Expert Panel including Effie Brown, Ken McNeely talks diversity and inclusion in Hollywood

Posted in Special Events

Photo: Katrina Frederick Studio

I recently attended an event where an expert panel of working professionals and researchers discussed the topic of diversity and inclusion in Hollywood. The event was hosted by the UCLA Anderson Center for Management of Enterprise in Media, Entertainment & Sports and was held at the UCLA Luskin Conference Center

After the #OscarSoWhite controversy, the topic of diversity and inclusion in Hollywood has really become a hot topic in the industry. We’re seeing more and more producers and filmmakers looking for ways to cast more diverse actors and actresses or come across inclusive in their films, but are their efforts really making a difference? Are we moving in the right direction towards equality in Hollywood? 

The evening began with Tre’vell Anderson, LA Times Reporter, moderating a one on one discussion with film and television producer, Effie Brown. Brown immediately began with commemorating television for its efforts in embracing diversity. It’s true! Television is taking risks and creating shows and series that tackle major issues right now and television isn’t afraid to go “there” and spark conversations. Brown emphasized the need for these kinds of conversations needing to be turned in to action. She also shared that there is a great need for diversity behind the scenes. She called it “The Lonely Only” – sometimes being the only black/black woman behind the scenes in Hollywood. 

Photo: Katrina Frederick Studio 

When thinking about diversity and what it could look like in Hollywood, it’s a tough pill to swallow because it’s not like its been an easy thing that people just got and understood. Brown mentioned that it’s on us to really give people in Hollywood the tools and the permission to start/have the conversation. 

When asked what she thought about diversity initiatives and if they truly work, Brown easily replied with, “They do!” She went on to share that the goal of diversity and inclusion in Hollywood is met simply when, “we stop having to have these conversations, and there is action.” She went on to share that it’s truly met when “Someone who is a Director, Producer, Studio Executive, etc…says these are our people and there is a beautiful mix of people.” As far as streaming services like Netflix/Hulu, Brown shared that it’s really the culture that has changed and streaming services have been nimble to change and adapt to the changing culture easily because they are always needing to come up with and produce such an amount of content. 

Photo: Katrina Frederick Studio

Dr. Darnell Hunt then shared findings from the 2017 Hollywood Diversity Report, conducted by UCLA, that analyzed film and television. The data was from 168 theatrical films in released 2015 and about 1,206 TV shows from the 2014-2015 season. Things they looked at were the race and gender of the lead talent, director, show greater and writer. They also looked at the box office figures and audience demos, HH, viewers and social media ratings. Hunt shared that indeed television is doing the best, cable is seeing an upward trend, but that film is still seeing a disconnect. The studies showed that television is showing an increase in minorities with leading roles on television. Hunt also shared that programs that have the tendency to look more like America tend to have the best bottom line. 

Photo: Katrina Frederick Studio

Next up, the audience got to participate in a Q&A session with the expert panel: 

Effie Brown – Television & Film Producer
Darnell Hunt, PhD – Dean, Social Sciences at UCLA
Ken McNeely – President, Pacific Region at AT&T
Kimberly Freeman – Asst. Dean at UCLA Anderson
Jay Tucker – Executive Director at UCLA Anderson 

Photo: Katrina Frederick Studio

I was very impressed with the wisdom of the panel, and their willingness to share their own stories, knowledge, and passion for such an important topic. The fireside chat was both eye opening and inspiring. 

Photo: Katrina Frederick Studio

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