $ 10 billion in annual revenue – which is almost 7% above its benchmark level – by tackling racial inequality. Specifically, McKinsey has found that black-led projects have been consistently underfunded and undervalued, even though there is clear evidence that they outperform other properties in terms of return on investment. This matches a report by the UCLA-based Center for Scholars and Storytellers titled “Beyond Verifying a Box: A Lack of Authentically Inclusive Representation Has Costs at the Box Office” that was released in October 2020.
In addition, the term “representation matters” continues to resonate on screen and behind the scenes. Black talent is under-represented in the industry, especially in off-screen roles such as producer, director and screenwriter. The only caveat here is that there is significant representation in these roles if at least one senior member of the production is black. Other than that, the black talent behind the camera hasn’t improved over the past 15 years.
Looking at creative control positions, research shows that less than 6% of Hollywood writers, directors, and film producers are black.
When it comes to on-camera talent, the study found that emerging black actors are much less likely to make their mark in leading roles than white actors. In their first 10 years on the job, emerging black actors get an average of 6 lead roles, while their white counterparts get 10.
McKinsey also breaks down the concept of the “black tax,” a royalty that black film and television professionals often have to pay. This “tax” can be taken as literal or as a metaphor where black professionals have to fight – or pay out of pocket – for what others may take for granted, or need to advocate on their own for greater racial fairness. It is an unfair burden on black talents or creatives who might otherwise hone their craft and focus on their own careers.
At the top of the Hollywood food chain, there is a severe under-representation of blacks in decision-making and leadership roles. Black professionals occupy few managerial positions in the entire industry. For context, the study found that 87% of TV executives and 92% of movie executives are white. The film industry, in particular, remains disproportionately white, ranking last among industries and behind sectors such as energy and finance. To add to that, officers and management at the industry’s three top talent agencies were around 90% white – and partners at those agencies were 97% white.
In order to spark change, to break down the hidden barriers that reinforce the racial status quo in the problematic Hollywood ecosystem, McKinsey proposed four steps that streaming companies, studios, agencies and other players in the industry can take to advance racial equity in entertainment and beyond. On the one hand, companies need to ensure diverse representation, especially among talent and off-screen executives. Second, we need to increase transparency and accountability. Third, these companies must seek out and financially support a wide range of black stories. And finally, these institutions must collaborate and create an independent advocacy organization to coordinate action across the ecosystem.
To read the full McKinsey study Click here.