UCS Annenberg Report on Diversity 2016 does not paint a pretty picture

Hollywood is ablaze with discussion and commentary about how to create and affect the change needed to make Hollywood catch up with reality and the 21st Century. Obviously when a study like the Annenberg Report on Diversity 2016 comes in and shows us that even as of last year nothing much has changed, especially with the media giants, it could be very disheartening. And it is!

But I also feel positive, because I believe that report cards such as these will help all of us, because no one can argue or ignore cold, hard numbers.

It is just as Anna Serner has proven with The Swedish Model for Gender Equity in Film with which she has had amazing results. But she insists that it is the more than yearly evaluation and statistical tracking of the benchmarks she and the Film Institute had set, because she too understands that it is only numbers that everyone involved can understand and will act on. In 2014 Sweden achieved gender parity. You can read more HERE

I hope that the Annenberg Report will have just the same effect on Hollywood!

Hollywood is still 'a straight, white boys club,' study finds

by Cameron Kell, John Horn , and Darby Maloney | via The Frame

Read the report

A new study finds Hollywood's diversity problem runs much deeper than minority representation at its premier awards show.

Researchers at the University of Southern California say the entire media landscape "is still largely whitewashed" and that women and minorities are caught in an "epidemic of invisibility" running throughout popular stories, whether on film, TV or digital platforms.

The Comprehensive Annenberg Report on Diversity in Entertainment analyzed 414 different stories, including 109 motion pictures and 305 broadcast, cable, and digital series, for performance in diversity and inclusion.

The report, released by USC's Institute for Diversity and Empowerment as part of their Media, Diversity & Social Change Initiative comes from USC's journalism and communications school. It uses data from 2014 that was collected by 100 researchers to identify which film studios and TV networks hired women behind the camera and represented women and other "underrepresented" people — by race, ethnicity and sexuality — on screen.

The study authors concluded that the "film industry still functions as a straight, White, boy's club."

Among the key findings, women and girls made up less than one-third of speaking characters.

Behind the camera, for every one female screenwriter there were 2.5 male screenwriters. In film, only 3.4 percent of all directors were female. Television and digital series did slightly better, with 37.1 percent of characters and 42 percent of series regulars being female, and a higher proportion of women steering the production as directors or writers.



The study also found that there is still no platform that matches anything like a proportional representation of racial and ethnic minorities.

More than half of all productions featured not a single Asian with a speaking part, and 22 percent included no black characters. As one of the USC researchers, Stacy L. Smith, PhD, told The Frame:

There are certain groups that are still facing erasure or complete invisibility on screen.

She notes that among the 414 stories they studied:

Over 20% didn't feature one Black or African-American speaking character and over 50% didn't feature one Asian or Asian American speaking character. So when we talk about the issue of diversity in Hollywood, it's not a problem. It's a crisis.

Even more underrepresented were people who identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender. In all, only 2 percent of speaking roles were LGBT. Only seven transgender characters were represented in the sample, and four of those characters were in the same series. LGBT characters were also predominantly white and male, according to the study.



The study did not examine reality or talk shows. It also only looked at the first episode of each series when evaluating content and the race and ethnicity of the director.

The study's authors noted that a closer look at producers might be warranted, as well, since they "may arguably play a more important role in hiring and casting."

In addition to analyzing individual stories, the study scored distributors with an overall diversity index that included five metrics: female character inclusion, underrepresented character inclusion, LGBT inclusion, percent of female directors and percent of female writers.

"The company scorecard illustrates that film distributors are failing when it comes to representing their audience on screen and in their behind the camera hires," the authors concluded.



Only two companies, Sony and Paramount, managed "Full Inclusivity" on the study's scale.

Other notable exceptions were the CW, The Walt Disney Company, Amazon and Hulu, all of which "demonstrated strong performances across television and digital programming."




Host John Horn is joined by the study's authors, Stacy L. Smith and Katherine Pieper, to discuss the findings and their suggestions for how to make Hollywood more inclusive. They say "It's not a problem. It's a crisis...What we're seeing is a straight, white boys club." Click the blue play button at the top of this post to hear the interview.

This report involves a lot of research — more than a year and more than 100 research assistants. How'd you break down the research areas and the approach to collecting data?

Smith: It was a large and daunting process, to be perfectly honest. We broke this study into three different silos — the on-screen component, where every story in the study, there were 414 stories from film, television, and digital offerings. Every story was watched independently by three research assistants, disagreements were discussed with a member of the leadership team at MDSC, and then it was quality-checked by a fourth person.
So imagine — 414 stories times four. Then there's the length of time it takes to evaluate that story. That's a tremendous undertaking, but it also gives us the confidence to discuss the types of findings we have that are really unique to this investigation.

When a student gets a failing report card, their parents meet with the school. Are you hoping there's some of that involved, or is there an element of public shaming to this?

Pieper: We're never interested in shaming anyone, and if you look across the report cards, you'll see that we're categorizing this as "room for improvement." The conclusion of the executive summary and the longer report outline concrete steps that companies can take.
We're absolutely hoping that they take these steps, that they enact real strategies for creating more inclusive content, for improving hiring practices so that they become more open to women and people of color behind the camera, and we're happy to help!
We're invested in grading not because it brings shame or punishment, but because it acts as a metric for how much we can watch these companies improve over time.

The 10 Best Women-Directed Films of 2015

It has been a good year for Women Directors and it is only getting better! Below is a list of the 10 best films directed by women via Women and Hollywood. 

Three of my favorite films of 2015 are on there: Sufragette, Diary of a Teenage Girl, and Mustang.



The 10 Best Women-Directed Films of 2015

By Melissa Silverstein, Inkoo Kang and Laura Berger | Women and Hollywood

2015 was a big step forward for women directors. Not only did the institutional employment discrimination against female filmmakers in Hollywood compel the ACLU into action and enter the mainstream conversation (thanks, NY Times!), but women directors got to direct two bona fide blockbusters this year in Elizabeth Banks' "Pitch Perfect 2" and Sam Taylor-Johnson's "Fifty Shades of Grey." (Of course, we want way more in 2016.) 

Only two female-helmed movies made the top 100 list of 2014: Angelina Jolie's "Unbroken" and Ava DuVernay's "Selma." As of December 14, 2015, there are 7 women-directed movies in this year's top 100. In addition to "Pitch Perfect 2" and "50 Shades of Grey," there's Nancy Meyers' "The Intern," Andy and Lana Wachowski's "Jupiter Ascending," Niki Caro's "McFarland, USA," Anne Fletcher's "Hot Pursuit" and Jessie Nelson's "Love the Coopers." 

The people have spoken, but now it's our turn. Here are the Women and Hollywood team's ten favorite women-directed films of 2015, in no particular order: 

"Girlhood" - Written and Directed by Celine Sciamma

You'll never hear Rihanna's "Diamonds" the same way again after watching "Girlhood," French writer-director Celine Sciamma's indelible coming-of-age portrait of a black Parisian teen with few prospects for the future. Desperate for a refuge from her repressively sexist family and her callously indifferent school, Marieme (played with Karidja Touré with warmth and grace) finds that and so much more in her newfound friendship with a group of tough but similarly vulnerable girls. "Girlhood" is above all a celebration of female friendship, but Sciamma's film is never so naive to mistake solidarity for institutional support. Marieme's journey of self-discovery with and without her friends is remarkably poignant for both the distance she has to travel and how far she comes.

"Suffragette" - Directed by Sarah Gavron; Written by Abi Morgan

The fight for women's suffragette finally, finally got the big-screen treatment this year. A film chronicling women's violent, heart wrenching struggle for the right to vote was long overdue, but mercifully this important story about women's rights is told by women, and boasts a female helmer (Sarah Gavron, "Brick Lane") and screenwriter (Abi Morgan, "Shame"). Gavron's period piece portrays the feminist activists pushing for respect and autonomy as wonderfully multi-layered. The women struggle to do right by their loved ones as well as the cause. The team behind "Suffragette" showcase the valor and humanity of the women who fought relentlessly for a better future, making "Suffragette" a character drama and war story all at once. 

"52 Tuesdays" - Directed by Sophie Hyde

A teenage girl discovers her own sexuality while her lesbian mother undergoes the process of becoming a transgender man in Aussie filmmaker Sophie Hyde's wonderfully intimate and thoughtful debut. Daughter Billie (Tilda Cobham-Hervey) and parent James (Del Herbert-Jane) decide to separate temporarily so that the latter can have the space to think and heal (from surgery) in private, but they agree to meet every Tuesday to catch up. Hyde's film, too, was shot once a week, with her excellent amateur actors finding new depths in their pained but searching characters. The drama serves as both a compassionate primer on gender transitioning and an alternately lovely and tense tale about the roles of gender and sexuality within a family. 

"Mustang" - Directed by Deniz Gamze Erguven; Written by Deniz Gamze Erguven and Alice Winocour 

This tale of sexually repressed sisters living in Turkey dazzled us at its premiere in Cannes, and its steadily rising profile in recent months couldn't be more well-deserved. Deniz Gamze Erguven's coming-of-age story has been selected as France's Oscar submission for Best Foreign Language Film and is also nominated for an Independent Spirit Award in the same category, which will hopefully introduce a bigger audience to the engrossing and emotionally resonant portrait of a family ravaged by patriarchy and religious intolerance. These sisters -- particularly the youngest, indefatigable Lale (Gunes Sensoy) -- and their story will leave a lasting impression on viewers who watch them transform from wild, carefree girls playing on the beach to prisoners in their own home as it becomes a "wife factory" where the girls are married off with brutal regularity. 


"The Diary of a Teenage Girl" - Written and Directed by Marielle Heller

Minnie Goetze (Bel Powley) is a character we've needed -- an artistic, rebellious, smart, sensitive and thoughtful teenage girl who is also unapologetically horny. Powley is a delight to behold, beautifully showcasing the nuances of Minnie's relationship with her mother's boyfriend as their interactions totter between sexual liberation and sexual exploitation. Heller brings to life Phoebe Gloeckner's graphic novel with empathy and longing, as well as a beautiful visual language borrowed from both '70s San Francisco and the indie comics scene. 

"Breathe" - Directed and Co-Written by Melanie Laurent

Melanie Laurent's visceral sophomore effort takes a familiar tale -- that of a best friendship between two adolescent girls going sour -- and makes it feel both novel and terrifying. Charlie (Joséphine Japy) longs to spend every day with new-girl-in-school Sarah (Lou de Laâge), an Africa-raised vision of cool with all the right clothes and cigarettes. (Don't freak out about the teenage smoking: This takes place in France, after all.) But when Sarah cruelly betrays her new friend, Laurent immerses us in Charlie's panicked torment, which leads to an act of abject but believable horror. Most compelling of all, though, might be Laurent and her co-writer Julien Lambroschini's suggestive psychologizing about how these girls tragically repeat patterns of emotional violence learned from their mothers. 


"The 33" - Directed by Patricia Riggen

Patricia Riggins proved she was more than up for technical challenges in telling the story of the trapped Chilean miners in "The 33." As you'd expect, much of the film takes place in a mine -- a confined location for both filming and storytelling. Women rarely get the opportunity to direct this kind of movie, and Riggins takes such a distinct, interesting approach to framing this harrowing story. The film is (painfully) good at capturing a sense of claustrophobia. And rather than spending the bulk of the film focusing on the rescue of the trapped men, the focus here is on what the miners were going through -- the emotions they were experiencing, and the fears they were confronting. 

"Appropriate Behavior" - Written and Directed by Desiree Akhavan

"Appropriate Behavior" covers well-trodden ground: We've all seen many a movie about a young woman dealing with a bad break-up, awkward rebound sex and parents who just don't understand. But told through writer-director-star Desiree Akhavan's lens, all this feels like something fresh. It's the details that make the main character, Shirin (played by Akhavan), so compelling. Her parents are Iranian-American immigrants, she's bisexual and her recently ended relationship was a with woman. (The causes of the split -- which we won't spoil, but will acknowledge for being unusually interesting -- are explored through flashbacks.) As Inkoo wrote in her review at TheWrap, Shirin and her "pursuit of her true self isn't just a story we've rarely, if ever, seen on film; it's the introduction of a hilarious and essential new voice." 


"The Second Mother" - Written and Directed by Anna Muylaert

Brazil's submission for the Oscars' Foreign Language Film category is a sensitive and incisive exploration of how class divides can and can't be overcome through the lens of one deeply troubled mother-daughter relationship. Two decades in the making, writer-director Anna Muylaert's much-feted drama stars Regina Casé as the live-in servant to a wealthy, dysfunctional family whose complacency with her lot in life is challenged by her ambitious and estranged college-bound daughter (Camila Mardila). As accessible as it is thoughtful and emotionally layered, "The Second Mother" will resonate with a much broader audience than its August arthouse release might suggest. 

"Infinitely Polar Bear" - Written and Directed by Maya Forbes

Maya Forbes mines her love-filled but not-always-stable childhood for her autobiographical directorial debut. Mark Ruffalo gives one of the best performances of the year (recognized by a Golden Globe nod) as the bipolar Cameron, who struggles to take care of his two young daughters while their educationally ambitious mother (played with enormous heart by Zoe Saldana) attends business school out of state. A Boston Brahmin whose mood swings prevent him from getting a regular job, the proud but penniless Cameron poignantly tries his best to provide a comfortable home for his daughters as they come of age and are forced to reckon with issues of race and class. Too often stranded in space, Saldana finally gets a minor but meaty role as an woman who has difficulty advancing in the corporate world despite her impressive resumé because of her status as a mother and a person of color. Suffused with youthful innocence and an adult's wisdom, "Infinitely Polar Bear" is the love letter every parent wishes they could receive from their child. 

Honorable Mentions: Leslye Headland's "Sleeping With Other People," Isabel Coixet's "Learning to Drive," Catherine Hardwicke's "Miss You Already," Ronit and Shlomi Elkabetz's "Gett," and  Veronika Franz and Severin Fiala's "Goodnight Mommy."